Homemade Refried Beans

There are various reasons why I make as many things at home instead of buying them already made at the grocery store.  First, it’s almost always cheaper to do it this way, even when I factor in my time.  Making big batches and canning or freezing extras when it’s safe to do so is a huge time saver.  Second, I have yet to run into a case where making it at home didn’t result in a better tasting product.  Last but definitely not least, there are health issues that I have to be considerate of and making most of our food instead of buying it in boxes and packages helps me to know exactly what’s in the food I eat.  When I look at nutrition information, making it homemade usually results in a healthier end result.  Healthy doesn’t always mean it’s low-fat or fat-free (I could write a whole separate post on what companies do to make low-fat and fat-free things taste better), but it does mean that I can control the amount of fat, and use a healthier fat like olive oil.

Refried beans meet all of my criteria for a food I’m better off making at home.  After doing the math, I need fifty cents worth of beans to make about three cups of refried beans, and a can that has two cups of refried beans costs $1.50.  Even when you factor in the olive oil, onion, and spices the homemade version isn’t coming up to $1.50 per two cups.  It also wins where controlling the ingredients is concerned.  “Natural flavor,” “Yeast extract,” and (my favorite) “partially hydrogenated lard,” ingredients found on the nutrition labels of canned refried beans, don’t appeal to me as much as onion, cumin, and olive oil.  As far as taste, the homemade version wins the contest without question.  Using the actual natural flavors of the beans and combining them with some onion and spices results in the tastiest refried beans I’ve ever tasted.  The onion is entirely optional- skipping it or sautéing it in a non-stick skillet instead of olive oil makes these refried beans fat-free.  I know they’re not as convenient as reaching for the can opener, and cooking beans takes time, but it isn’t hands-on time.  I used the stove top cook method to cook the beans, but you can use your slow cooker to cook them and then it really doesn’t get any easier. Or tastier.

refried beans

Refried Beans


  • 1 C. dried pinto beans
  • enough water to cover the beans in the pot with 3 inches of water (about 1 1/2 quarts depending on the pot)
  • 1/2 C. finely chopped onion (optional but recommended)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil (or bacon fat, or pork lard)
  • 1/4 C. water
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin (optional)


Rinse the beans and remove any dirt, small stones or bad beans.

Put the beans into a pot and cover them with at least 3 inches of water. (To cook the beans in a crock pot, place the beans into the crock pot and cover them with 5 C. water, then cover and cook on low for 8 hours).

Bring the beans and water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low (closer to low) and simmer, covered, for 2- 2 1/2 hours until the beans are soft and the skin is just beginning to split open.

Strain the beans from the cooking water.

Heat the olive oil in a large, sturdy skillet over medium heat.

Add the onion and cook, stirring for about ten minutes, until onions are soft and translucent.

Add the beans and 1/4 C. of water to the skillet and mash, using a potato masher until the beans are roughly pureed, or puree using an immersion blender if you want them really smooth.  Add more water a little at a time if necessary if the mixture seems too dry (this is a matter of preference).

Add salt to taste and cumin and stir to combine.

Makes about 3 cups of refried beans.

Source: adapted from Simply Recipes


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