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Published April 27, 2022. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
You will never buy canned again once you taste this delicious, refried beans recipe that is simple to prepare and loaded with flavor. This traditional side dish is a staple to serve up with all your Mexican recipes.
Side dishes can take a meal over the top with all the different flavors and ingredients. If you are looking to try out some new dishes to accompany your main entrée, then for sure try my spaetzle or sauteed mushrooms.
Refried beans, also known as frijoles refritos, are a popular Mexican dish consisting of cooked beans such as pinto or black beans that are mashed and fried in onions and melted in rendered bacon fat. While they are cooked twice, they are only fried one time.
While you can purchase these pre-made in a can, the flavors are much more complex when homemaking them. In addition, there are more opportunities to add different ingredients and flavors when making it from scratch.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Beans – You can use dried pinto or black beans.
- Liquid – Water is traditionally used, but you can enhance the flavors by using chicken stock.
- Onions – Yellow onions work great, but you can use white or sweets.
- Garlic – Whole garlic cloves are what you will need.
- Herbs – Classically epazote is used, but you can substitute with oregano or marjoram.
- Spices – I like to use cumin, but you can also add in things like chili or chipotle powder.
- Peppers – Feel free to use serrano or jalapeño peppers.
- Cheese – I believe Oaxaca or Mexican melting cheese is best.
How to Make Refried Beans from Scratch
Use these easy-to-follow instructions to make these tasty, refried beans from scratch:
Pick through the beans for any unwanted particles and give them a rinse under cold water.
Transfer the beans to a large pot and cover them in water by about 3 to 4 inches. Add onions, garlic, epazote, and cumin, and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat to low and cook for 90 minutes or until the beans easily squish when pinching them with your fingers.
In a large frying pan or rondeau add in the rendered bacon fat over medium heat and fry a seedless serrano pepper just until lightly browned and then remove it.
Next, add in the onions and cook over low to medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned and tender. Then, pour in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the beans from the liquid and add it to the pan with onions and turn the heat to medium-high and fry for 3 to 4 minutes.
Mash the beans until smooth and add in additional liquid that the beans were being cooked in so that it keeps a good consistency.
Season with salt and pepper and add the pepper back as well as the cheese, and mix until combined.
Serve with cheese and cilantro.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: You can make this recipe up to 1 day ahead of time, just reheat before serving.
How to Store: Store the refried beans covered in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. You can freeze them covered for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of refried beans to a saucepot with a few tablespoons of water or chicken stock and heat over low heat while stirring until warm.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between refried beans and regular beans?
- Refried beans are cooked twice and mashed while regular beans can be dry, canned, or cooked until done.
chef notes + tips
- Feel free to expand the flavors of this by adding spicy peppers, dry spices, herbs, or cheese.
- Substitute the bacon fat with butter.
- When adding the beans, also add in the garlic, onion, and herbs cooked along with it when simmering.
- You can keep the beans a little bit chunky when mashing.
- If you do not want to cook the beans from scratch, use drained canned beans and proceed straight to the 4th procedure.
- You can find epazote commonly at your local Latin market.
More Side Dish Recipes
Homemade Refried Beans Recipe
- 1 pound dried pinto beans
- ½ peeled yellow onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon dry epazote
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1/3 cup rendered bacon fat
- 1 seedless serrano pepper
- 1 peeled and small diced yellow onion
- 1 cup Oaxaca or Mexican melting cheese
- cotija or queso fresco for garnish
- chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pick through the beans for any unwanted particles and give them a rinse under cold water.
- Transfer the beans to a large pot and cover them in water by about 3 to 4 inches. Add the ½ yellow onion, garlic cloves, epazote, and cumin, and bring to a boil.
- Turn the heat to low and cook for 90 minutes or until the beans easily squish when pinching them with your fingers.
- In a large frying pan or rondeau add in the rendered bacon fat over medium heat until melted and fry a seedless serrano pepper just until lightly browned and then remove it, this takes about 2 minutes total.
- Next, add in the small, diced onions and cook over low to medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned and tender while occasionally stirring.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the beans from the liquid and add it to the pan with onions and turn the heat to medium high and fry for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Mash the beans until smooth and add in additional liquid that the beans were being cooked in so that it keeps a good consistency. There will be about a cup or two of liquid leftover.
- Season with salt and pepper and add the peppers back along with the melting cheese and mix until combined.
- Serve with cheese and cilantro.