Budget-Friendly Homemade Refried Beans

This homemade refried beans recipe is excellent, and way less expensive than the canned version. Serve them with your favorite Mexican dinner, roll them up in a burrito, or spoon up a warm bowl of goodness.

Serve them up with shredded chicken tacos for a delicious meal.

bowl of refried beans from above, garnished with sour cream and cilantro.

Over the years I’ve tried repeatedly to make homemade refried beans from scratch, but my family has been only lukewarm about my attempts, preferring their old standby Rosarita brand canned refried beans. 

Cooking with dried beans is much less expensive and allows us to eliminate the cans that will end up in the landfill. (There is no way for us to recycle the cans here.) Also, while companies are phasing out the use of bpa in their can linings, the problem persists in some brands.

My friend Jane and I had discussed our inability to replicate our favorite beans at home, so when she told me she’d found a great recipe that made refried beans that her family loved, I had to try it.

Homemade Refried Beans

I changed her homemade refried beans recipe up a tiny bit and increased the size of the recipe so that I’d have plenty left over. I prefer using dried pinto beans, but Jane uses black beans, kidney beans, and small red beans, too. 

Let’s be honest though: We love them, but these are not authentic refried beans. 

scooping homemade refried beans out of the cooking pot with a wooden slotted spoon

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Dry beans Pinto beans are our favorite here, as they mimic our favorite canned beans. There’s no reason you can’t use a different variety of dried bean, though. Refried black beans are delicious, too!

Onion — You can use any kind of bulb onion you have on hand — white, yellow, or red.

Garlic — Peel the cloves and leave them whole. Once cooked, they’ll be soft and easy to blend right into the beans.

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Red Wine Vinegar — This is a key ingredient in creating the flavor we like in our refried beans. Don’t skip it! Lemon juice makes a reasonable substitute if you don’t have the vinegar on hand.

Seasonings Salt, cumin, and chili powder round out the flavors in this recipe. 

To Soak or Not to Soak?

When cooking beans, soaking them overnight can really speed the cooking process.  There are some other reasons to soak the beans in advance, though. Doing so can help reduce the embarrassing side effects of eating beans. And soaking beans overnight helps to remove the phytates. (More on that here.)

Soaking does require a bit of planning ahead, but there’s not really any extra time involved on your part. Just set them to soak and go on about your business.

I always soak dry beans, and I tend to let them soak overnight. When you are ready to start cooking these beans, be sure to drain the soaked beans and use fresh cooking water.

dried beans, onion, and garlic in a pot.

Making Refried Beans

These easy refried beans are made on the stove top. Once the beans have soaked, drain them and return to pot. Add water to cover beans by 3″ and add the onions and garlic. (There’s no need to chop the onion and garlic; they’ll end up cooked and mashed in the end, saving you precious time.)

Bring beans to a boil, then simmer until tender. This will take about an hour and a half. 

pinto beans cooked in a white pot, with some on a wooden spoon

Drain the cooked beans, retaining some of the cooking liquid. Whir the beans, along with the cooked onion and garlic in a food processor. Add some of the retained liquid as necessary to reach desired consistency. 

homemade refried beans in a food processor

If you have a small food processor, you may need to do this in batches. Add the vinegar and seasonings, stirring to combine well. 

homemade refried beans in a food processor


The simplest way to enjoy these beans? Spoon into a bowl and top refried beans with a bit of sour cream or shredded cheese. For a little spice, spoon on some of these pickled jalapenos.

But they’re a favorite here for spreading into quesadillas. Beans and a bit of cheese between two tortillas? It doesn’t get much easier than that for a nice hot lunch!

My husband uses these as the base for his favorite seven layer dip. And of course we serve them alongside tacos or wrapped up as burritos.

homemade refried beans in a green bowl with an orange plaid napkin.


This recipe makes a big batch! You can halve it if you like, but if you’re like me, the idea of having beans at the ready for meal plans is appealing. 

For short-term storage, place cooled beans in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week.

To freeze, transfer cooled beans to a freezer safe container, leaving about a one-inch headspace to allow for expansion. Store in freezer for up to four months. 

Thaw and reheat beans in a saucepan or spread in a casserole dish and heat in the oven.

★ Did you make these homemade refried beans? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★

bowl of refried beans from above, garnished with sour cream and cilantro.

Homemade Refried Beans

Yield: 20 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Make taco night even better with these homemade refried beans! Wrap them up in a burrito, spread them in a quesadilla, or pair them with Spanish rice for a vegetarian fiesta.


  • 6 cups dry pinto beans
  • 3 small onions, quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 6 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder


  1. Put dry beans in a large pot and add enough water to cover the beans by 4-5" or so. Soak eight hours or overnight. Drain beans then add onions and garlic to the pot. Add fresh water to cover beans by 3". 
  2. Cover the pot, but tilt the lid so that air can escape. This prevents boil overs. Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer over medium heat for about an hour and a half or until beans are tender.
  3. Drain the beans, retaining some of the cooking liquid.
  4. Whir beans in a food processor until beans are a creamy consistency. (I like to leave some beans whole and toss them in at the end.) If the beans are too thick for you, add some of the cooking liquid until you're happy with the consistency. 
  5. Stir in remaining ingredients. 
  6. Refrigerate or freeze for later use, or serve immediately.


