I will start by saying that the word “refried” in the title is in quotes for a reason. These beans are not technically refried at all; however, they have the same consistency as traditional refried beans This change allows us to pack tons of flavor into this recipe without any of the fat or oils you need to fry the beans. It’s a much lighter version of the standard Mexican food!
I’ll also admit they hit my lazy mom spot — 15 minutes from start to finish, and only about 3 of them are actual hands-on time. Aside from being fat free and fast, this recipe is also high fiber, and relatively low-calorie (140 cal for store-bought and 100 cal for this recipe). And yes, opening a can of refried beans is reheating them is faster, but there’s just something about making your own refried beans. They’re tastier, healthier, and so worth the 3 minutes!
These beans are even a perfect party dip on their own. My favorite way to eat them by far though, is as a family tradition. When I was a teenager, my mom would make a version of these every Friday. We would then plop a serving of beans in a bowl, top it with tomatoes, onion, cheese, and salsa and then use tortilla chips to eat our bowl of beans in front of a movie. We very inventively called it “Bowl of Beans and a Movie,” and it was one of my favorite meals.
Part of the simplicity of this recipe is the simplicity of the ingredients. This is a pantry staple recipe — you can keep everything in your pantry and toss it together anytime!
- Pinto Beans: The star of the show! Canned pinto beans work perfectly for this recipe, but you can also use dried beans. Just be sure to cook them first!
- Beef Bouillon: The best way to add a touch of umami to a dish is bouillon granules. While I like the flavor of beef bouillon, you can also sub vegetable broth or bouillon to make this fit a vegetarian diet, or even a vegan diet!
- Picante Sauce: Here’s the secret to adding tons of flavor with very little work. Picante sauce comes with the right amount of spices and the perfect mix of chile and onion flavor. This makes it easy to find that balance of Mexican-inspired flavors without any chopping, dicing, or hard work!
- Garlic powder and Onion Powder: These two are optional, but I love the little extra umph they add to the recipe. If garlic is not your favorite, then you can definitely omit it.
What Equipment Do I Need?
You can go pretty low-key on this recipe and make the whole thing with just a saucepan and a whisk (or potato masher). I’m not a big fan of getting my arm workout in while cooking, so I prefer to use either one of my two favorite blenders:
Standard Food Processor/Blender: This is* hands-down my favorite blender/food processor of all time. It blends both hot and cold, and the top-down mechanism means that, as long as you don’t overfill it, it doesn’t suffer from that issue where some of whatever you’re blending stays chunky. It’s also a fraction of the size of a standard blender, which has worked out well in many of the smaller kitchens we’ve had. Bonus: dishwasher safe for easy clean up!
Immersion Blender: This very simple immersion blender* is my favorite. It isn’t fancy, but it does the job. You can request a warranty, and although it’s not dishwasher safe, it is easy to clean!
*Disclosure: this is an affiliate link. If you purchase something from this link, I will receive a portion of the profit. However, all opinions and recommendations are my own. I will only ever recommend something I love!
Step 1 | Cook the Beans
Start by draining your beans in a colander. You do want to reserve just a 1/4 cup of the bean water. Otherwise, drain and rise your beans.
Next, toss your beans, your reserved bean water, the bouillon, picante sauce, and spices into a medium saucepan.
Bring everything to a simmer, then lower the heat and allow the beans to simmer for 5-10 minutes or until all the flavors have gotten acquainted and the beans have softened.
Step 2 | Blend
Once your beans are soft and ready to be mashed, you mash them! You can do this multiple ways. I put my bean mixture into a blender, or use an immersion blender to make my refried beans velvety smooth and creamy! You can go low-equipment and mash your beans with a fork or potato masher.
Step 3 | Enjoy!
Once you’ve mashed your beans, they’re ready to eat! You can enjoy them in many ways. There’s the bowl of beans method my family loved, but you can also use them as the base of burrito bowls, wrapped in tasty soft tortillas to make burritos, as a bean dip, or as part of your taco night fun! They also work great as a side dish: think that delicious side of beans you get at your favorite Mexican restaurant.
This refried bean recipe is so simple that you can create tons of variations using the delicious base recipe. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Refried Black Beans: If you simply sub the pinto beans for black beans, you can make a delicious black bean version of this recipe! As another variation option, you can also do this with kidney beans and white beans.
- Cheesy Refried Beans: Simply add 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese to the beans before blending to create a cheesy version. Of course, this one won’t be fat-free.
- Instant Pot Refried Beans: You can make these in the instant pot instead of on the stove top. Just put all your ingredients into the instant pot pressure cooker, then allow it to cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Natural release for 5 minutes, then do a manual release. You’re then free to blend your softened beans!
- Slow Cooker Refried Beans: If you’d like to have your slow cooker do all the work, you can! Just put your whole beans and the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker and leave it on low heat for 6-8 hours. You can then blend your beans!
- Chipotle Refried Beans: Honestly, you can make tons of flavor variations by simply changing the picante sauce. One of my favorite variations is to create a chipotle flavor by using a chipotle flavored canned salsa, or by using a little chipotle powder in my beans.
More Easy Mexican Favorites
Refried beans need to be stored in an airtight container. Allow the beans to cool before putting the lid on or putting them in the refrigerator. If you put them in too hot, condensation can form and alter the consistency of the beans.
Cover and zap them in the microwave! You can also reheat them on the stovetop on low. These taste delicious next day — the flavors are even stronger in my opinion.
The short answer is maybe. The longer answer is that picante sauce is generally a lot more liquid and more purée-like in consistency. The puréed, liquid-y texture of the picante sauce is necessary to getting the right texture for these beans, and making them with a chunky, drier salsa just doesn’t yield the same results. If your salsa is very liquidy (and many canned salsas are), then substituting it should be fine.
My family eats them in burritos and tostadas. We also love them as a side to Mexican dishes. These also make a great bean dip!
15 Minute Refried Beans
- 2 cans pinto beans
- ¼ cup pinto bean liquid reserve during draining
- 2 tsp beef bouillon granules
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ cup picante sauce
- Drain pinto beans, but reserve 1/4 cup of the liquid.
- Dump pinto beans, bouillon, garlic powder, onion powder, reserve liquid, and picante sauce into a medium saucepan.
- Bring mixture to simmer, stirring often.
- Lower heat and allow mixture to simmer covered for 5 to 10 minutes, or until beans are soft.
- Pour bean mixture into blender (or use immersion blender) and blend to desired consistency.