Making a batch of Refried Black Beans (frijoles refritos) at home is super simple. With just a few ingredients and spices, this refried black beans recipe can be shared as a side or used as a component in your favorite Mexican food recipes. This recipe is vegetarian and vegan friendly and easily gluten-free.
Versatile, Delicious and Easy
I couldn’t believe how much more flavorful homemade refried black beans are than the canned variety, just like their counterpart, whole black beans. Cooking black beans from dry beans then whippin’ them up into creamy vegetarian refried beans is super easy and over the top flavorful!
I learned how to make vegetarian refried beans by watching at a restaurant I worked at in high school and from Mark Bittman in his book “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.” At the restaurant, they used lard as the base for frying, however, I’ve also read recipes where bacon drippings are used. But, to keep these beans vegetarian friendly, Mark suggests using good quality vegetable oil. So, for my recipe, while not authentic, I choose olive oil.
After playing with the seasonings and the flavor profile of these creamy beans, I’m sharing my best refried black beans recipe.
RELATED: Give these refried beans a go on my Crispy Black Bean Tostadas with Fajita Veggies!
How to Make Refried Black Beans
For this recipe, you’ll need cooked black beans, olive oil, onions, a few spices, salt and lime. In summary, here’s how to whip these beauties up in no time (see recipe card for full details):
- First, heat olive oil in a wide pan or heavy skillet.
- Second, saute the onions then add the spices.
- Next, to the pan, add the black beans and their juice. Start mashing while cooking on medium heat.
- Last, once the beans are cooked to desired consistency, give the beans a good squeeze of lime juice, remove from heat, top with fresh cilantro and enjoy!
The beans will thicken as they cook and cool, so keep this in mind as you’re mashing. If they get too dry, simply add a splash or water or veggie broth and mix throughly.
Tools for Mashing
There are several ways to approach mashing the beans:
- Potato Masher: I use my handy mini masher that I use for guacamole to mash the beans. A large potato masher works too. You’ll have to work a bit because the beans slip through the open spaces on the masher easily. But this method give me control of how chunky or creamy I want the beans to be.
- Large Fork: I find this to be more arduous, and it hurts may hand for the amount of time it takes, but it works in a pinch. Use for a chunkier result.
- Food Processor: Using the food processor can render the beans pureed (extra creamy), chunky or somewhere in between. Transfer the beans to the food processor after bringing the beans to a simmer. If going for chunky, pulse and scrape the bowl down several times. If going for creamy, push the start button and let it whirl, stopping to scrape the bowl down as needed.
The potato masher is my preferred choice simply because it’s easy, not messy and I don’t have to clean the food processor.
What to Use, Canned or Home Cooked Black Beans?
For this recipe, use canned black beans or home cooked from dry black beans. While canned beans are so convenient, through my testing I found homemade black beans cooked from dry beans to be my favorite in this recipe. Home cooked beans are creamier and more flavorful than canned and as a bonus, there’s more broth in homemade which sets the stage for the creamiest and most flavorful refried beans.
Use my recipe for Home Cooked Black Beans in this recipe for best flavor!
A Few Recipe Notes
- Consistency: mash to the consistency you prefer. If using for tostadas, mash until thick, pasty and creamy. If serving as a side with rice and enchiladas or tacos, I like the beans a bit chunkier and looser.
- As you mash, the beans will thicken. Add a splash of water or veggie broth if they get too thick.
- Freezer Friendly? Yes Please! Allow the beans to cool completely, then transfer to a storage container and freeze for up to a few weeks. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then use as desired.
- The juice from the cooked black beans is used in this recipe to cook and flavor the beans. Hold on to that juice!
- As a Side: If sharing refried black beans as a side dish, top with your choice of purple onion, cilantro and/or cheese such as cotija (a little salty) or queso fresco (a mild cheese).
- Part of a Main: Slather these refried Black Beans on the crispiest homemade Black Bean Tostadas with Fajita Veggies, stuff into burritos, share as a dip with tortilla chips and hot sauce or spread into quesadillas. There are so many ways!
Recipes to Enjoy Refried Beans With
- Baked Tostada Shells
- Mexican Inspired Tofu Tacos
- Cauliflower Tinga Tacos
- Tofu Enchiladas
- Creamy Zucchini Poblano Tacos
- Sweet Potato Open Face Breakfast Tacos
Refried Black Beans (Frijoles Refritos)
- In a large skillet or cast iron skillet, add the oil and heat until it shimmers. Turn the heat to medium low and add the onions. Saute the onions for about 5-8 minutes or until they're softened.
- Sprinkle in the cumin, chili powder, garlic and salt. Stir for about 30 seconds to incorporate into the onions.
- To the pan, pour in the beans and all their juices. Stir and bring to a simmer. Once simmering reduce heat to medium low and begin mashing. Cook, while mashing and stirring for about 10 - 15 minutes or until most of the beans are broken up, some chunks are okay and they're shiny. Adjust the heat down as needed. They will thicken as you mash and cook them. Overcooking causes dryness.
- When to the desired consistency remove from heat and squeeze in the juice from half a lime. Stir, taste for salt. Rest for about 5 minutes, if needed. They'll thicken further as they cool. Lid until ready to use. Share warm as a side or use as a component in another recipe. Feel free to add a splash of water or veggie broth if they become too thick.
- Store in a lidded container in the fridge for up to three days, or the freezer for up to two weeks. Rewarm stovetop on low heat with a splash of water to thin as needed.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.