Refried Beans Recipe

Refried Beans are one of the most popular Mexican side dishes, and my easy Refried Beans recipe is going to knock your socks off, because it’s so simple and so delicious!

Mexican food is big in our house. Unless we’re going straight to Cabo, we prefer our Mexican food made in our own kitchen over any restaurant. From Mexican Rice to Pozole to Shrimp Ceviche, you’ll find Mexican food on the menu here at least once a week.

an overhead shot of a small bowl of refried beans

Homemade Refried Beans Recipe

Homemade refried beans are the best!! They are delicious as a side dish for so many different meals, and they are the perfect treat for Cinco de Mayo. My refried beans recipe is pretty simple – just beans, water, salt and milk. I call them easy and simple because even though they take several hours to cook, that’s pretty much just time on the stove while you’re off doing other things, like binge watching Stranger Things on Netflix.

How to Make Refried Beans

As I mentioned, making this refried beans recipe is pretty simple and straight-forward. It just takes time.

  1. Boil some dried pinto beans in a large pot of water with a generous amount of salt for about two and a half hours. I know, it sounds like a lifetime, but trust me, the dried beans take quite a while to soften and cook thoroughly. (Don’t have two and a half hours? Read on for some time saving tips below).
  2. Once the beans are cooked through, drain the water, discard the onions and garlic, and pour the beans back into the pot.
  3. Mash them up with a little milk and salt. Be sure to give them a taste test before serving…like potatoes, beans need a lot of salt to bring out their best flavor.

Quick Cook Method

If you don’t have three hours to make refried beans, here’s a great shortcut! Use 2-3 cans of pinto beans, drained and rinsed, in place of the dried beans. Just follow the directions for heating and mashing and you’re good to go. This method will take about 10-15 minutes. I will say I still definitely prefer the from scratch method for the flavor they give, but this is a satisfactory swap when you’re in a hurry.

refried beans recipe from scratch. in a bowl topped with cheese and onions.

Pro Tips:

  • Be sure to rinse and sort the beans first. Pick through the beans to remove any rocks or debris and remove any broken or shriveled beans. Rinse them well to wash away any dirt.
  • Add milk instead of water. You’ll see in the recipe below that I add milk, not water, to my refried beans. It’s just enough to give them a creamier texture and a richer flavor. If you prefer non-dairy, just swap out the milk for water or even chicken or vegetable broth.
  • Resist the urge to lift the lid! Like with a slow cooker, your pot of beans needs some uninterrupted time to cook. Don’t check them until you hit the two hour mark, then give it a lift and a little stir.
  • For more flavor, add some sliced onion and a few cloves of garlic to the cooking pot.
  • How to mash pinto beans – For chunkier beans, lightly mash with a potato masher (aff) or even a fork. For smooth and creamy beans, use a hand held mixer for several seconds until they are the consistency you want.
  • What kind of beans do I need for Refried Beans? Refried beans are generally made from pinto beans, but you can use black beans if you’re a fan. The recipes that I’ve read suggest soaking the black beans overnight before cooking them for a couple of hours. Then mash just the same.
  • Are Refried Beans Bad for You? Many recipes will call for adding oil and frying the beans towards the end, hence the “refried,” but I’ve found that this isn’t necessary. It takes a little time, but mostly that’s just cooking time and you can be off doing other things. These refried beans are high in fiber and protein, and only 65 calories per half cup serving!

Serving Suggestions

I love to make a big batch of these beans, and then divide and freeze them in burritos, or use them again for my Ten Minute Oven Baked Tostadas or Mexican Sopes. My kids love taking them for lunch, too, or eating them just as a snack! Be sure to make some Authentic Mexican Rice to serve with them!


Homemade refried beans will last up to 3-4 days in the fridge, if properly stored in an airtight container. You can also freeze the beans for up to 8 months.

Reheat refried beans on the stovetop, adding a splash of milk for a smooth consistency.

how to make refried beans - beans in a bowl topped with with cheese and onions

Want some more delicious Mexican Recipes? Try these:

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A bowl of refried beans

Easy Homemade Refried Beans Recipe

Refried Beans are one of the most popular Mexican side dishes, and my easy Refried Beans recipe is going to knock your socks off, because it's so simple and so delicious!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 45 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 55 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 12 servings
Calories 65kcal


  • 1 pound bag of dry pinto beans
  • 3 quarts of water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt
  • 1 small onion chopped into chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic peeled and left whole


  • Rinse beans with water and discard any stones or bad beans.
  • Place beans in a large pot with 3 quarts of water and a generous pinch of salt.
  • Bring to a boil, them lower heat to simmer, covered, for approximately two and a half hours. The time will vary, but you will know they are ready when the beans are soft and beginning to break open.
  • Drain water from beans, discard the onions and garlic and place the beans back back into the pot.
  • Over low-medium heat, add a ¼ cup of water and a generous pinch of salt, and mash beans with a potato masher. Slowly add milk and continue mashing until they are a rough puree.
  • Garnish with your favorite topping and serve. Makes an excellent protein packed lunch, snack or side dish!


  • For non-dairy and vegetarian, use water in place of the milk. 
  • For added flavor, add a sliced onion and a few garlic cloves to the cooking water, then discard before mashing.


Serving: 12cupCalories: 65kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 4gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 17mgPotassium: 192mgFiber: 4gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 16IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 39mgIron: 1mg

Kristin Maxwell

Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.

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  1. In all of my years and experiences of cooking dried beans, they won’t ever get soft if you add salt while they are cooking, I always salt mine, after they cook.

  2. Do you feel the beans taste better when you refry them with water and milk versus just the broth from the beans?

  3. Presoak the beans overnight and beans in an instant pot or pressure cookerand you can cut the cooking time to 1 hour

  4. I think you will find that the pinto beans will be nicer if you salt them AFTER cooking. You never add salt to legumes while they’re being cooked as it m,akes them tougher.

    1. The bit about adding salt to beans while cooking will make them tough was shown to be nonsense by A. Test Kitchen and myself. Only difference they and I found in the multiple ways to cook pinto beans was 15 minutes longer cooking on beans not presoaked. Salt making them tough is a specious statement. Throw the beans (after sorting and washing if needed) in a pot with water and salt and what ever and cook away!

  5. My father used to use evaporated milk in his refried beans and a sprinkling of garlic salt. They were wonderful! I’m so glad to see this recipe, it takes me back to my youth. 🙂

  6. Next time, you Must try this way! Make the beans the way you would normally. But, add a large onion quartered and a pkg of think cut bacon or regular. Just cut in half and add . ?

    1. It makes a nice big pot of beans…I’d say 6-8 side servings at least. Depends on what you’re using them for. 🙂

  7. These are DELICIOUS!!! I just finished making them for a couple different recipes I found (one being your tostadas!)… I couldn’t wait and had to try them right away! I sprinkled a little cheese and salsa on top. BETTER than any canned version I’ve ever had! Healthy, low-cal, high-protein snack! Thank you for posting this!

  8. If you want to cut cooking time for the beans in half, you can leave them sitting in water the night before! They cook really fast!

  9. EASY! I need to do this, but I have some inexperienced questions: This sounds like it makes a lot, I only use about a half a can of refried beans in a given week, can I freeze it? If so, what would be the best way to thaw beans? I am terrible at thawing things (okay, meat in particular) could you post about good foods to freeze and the best way to thaw them? I love your recipes and am excited to try them! Thank you!