Makes approximately the equivalent of 10 - 16oz cans of refried beans.

There's no need to chop the onion and garlic; they'll end up cooked and mashed in the end, saving you precious time. 

If you have a small food processor, you may need to do this in batches. If you don't have a food processor, get out your potato masher - that'll work, too. So will an immersion blender. 

To cook in an electric pressure cooker, use the Instant Pot refried bean recipe here.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 40 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 104Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 168mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 5gSugar: 1gProtein: 6g

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Originally published May 2011; this post has been updated.

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

54 comments… add one
  • Michelle Marie Oct 4, 2020 @ 4:14


  • Sarah Dickison Aug 9, 2018 @ 8:07
  • Sarah Dickison Aug 9, 2018 @ 8:03

    Oh’ my goodness ! Thank you SO much. The kids voted. These taste exactly like Taco bell. (Which is a great second to Rosarita) No changes made. 5 STARS from this family of 10 !

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 16, 2018 @ 20:34

      This just made my day! Glad you liked them; we do, too!

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 28, 2019 @ 11:01

      Awesome! I’m so glad!

  • Michelle Mar 24, 2018 @ 22:20

    So easy to make and very yummy!

  • Karen Oct 10, 2017 @ 14:57

    Can you can the refried beans

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 14, 2017 @ 8:17

      This recipe is NOT approved for canning. I freeze them.

      • Carol L Jun 6, 2020 @ 16:15

        WHY can’t you can these?

  • Katha Nov 12, 2016 @ 9:42

    Wow! This recipe is great! Thanks for sharing it! I hate having to run to the store for a can and I hate buying a box at Sam’s for a small fortune. Happy dance happy dance.

  • Rachel Jun 16, 2016 @ 4:41

    So excited to make these today! The beans have been soaking all night & the hubby will be home soon to finish the process with me! Thank you so much for this recipe!!

    • Kris Bordessa Jun 18, 2016 @ 12:14

      How did they turn out??

  • Denise Corriveau Jun 9, 2016 @ 13:56

    Just checking: if we use the pressure cooker, do we still have to soak the beans or do we skip that step? Thanks.

    • Kris Bordessa Jun 13, 2016 @ 6:41

      Depends on who you talk to! You can skip this step with regard to the beans getting *cooked. Some people like to soak the beans to remove the phytic acid for health reasons, though.

  • Ginny Sep 12, 2015 @ 4:35

    I bottle beans in my pressure cooker. Then when I want refried beans I simply drain of the liquid and fry them up in a little fat. Smash them with a fork or potatoe masher. I add milk or cream to mine.

  • Rebecca May 13, 2015 @ 17:07

    Another way to make “re-fried” beans is to whip them up in a kitchen aid using the whisk attachment.

  • Larry Jan 31, 2014 @ 18:25

    This may be a healthy bean recipe, and it may be a tasty bean recipe, but it is not a recipe for refried beans.  Refried beans are called “refried” because they are cooked twice.  First they are boiled, and then they are fried in lard.  If you cannot bring yourself to make the authentic product because of the fat content, find another name for what you do want to make.

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 31, 2014 @ 18:34

      I’ve got no problem with fat. My problem has been replicating the Rosarita “refried” beans that my family loves. Are Rosarita’s actually refried? I don’t know, but that’s what they call ’em. I’ve tried a variety of methods – including lard and REfrying – only to find that this is the closest iteration, regardless of technicalities. Thanks for stopping by to point out my error.

      • Naomi Dec 11, 2022 @ 13:59

        What a graceful way to respond to a snarky comment.

  • Kathleen Schoen Jan 9, 2014 @ 13:23

    Has anyone tried making these in a slow cooker?

  • Siobhan Feb 14, 2013 @ 10:36

    Wow…these are great. Just finished making it. I let the kids try and they were begging for more. 🙂 That’s always a plus. 🙂
    Blessings today

  • Cathie Feb 12, 2013 @ 11:27

    I make them in a similar fashion, but in the crock pot. They are so much tastier than canned! I just made some yesterday, in fact.

  • Rebecca Glenn May 4, 2012 @ 13:10

    Yes, I have. I forgot to mention it, and thank you for this recipe, at your blog. I made a full batch last week and have some stocked in the freezer. We go through beans quickly around here.

  • Madeleine @ NZ Ecochick Dec 31, 2011 @ 14:48

    Thank you so much for linking this fantastic and informative post to NZ Ecochick. We’ve made these and they are super easy and so yummy. I always look forward to your posts. All the best M xx

  • Melisa Aug 4, 2011 @ 16:54

    Has anyone tried making these beans and adding a little coconut oil in lieu of lard or bacon grease? I am thinking of trying.

