How to Make Homemade Refried Beans

refried-beansI have never been a huge fan of refried beans..  Maybe because I didn’t really know what they were.  Growing up German my mom didn’t cook a whole lot of Mexican foods and the thought of ‘re-frying’ beans was confusing to me because they were never fried in the first place!

Then, what really sealed the deal for me was when I tasted them … from a can.  I’m not sure what they DO to them to make them taste like that, but after that I was pretty much never eating them again.

The only reason I did try them again was because I LOVE Mexican food.  And anyone who’s been to a Mexican restaurant knows, refried beans end up on your plate no matter what you order!  Eventually, ever so slowly, like 1 prong of a 4 pronged fork, dipped 1/32″ of on inch into them, did I try them.

Whoa!  Wait!  WHAT?  That’s nothing like what I remember refried beans tasting like.

These were yummy!  No wonder they’re always on the plate!  So after that, the ONLY time I would ever have refried beans was at a local Mexican place and that was it.  It never occurred to me to make my own.

Until I started this website that is.


What Kind of Beans Should I Use?

So here’s the deal.  There are many different types of beans you can use to make refried beans.  I’ve learned through research that it’s really an individual choice.

The 2 main types are Pinto and Black Beans.   The most common kind are the Pinto beans.  They produce a plump, creamy bean texture.  They are mild and earthy flavored.

Black beans are harder and firmer than pinto beans and I’ve had a hard time getting them to break up to a pastier consistency.  I’ve noticed in restaurants that the black bean side dishes leaves the beans in tact.







I used canned beans for this recipe, but you can certainly soak dry beans.  It is much more economical first off, and you can add whole cloves of garlic and oregano, etc to the water as the beans soak.  They will take on the flavor of the spices and remember to save some of the water to use during mashing as it will add even more depth.

What Spices Should I Add?

Picking the spices to add to your refried beans is just as important as choosing the right beans.  Onions and garlic will add tons of flavor to the dish and are (in my opinion) a necessary component.

Next come the dried spices.   I add a good amount of chili powder, some cumin, a little cayenne pepper and garlic powder if I feel the garlic didn’t come through enough.  Taste the beans as you are mashing them.

What Fat Should I Use?

Traditional refried beans use either lard or bacon fat as the base of fat.  And while it does add a lot more flavor to the beans, it also adds a lot more cholesterol and animal fat to the dish.

I prefer to use olive oil for health reasons but also because it does NOT add any flavor.  The beans are the star.

How to Mash the Beans


There are a few ways to mash the beans once they have absorbed the liquid.  You can use a potato masher or the back of a rubber spatula and mash them by hand.  This will give you the most control over the end result.

Another way is with a food processor or blender.  From experience, I have found that the food processor breaks the bean skin apart and leaves it in little tiny little pieces and doesn’t result in an even consistency.

And the last tip I have for you is a lot of traditional recipes don’t use water when mashing, I do as we like a smoother texture.  The beans pictured here used about 1/2 cup of water.  I ended up using another 3/4 of a cup after I took these photos.

I hope you enjoy them!


How to Make Homemade Refried Beans



  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 23 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans canned kidney or pinto beans, thoroughly rinsed and dried
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup water


  1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, saute the onion for a few minutes until it softens. Add the garlic and cook until it’s fragrant, about 1 minute
  2. Add the chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper until you can smell the spices, about 30 seconds
  3. Add the beans and mustard
  4. Let the beans cook and mash

Recipe Source:  Happily Unprocessed
I used all organic ingredients when  making this recipe, and hope you do too!  🙂

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