How to Make Easy Refried Beans the Healthier Way

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I grew up on canned refried beans. I was a pretty picky eater, so my mother didn’t have a lot of food groups to choose from. I wouldn’t touch vegetables (unless they were drowned in ranch, of course!), and I didn’t like a lot of saucy food (say goodbye to pasta and lasagna). I did cheese, though, and anything with a creamy rich texture.

Since refried beans are essentially the Tex-Mex equivalent of mashed potatoes, they definitely qualified in my picky eating regime. My mom’s signature dish became this Mexican style lasagna, where she layered flour tortillas, ground beef, refried beans, and cheese. To this day, that dish still defines comfort for me (although I usually make it with thinly sliced zucchini instead of the tortillas, and ground turkey instead of the beef).

Easy Refried Beans, From Scratch!

As an adult, I have branched out quite a bit. My mom still laughs at how I’m such an adventurous eater because now I eat almost everything! The one thing I try to avoid is pre-made frozen, canned, or boxed food. These foods to have a lot of additives and a ton of sodium to keep them shelf stable. I hate looking at the ingredients list and seeing all those preservatives I can’t even pronounce!

So I’ve taken to making my favorite canned foods from scratch. It’s actually so simple and easy, and with five ingredients or less there’s really no reason not to. When you make these easy refried beans yourself, get to control the quality of the ingredients that go into it. Make them chunky, or process them until smooth. You also get to modify the recipe as you like! Switch up the pinto beans for black beans or add a pinch of smoked cumin to the mix to deepen the flavors.

How To Cook Dried Beans

The cooking method is totally up to interpretation, too. When I’m planning ahead, I always soak my beans overnight. Soaking the beans shortens their cooking time and also makes the beans more digestible – reducing their telltale gas-inducing properties. When I’m running behind, I use the quick soak method – cover the beans with two inches of water, bring the mixture to a boil, and kill the heat. Allow the beans to sit for an hour in the hot water before draining and cooking like normal.

If I’m really running short on time, I’ll cook the beans in an electric pressure cooker. The Instant Pot will cook beans in under 45 minutes, without soaking, so that’s a great last-minute choice! Or, if I’m feeling lazy, I’ll let them simmer away all day in the  so they’re ready to puree when I get home from work.

The one thing you want to make sure you do when cooking beans is to save the salt for last. Cooking beans in salted water might sound like a good way to season them, but it prevents them from softening. No one wants hard chunks in their refried beans!

Make Extras for Later

No matter how I cook them, I usually make a double batch. This recipe lasts about 3-4 days in the fridge, so I usually plan a few days of meals off of this one recipe. Or, I’ll make extras so I can freeze them for a quick meal later. Refried beans freeze really well, so long as they’re in an airtight container or freezer bag.

What’s your favorite way to use refried beans? We love thinking of all the fun ways to transform these easy refried beans into lunch or dinner. I think I might use them in my favorite wrap (I love this avocado & chicken wrap) or go flour-less with a burrito pie casserole. Let us know in the comments how you’re using refried beans!


How to Make Easy Refried Beans the Healthier Way

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Total Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

How to Make Easy Refried Beans the Healthier Way

Yields: 8 servings | Serving Size: 1/4 cup | Calories: 200 | Total Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 0mg | Sodium: 253mg | Carbohydrates: 36g | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 1g | Protein: 12g | SmartPoints (Freestyle): 5


  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt


  1. Sort and rinse the pinto beans. Combined the beans and garlic to a large soup pot and pour the water over top. The beans should be completely covered.
  2. Bring to a boil, once boiling reduce to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours stirring every 20 minutes or so. Once the beans are soft, remove the lid and continue to cook uncovered until all water is absorbed. Mash the beans to desired consistency and add salt. Serve hot and enjoy!

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3 Comments on "How to Make Easy Refried Beans the Healthier Way"

  1. Lori Eastman  January 14, 2018

    I like adding a good fat and Taco seasoning, a homemade one without the salt.

  2. V j arora  January 15, 2018

    I don’t have electric pressure cooker and I use stove top cooker and since water doesn’t evaporate I use 5 cups of water to concentrate the stock.
    With this base I would either make Asian Curry using pureed onion and tomato.paste with all the spices ( cumin, coriander,garam masala,garlic, ginger powder and black pepper powder along with asfaetida ). This if thick enough can be used with either rice or in the form of burrito with any melty cheese or can be used as topping for an omelet.
    It works for as I will freeze half of it and use the other half till it is used up.
    I do use vegetable oil instead of lard.


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