Refried Beans From Scratch

Refried beans

The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 2 hrs 15 mins
Cooling Time:: 60 mins
Total: 3 hrs 25 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Yield: 6 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
290 Calories
8g Fat
42g Carbs
14g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 290
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 105mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 42g 15%
Dietary Fiber 10g 37%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 14g
Vitamin C 5mg 27%
Calcium 79mg 6%
Iron 3mg 19%
Potassium 925mg 20%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Having grown up in a Mexican family full of people who love to cook (and eat), I know how to make refried beans by heart. With a few added ingredients, the humble pinto bean is transformed into something truly delicious. So if you’re like me and get excited over a plate of bubbling hot refried beans with a little bit of melted cheese on top, this authentic recipe is just what you’ll need to whip up your own anytime the craving hits.

How Do You Make Refried Beans?

There’s some confusion about how the dish got its name but let me clear that up by explaining that “refrito” means to re-fry or be heated in a pan with other ingredients. In this case, tender pinto beans are heated in a sizzling hot pan with lard (or vegetable oil), onions, garlic, and chile pepper before being blended and reduced to the traditional thick and creamy consistency that makes them so irresistible.

A Brief History of Beans in Mexico

Because beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants in agricultural history and have been a staple food in Mexico for over 7,000 years, they are as culturally significant for Mexicans today as they were for the ancient civilizations that ruled pre-Hispanic Mexico. While refried beans are a fairly new dish—believed to originate in Northern Mexico about 100 years ago—they quickly became a favorite everyday dish that you’ll see served in a variety of ways. They’re ideal for serving with tacos, stuffed into a burrito, or simply enjoyed on their own.

How To Use Canned Beans for Refried Beans

If you’re limited on time or just prefer to use canned pinto beans, drain and reserve the liquid from two cans pinto beans and skip to Step 4. Alternatively, black beans can be used to make refried beans. Simply cook dry black beans according to the package instructions or use canned black beans.

Tips for Making Refried Beans

  • Yes, you really should rinse and sort your beans — While it's an extra step, rinsing dried beans is important because there may be little rocks in the mix. Beans may also be a bit dirty, so rinsing them removes any unwanted residue. You will be using some of the bean cooking liquid when pureeing the beans, so you don't want the water to be dirty.
  • Soak your beans — Pre-soaking the dried beans cuts down the cooking time and results in a more tender bean, which is the key to achieving the ideal consistency. Oversoaking or overcooking the beans can cause them to split. However, if the beans are not fully tender after 2 hours, continue simmering, checking every 10 minutes.
  • Get the oil hot — Make sure that the oil is hot enough before adding the beans to the pan. The oil should be rippling but not smoking.
  • You want it smooth — For authentic refried beans, blend or mash the beans to a near-smooth consistency.
  • Make ahead — To prep this recipe ahead of time, freeze the whole cooked beans (cooled) in their cooking liquid in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Defrost for 4 to 5 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge, heat, and skip to Step 4.

“Refried beans are a great addition to many different meals. Personally, whenever I have them available, I include them in breakfast with toast, bacon, and eggs.” —Noah Velush-Rogers

Refried Beans
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 2 cups dry pinto beans

  • 3 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil, divided

  • 1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped

  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled

  • 1 small serrano chile, seeded and deveined

  • Fine salt, to taste

  • Shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Oaxaca cheese for topping, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients to make refried beans

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  2. Sort and rinse the beans, checking for debris.

    A strainer with pinto beans

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  3. Place the beans in a large pot filled with water to cover the beans by 4 inches, about 6 cups. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Remove from the heat and let the beans cool in their cooking liquid, about 1 hour. 

    A pot of pinto beans in water

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the lard in another large pot on medium heat until melted and shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, and serrano pepper. Sauté until the onions and pepper are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. 

    A pot of chopped onion, garlic, and serrano pepper

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  5. Using a slotted spoon, add the beans to a blender or food processor with 1 cup of the cooking liquid (reserve the remaining cooking liquid) and the sautéed onion, garlic, and pepper (set the pot aside, you’ll use it again). Blend on low speed until mostly smooth, or to desired consistency.

    A blender of pinto bean, water, garlic, onion, and serrano pepper puree

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  6. In the reserved pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of lard on medium-high heat. When the lard melts and begins to shimmer, carefully add the puréed bean mixture. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the desired consistency is reached, adding small amounts of the reserved cooking liquid to loosen the mixture if too thick, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt. 

    A pot of pinto bean puree cooking with lard

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

  7. Top the beans with the desired amount of shredded cheese, if using. Remove from the heat and cover the pot until the cheese melts. Keep warm until serving.

    A pot of refried beans topped with shredded cheese

    The Spruce Eats / Maxwell Cozzi

How to Store Refried Beans

Leftover refried beans can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To reheat, add them to a pan with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water, cover, and heat on low until warmed through completely.

Refried beans can be stored in the freezer in an airtight container for 1 to 2 months but are susceptible to drying out. If frozen, thaw for 4 to 5 hours at room temperature before reheating.

Why Do Restaurant Refried Beans Taste So Good?

Most authentic Mexican restaurants use lard in their refried bean recipes which adds another layer of flavor and helps achieve the ideal creamy texture.