Delicious refried beans
Frijoles refritos - the beany soul of the Mexican kitchen, something that is so often served as a bland afterthought - but that when made well can well and truly steal the show!
You can use either pinto beans or black beans for authentic Mexican refried beans. North of the border, pinto beans seem more popular, although most Mexican bean dishes will use black beans. Use whichever you prefer.
The secret to great beans is...the beans! You can use canned beans for this, but boiling dried beans in a Mexican style will make them much better. If you're not sure how to prepare dried beans, please follow my link at the bottom of the page for instructions. Don't worry, they're really easy to make. You want your beans to be completely creamy inside.
They other secret to refried beans is using enough salt. Beans need a lot of salt before they get really tasty. You're going to have to keep salting and tasting until you get them just right. You should keep a few extra beans on hand in case you over salt, so you can mix them in to dilute the taste.
- vegetable oil or lard
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- one onion chopped
- about 3 cups of cooked beans and some of the liquid from the cooked beans if you've got it.
A few easy steps to refried beans
- Heat about 4 Tbls of vegetable oil or lard (use lard if you've got it for a great rich taste that's truly Mexican) in a heavy fry pan or a wok, over medium heat. A big heavy wok actually works really well when you're squishing the beans later.
- Add the chopped onion and sauté until softened and beginning to brown, about five to ten minutes, stirring or shaking occasionally.
- Add in your garlic and sauté for about thirty seconds.
- Immediately add a ladle full of cooked beans, and using a big spoon, start mashing the beans in the oil. Once the first spoonful of beans has been mashed completely, keep adding progressive more beans and repeating the process. The unique taste of refried beans occurs as a result of slowly frying the starches inside the beans in the oil, so you want to add the beans a little bit at a time, to make sure they all get good and fried.
- Once all the beans have been mashed add a little bean liquid or water, until you get the texture that you want. Keep it a bit looser than you eventually want, as they will continue to firm up as they cool off the heat.
- Now all that you need to do is salt your beans. The beans need a lot of salt, so just keep adding pinches of salt and tasting until it tastes right.
That's it. These beans are great on their own with a sprinkle of cheese on top, or as a filling for bean burritos, on the side with fajitas, fresh warm soft tacos...whatever. You'll love how much better your Mexican food tastes with authentic refried beans.
These will also freeze well, so it's a good idea to make more than you need. The recipe above can be easily doubled or more.
Another Method for Making Refried Beans
- How prepare mexican dried beans. It's easy
- Refried Beans Recipe : Emeril Lagasse : Food Network
- Homesick Texan: A life pursuit: refried beans
Connie on September 27, 2015:
I always use pinto's or small red beans (NOT kidney beans) and a ham hock when I cook my beans, so much more flavor. Also, never salt your beans before they are completely done, it makes the skins tough.
kate on July 09, 2013:
Using a mixture of pinto and black beans to enhance flavor. Also. a mix of butter and lard. (lard being the predominate). Garlic salt and onion salt would be a good addition if necessary when seasoning at the end. maybe a little cumin. (I said a little).
Jan on July 24, 2012:
How much salt do i add to the beans.
Barry on March 16, 2012:
Your recipes are great
Kristin on March 08, 2012:
I am totally excited to try this recipe. I have been missing good authentic mexican food since I moved from Southern California to Colorado. Surprisingly everything out here is tex-mex, american-mex, or cali-mex. NOT AUTHENTIC! I can't wait to try this and have some amazing authentic Mexican food again!!! Thanks so much. This is the best recipe I have found online.
Christina on February 05, 2012:
Loved your technique of mashing/creaming a small amount of beans at a time. Seems to work much better and get them creamier. My only question is how do you get rid of the harder texture of the skins... I'm going to try and simmer them for a bit after mashing but wanted to know if you had any suggestions. I don't recall the texture of the skin in the restaurant refried beans...
Coral on January 23, 2012:
I'm mexican too and have used onion and garlic on refried beans always + two or three fried crackers
Dude on January 08, 2012:
Sounds great; I've just learned to appreciate beans, but what to do about all the natural gas?
Steve Metzler on January 02, 2012:
My wife is Mexican and sais she never heard of onion and garlic in refried beans.....
GeorgieGirl on November 28, 2011:
Thanks for this recipe, John. It's difficult to get a good steer on Mexican cooking down here in New Zealand. I've trying to figure just how to get the right flavour for ages but I didn't know about adding and squashing the beans little by little. What a great technique!