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 4, 2011 @ 17:00

      Melissa, the recipe itself doesn’t call for lard or bacon grease. However, there’s no reason you couldn’t add a little coconut oil. I may try that the next time I make them, actually!

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 4, 2011 @ 17:00

      Melisa, the recipe itself doesn’t call for lard or bacon grease. However, there’s no reason you couldn’t add a little coconut oil. I may try that the next time I make them, actually!

  • Donna Hull May 15, 2011 @ 15:57

    I always thought refried beans were unhealthy but not the way you’re cooking them. I’ll be trying this recipe.

    • Kris Bordessa May 15, 2011 @ 18:14

      I think you’ll like them, Donna. We’ve gone through tons of recipes and this is the one – my kids think they’re *better than Rosarita!

  • merr May 11, 2011 @ 16:29

    This may sound funny but I always wonderful HOW refried beans were made but never looked it up. Now, no need! Thanks, Kris!

  • Joan Lambert Bailey May 10, 2011 @ 16:21

    I’ve been giving some serious thought to making refried beans again. We made them often, along with tortillas, when we lived in Kazakhstan. It was loads of work (no blender or food processor there), but so pathetically tasty. I’m inspired! I may even try them with some of the beans I find at the farmer’s markets here. Thanks!

  • Heather Anderson May 10, 2011 @ 13:55

    I am really looking forward to trying these. I just gave up on refried beans because I couldn’t get them right. We had settled for whole beans in our burritos rather than buying canned. Thanks.

  • MyKidsEatSquid May 10, 2011 @ 9:59

    I’ve been wanting to get a pressure cooker. My mom used it all the time growing up. We make our refried beans by using a bit of bacon grease or lard–as you might imagine it makes them creamier:) But not healthier…

  • Jeanine Barone May 10, 2011 @ 5:51

    I adore refried beans. And I spend way too much money eating Mexican food in restaurants. Time to start preparing some at home. Thanks for this.

    • Kris Bordessa May 10, 2011 @ 7:40

      I think to completely rival the beans you get at a Mexican restaurant you’d need to add a bit of lard…

      • Sharon Aug 22, 2015 @ 11:55

        Amen. The lard is a glaring omission. Makes all the difference in the world.

        • Kris Bordessa Aug 24, 2015 @ 8:19

          You are certainly free to add lard. The recipe as it came to me did not include it and we loved them just as they were. We might have to try adding lard one of these times, though.

  • Susan May 10, 2011 @ 3:46

    This sounds like a job for my hand blender. If you don’t have one, they’re incredibly versatile and much easier to clean than a food processor. I use it for smoothies, soups, pudding, even mixing cookie batter. Mine was only about $20 from Amazon and it’s served me well.

    • Kris Bordessa May 10, 2011 @ 7:39

      I used to have a hand blender, but don’t any longer. Thanks for the suggestion for people who don’t have a food processor!

      • Holly Hendrickson Aug 4, 2017 @ 8:41

        What about using a potato ricer? It seems like that would be easier than a potato masher and the consistency would be good.

        • Kris Bordessa Aug 4, 2017 @ 8:42

          Sure – why not?

  • [email protected] Food. Stories. May 10, 2011 @ 2:36

    Sigh… I need a better pressure cooker so I can make beans more often. These look incredible.

    • Kris Bordessa May 10, 2011 @ 7:38

      I’ve just started using a pressure cooker. What a difference!

  • Living Large May 10, 2011 @ 1:23

    Thanks so much for posting this. We eat Rosarita refried beans and had no idea about the BPA. I’ll have to try this recipe!

    • Kris Bordessa May 10, 2011 @ 7:38

      Almost ALL canned items have BPA in the lining. The only brand I know of that doesn’t have BPA in some of their foods is Eden. (I think they’re converting over to all of their products, too.)

  • Christine May 10, 2011 @ 0:47

    These look amazingly good! I am putting pinto beans on my list the next time we go to the grocery store.

    • Kris Bordessa May 10, 2011 @ 7:37

      Let us know how they turn out, Christine!

  • Sheryl May 9, 2011 @ 10:09

    Thanks for posting this~! I love refried beans, but never had a clue how to make them. It surprises me that it is so easily done.

    • Kris Bordessa May 10, 2011 @ 7:37

      REALLY easy. It does take time if you’ve not got a pressure cooker, but beans are something we can all make at home.

      • Carol L Jun 6, 2020 @ 16:10

        I did not see any mention in this article about using a pressure cooker.

  • Jennifer Margulis May 9, 2011 @ 9:00

    Excellent recipe. I’ve made these before and am eager to make them again!

    • Kris Bordessa May 10, 2011 @ 7:36

      Jennifer, do you use the vinegar? I think that’s the secret ingredient that makes them good.

  • Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart May 9, 2011 @ 7:17

    OMG. I’m bookmarking this right away because I love refried beans (as does my DH), and I would love to try this. Thank you, thank you, for including an option for those of us who do not have a food processor.

    • Kris Bordessa May 10, 2011 @ 7:36

      It’ll take a little longer with a potato masher – and you’ll build muscles – but they’ll turn out fine!

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