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Easy Refried Beans (with canned beans)

Are you looking for a quick and easy side dish to serve with your next Mexican-inspired meal? These easy refried beans are ready in about 15 minutes thanks to the help of some pantry staples. Delicious and nutritious, this bean recipe is a must-try!

Refried beans in a white bowl with chips.
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An Easy 15-Minute Side Dish

It’s Mexican night again at my house which is something we can never get enough of! I’m always looking for easy recipes I can add to our weekly dinner rotation and when there’s a shortcut involved, even better!

These easy refried beans are made with canned beans which means there’s no soaking or boiling of any kind which cuts down the preparation time significantly! Seriously, all you have to do is mince some garlic and spice, pour in a couple of cans, and simmer in cooking liquid for a few minutes before mashing. They practically make themselves!

Serve them as a side dish for your favorite Mexican food recipes or use them to make bean burritos with a flour tortilla and shredded cheese. These rich and thick easy refried beans will make you feel like you’re eating at your favorite Mexican restaurant!

What are Refried Beans?

This popular Mexican side dish is usually made with cooked pinto beans that are fried in a pan and mashed into a paste. The term ‘refried’ can be a bit confusing, as they are pan-fried just once, but the original Spanish name for the dish is Frijoles Refritos. Refritos means ‘well-fried’.

While this recipe is not authentic, it makes a great side dish to any meal. You can prepare them in advance and store them in the fridge for a few days or stash them in the freezer to reheat them whenever you’re ready.

Recipe Ingredients

Ingredients for refried beans on counter.

Find full printable recipe below.

A handful of pantry ingredients is all you need to whip up this easy recipe!

  • Beans: I use canned pinto beans for ease. You can drain one of the cans and include the liquid from the other can. If you prefer to use dry beans, prepare and cook them first before following this recipe.
  • Spice and aromatics: I keep it simple using just garlic and chili powder. You can also use prepared or homemade taco seasoning in place of the chili powder if you have some on hand.

Substitutions + Additions

This recipe is very customizable so you can switch things up according to your tastes. Here are a few suggestions that I’ve tried to get you started:

  • Onion: Feel free to add 1/2 cup of chopped onion before cooking the garlic. Cook until translucent and then follow the recipe as stated. 
  • Lard: A lot of recipes call for frying them in lard and you can definitely use it if preferred. I don’t usually have this on hand, so I like to use olive oil. This is a great option for vegetarians too.
  • Spice: Feel free to season to taste. If you like the beans a little spicier, add in a little extra chili powder and ground cumin. Cayenne pepper is also an option.
  • Beans: You can also swap for black beans if preferred. Feel free to drain and rinse them, if desired. Make sure to add in closer to 1/2 cup of water. 
  • Lime juice: This brightens up the richness of the refried mix and adds a hint of citrus flavor.
  • Shredded cheese: Make them cheesy by adding a handful of your favorite melting cheese such as cheddar or Monterey jack.
  • Cilantro: Love or hate it, cilantro is often used in Mexican-inspired dishes. If you’re a fan, sprinkle some chopped cilantro onto your beans for a hint of green.
  • Meat: Add bacon, diced ham, or shredded chicken to them for a heartier serving with a smoky, salty addition.

How to Make Easy Refried Beans

Step by step collage showing how to make refried beans.

Follow these easy step-by-step instructions for how to make this Mexican-inspired easy refried beans recipe in no time at all!

  1. Sauté. Cook the garlic, salt, and chili powder in olive oil for about 1 minute. The garlic and chili powder will start to smell really good.
  2. Simmer. Add the pintos (I usually add one full can, including the liquid, and drain the other can) and water. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes until the beans are heated through.
  3. Mash. Use a potato masher or a fork to mash everything until you reach your desired consistency. This will give them a slightly chunky texture. If you prefer something smoother, then you can use an immersion blender. Continue to simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Serve. Remove them from the heat and season to taste. Stir in any additions listed above and serve!