John D Lee (author) on August 31, 2011:
It will work with butter but they will definitely taste a bit different. Butter has a fairly characteristic flavor that may not mesh with the other flavors in your Mexican meal.
Linda on August 30, 2011:
Can I use butter instead of vegetable oil or lard?
Angela on February 12, 2011:
I am mexican and I couldn't figure out what I was "doing wrong". It is the slow "refrying" process that I've never paid attention too! I made these tonight and they were just like my grandmas!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!
FYI: my grandmas secret is adding milk and monterey jack cheese! :)
Ally on January 03, 2011:
Isn't re-using veggie oil just like making up a batch of your own home-made transfats?
superbright1 on October 08, 2010:
Awesome!! Great recipe. By accident,I was forced to use my used veggie oil that I had made french fries and tater tots the night before,and it gave the beans a more intense fried flavor. I think I'll save a little used oil in the fridge for when I make this recipe again.
John D Lee (author) on May 03, 2010:
Hi Kelsey - this will make about 4 cups of beans - enough for 4-6 people if giving beans as a generous side-dish portion.
Kelsey on May 03, 2010:
About how many people will this recipe serve? I'm making a big Mexican dinner for some friends and just want to make sure I have plenty.
Jake / Finland on February 08, 2010:
Thanks for the recipe, I'm going to make Frijoles refritos today with my burritos! Yum!
John D Lee (author) on February 08, 2010:
Thanks for letting me know Brina! Glad you had success.
Brina on February 08, 2010:
I decided to make authentic Mexican Food for Super Bowl Sunday. I was nervous about making the beans myself but they were a hit! I loved them and will make them again.
John D Lee (author) on January 16, 2010:
Pinto beans are most commonly used in America and black beans are most common in Mexico - both will make great refried beans!
Melanie on January 16, 2010:
I know this sounds silly but...
There are a lot of kinds of beans out there and I'm just not a "bean" chef, so what specific kind of beans do I buy?!
John D Lee (author) on December 21, 2009:
Thanks for letting me know about the missing word 'garlic', Stephanie. I have corrected it.
Stephanie on December 21, 2009:
Did you realize that step three says:
"Add in your and sauté for about thirty seconds."
Add in my what?
Chris on June 20, 2009:
This recipe is pretty close to perfect with one minor adjustment. When adding onion, garlic and salt to the recipe, add it when you are cooking the dried beans. Discard the onion and garlic before making refried beans.
Patti Fleming on April 25, 2009:
I don't think any mexican food I ever eat, outside of these beans that I'm making at home, will ever be good enough. What flavor, texture and healthy eating do these refried beans create. I never thought about adding garlic into beans, but, since I'm a garlic lover, I think that, along with putting the amount of salt YOU want in, makes these beans AWESOME! In fact, I'm cooking another batch right now. I just finished getting them soft and will start to prepare them in the wok.
John D Lee (author) on January 31, 2009:
Thanks for the comments! Good corn tortillas with some homemade refried beans a little sour cream and some spicy salsa and I am a happy man - a great meal that you can make for about 2$!!!
marisuewrites from USA on April 17, 2008:
oh wow, mexican food is a favorite of mine, thanks for the information. I look forward to your tips and recipes....=)
Jacob G. on December 09, 2007:
Loved the recipe for the beans. Just made enough to last a month. Ready to eat bean burritos every day.
Linda on September 09, 2007:
Hi John, i love your hot sauce recipes, but i'm making Tamales and would like to make a good sauce for them. Do you happen to know one? i sure would be greatful for one. Have tried many, but they were too bitter. Thank you so kindly, Linda.
John D Lee (author) on May 21, 2007:
Thanks for that comment. I'm glad you like them. Refried beans are fantastic and I always make a big ole batch, so there are lots of leftovers for freezing.
videomobro on May 21, 2007:
My wife just came through and said "taste this" and popped a home cooked bean in my mouth (from this recipe.) Beans have never tasted so good (even when she'd cooked them herself before!)
John D Lee (author) on May 17, 2007:
And since they're so easy to make there's really no reason to buy canned again.
Angela Harris from Around the USA on May 17, 2007:
You're right- canned beans will never equal delicious homemade refried beans. Thanks for this.