Refried Beans

Homemade refried beans on the left, El Paso brand refried beans on the right

I almost always have a couple of cans of refried beans in my cupboard. They are such a convenient food to have on hand for lots of quick dishes. I use them for filling tacos and enchiladas or just to make a quick bean dip or nachos. Buying the fat-free variety of refried beans ensures that I am only a few steps away from a filling, low-fat meal that is high in fiber and protein. Those three factors (filling, fast, and full of protein) are never more important than when I am pregnant but I have become increasingly concerned about eating canned foods durning pregnancy because of the presence of BPA in the lining of cans. Thus, I have recently searched high and low for homemade refried bean recipes and have run into a problem:  most of the recipes used canned beans as a starting point which are exactly what I was trying to avoid! So, I started experimenting with making refried beans that start from scratch, with dried beans, and the results were quite tasty and easy. You can see what you think by trying my recipe below, or read the results of our taste test comparing canned and homemade refried beans.

Ingredients for homemade refried beans: Cooked pinto beans, canola oil, salt and chili powder


This is the texture beans should be after mashing, before frying them in the pan

Homemade Refried Beans

Makes about 2 cups

1/2 pound dried pinto beans, picked over, rinsed and soaked overnight

1 Tablespoon canola or corn oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder, optional

1/2 to 3/4 cup water

1. Drain the soaked beans and rinse them thoroughly. Place the drained beans in a large pot or dutch oven and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring beans to a simmer over medium heat, reduce heat to low and simmer until beans are very soft and beginning to fall apart, about 2 hours.

2. Drain and rinse the cooked beans and let them cool to room temperature. Using a fork or potato masher, mash the cooled beans until they are mostly smooth, but some chunks remain.

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beans to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until beans are hot. Season with the salt and chili powder, to taste.

4. Add the water, a few tablespoons at a time, and stir beans until they are a soft, spreadable consistency.  Remove beans from heat and use immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week. If beans are refrigerated, they may need to be thinned with extra water when reheated.


Other than the extra time needed to cook the pinto beans, these refried beans were surprisingly quick and easy to make and required only about 10 minutes of active cooking. Not as convenient as just opening a can, but easier than I had expected them to be. I was also surprised at how similar in texture the homemade beans were to the canned version. The homemade refried beans were nice and spreadable with a pleasing soft texture which I had suspected might be difficult to achieve. Three out of three testers agreed that the homemade beans had a more pleasant texture than the canned and we also all preferred the flavor of homemade. One tester described the canned refried beans as having a  “pasty”  texture, while the homemade had a soft texture that also retained some of the original beany feel. When eaten in tacos, the homemade beans had a pleasing, fresh flavor while the canned just tasted vaguely salty. Although we all agreed that the canned beans weren’t bad, and we would still enjoy eating them, the homemade beans were preferable in both flavor and texture.

The homemade beans were also quite a bit cheaper than canned, coming in at half the price. While both forms of refried beans were cheap (they are beans after all!), the homemade cost about 35 cents per cup while the canned cost closer to $1 a cup.

Bottom Line:  Canned refried beans are extremely convenient and I probably will not stop buying them immediately. However, homemade refried beans were astonishingly easy to prepare, tasted fresher than canned, and only cost half as much, making them worth the extra effort when time allows.