Tips for Success

  • Beans are too thick. If you’d like the consistency to be a bit thinner, add a splash of water or liquid from the can to thin it out.
  • Beans are too watery. If they have too much liquid for your tastes, you can continue to simmer for a few more minutes to allow the liquid to reduce.
  • Let stand to thicken. They will continue to thicken when they are removed from the heat. 

Serving Suggestions

Serve these warm spiced easy refried beans as a side dish, over rice, sprinkled with queso fresco, or try one of these ways below:

Refried beans in a bowl with chips on the side.

Recipe FAQs

Are refried beans healthy?

The pintos in this recipe are a good source of fiber, iron, magnesium, and zinc, which makes them a healthy option for meals. Traditional recipes can often contain a lot of saturated fat (like lard) and salt, so making your own version at home is a healthier alternative.

Are refried beans gluten-free?

Yes, they are gluten-free unless you use a taco seasoning that isn’t. Most store-bought brands are, but make sure you check the label to confirm.

Do you need any special equipment to make easy refried beans?

Nope! All you need is a potato masher or even a fork to mash to your desired consistency. Of course, you could also use an immersion blender if you have one, but it is not necessary for this recipe.

Storing and Reheating

These beans keep well in the fridge and will also freeze beautifully, so you can make them in advance and have them on hand to simply reheat before serving.

  • Fridge instructions: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • Freezer instructions: Let the refried beans cool completely and store in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw the beans in the fridge before reheating.
  • Reheating instructions: Place the beans in a microwave-safe dish and add a tablespoon or two of water if the beans look dry. Heat in 30-second intervals until warmed through. You can also reheat in a pot on the stove over low heat. Give the beans a quick stir occasionally as they’re reheating to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Refried beans in a white bowl with a chip dipped in.

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Refried beans in a white bowl with a chip dipped in.

Easy Refried Beans

5 from 4 votes
Author: Jamielyn Nye
Are you looking for a quick and easy side dish to serve with your next Mexican-inspired meal? These easy refried beans are ready in about 15 minutes thanks to the help of some pantry staples. Delicious and nutritious, this bean recipe is a must-try!
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 15 mins
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil , or lard
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt , plus more to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder , or taco seasoning
  • 1/3 cup water , plus more as needed
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans , or 3 cups cooked beans

Optional additions:

  • Fresh lime juice
  • Shredded cheese
  • Chopped cilantro

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, salt, and chili powder. Cook 1 minute, or until fragrant.
  • Pour in the beans (I usually leave 1 can with juice and drain the other) and water. Cover and cook 5 minutes until heated through.
  • Remove the lid and turn the heat to low. Using a potato masher or fork, mash the beans until you reach your desired consistency. You can also use an immersion blender if you prefer a smooth consistency. Bring to a light simmer for 2 minutes. Add a splash more water if too thick or let simmer longer to allow more moisture to evaporate if too thin.
  • Remove from heat and season to taste. Stir in any additions listed above, if desired.

Notes

Substitutions + Additions: 
  • Onion: Feel free to add in 1/2 cup chopped onion before cooking the garlic. Cook until translucent and then follow recipe as stated. 
  • Lard: A lot of recipes call for lard and you can definitely add it in, if preferred. I don’t usually have this on hand, so I like to use olive oil. 
  • Spice: Feel free to season to taste. If you like the beans a little spicier, add in a little extra chili powder and ground cumin. 
  • Beans: You can also swap for black beans, if preferred. Feel free to drain and rinse them, if desired. Make sure to add in closer to 1/2 cup water. 
Storage: Store in a covered container up to 5 days. If the beans seem dry, add in 1 to 2 Tablespoons of water. 

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cup | Calories: 24kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 0.2g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 199mg | Potassium: 12mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 0.04g | Vitamin A: 74IU | Vitamin C: 0.5mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 0.1mg

Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Diet: Gluten Free, Low Fat, Vegan, Vegetarian

Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below!

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