blip : Blog of Isaac & Jason :

recipe for refried beans

October 11th, 2006 by isaac · 43 Comments

A few summers ago, Jason and Nancy were kind enough to let me sleep on their couch—for a few months!! Very hospitable. And one day, in celebration of “Fiesta Days” (a big Santa Barbara festival), I made refried beans. It wasn’t too difficult. But they loved it. In fact, they’ve been begging me for the recipe for two years now. I can’t claim the recipie as my own. Yes, I am “hispanic”—but refried beans are more of a Mexican thing than something typical from my countries of origin (Colombia and Costa Rica). I actually learned how to make refried beans from a Mexican-American couple from Texas. They were on their way to Michigan and stayed at the hospitality house I lived in (called the Rutba House). We let them stay with us for a few weeks, and they left us with a gift that hasn’t ceased giving.

Here’s the problem. Jason and Nancy want the recipe, but I don’t really have one. I just make the beans. So, here’s a narrative on how to make them. It’s really easy, so anyone can try it. But it might take some experimenting with the spices to get the flavour right.

Step 1: Empty a bag of pinto beans onto a surface (I guess a 1lb bag). Sometimes there is a pebble or two hidden among the beans. Take those out (it doesn’t feel good to bite down on one of them—believe me, I’ve done it). Rinse the beans. I usually use a colander. Then let the beans soak in a large pot overnight. Use plenty of water since the beans expand quite a bit.

Step 2: Boil beans for a couple hours. I would say boil them for about an hour or so… basically until they are soft (make sure to keep on adding water). Then it’s time to add the stuff: garlic powder, cummin, salt, pepper… chili powder if you’re feeling daring (but not too much). This is where the experimentation is required. For starters, try 2-3 Tbs of garlic, 1-2 Tbs of cummin, 2 Tbs of salt (that might be a little much), 1 Tbs of pepper, and maybe 1 Tbs of chili powder (maybe less). Then let all that boil for another hour. You want the beans so soft that they are falling apart (it makes it easier to mash them later on).

Step 3: This is also a tricky part. After the boiling is complete, you need to empty out a lot of the water… but not too much or else the beans get really dry. For starters try emptying out the water so that only the bottom half of the beans are in water. Then the mashing begins. I use a potato masher. A fork will also work if a potato masher is unavailable… but that takes a lot more work. Mash until you get sick of it. The consistency of the beans shouldn’t be uniform—that’s only what happens at food processing plants.

Step 4: Cover a very large pan with 2 Tbs (that’s a total guess—probably more) of olive oil. Saute 1-2 onions, diced. Reduce to a low heat. Add the beans to the sauted onions. Mix in 1-2 Tbs of butter. Now the re-frying begins. Don’t re-fry for too long; it tends to dry out the beans. And don’t let them burn.

If you try the recipe, please add your comments below so we can get the proportions right.

Tags: cooking

43 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jonathan Kelley // Oct 12, 2006 at 6:13 pm

    You should have your own cooking show on the Food Network. You would definitely fill a niche for them a Latin American Theologian who specializes in making dishes with only a good educated guess behind each decision. I know I would watch. You could call it Transubstantiated: Everyday Ingredients into Heavenly Desires.

  • 2 Jason // Oct 12, 2006 at 9:02 pm

    The beans were incredible. We tried them tonight and were surprised your narrative instructions worked so well. We did pretty much everything you said (1 lb. beans, 2 onions, 3 tbsp. cummin, dash of Tapatio, 1 tsp. minced garlic). One difference is that after the first hour of boiling we used vegetable broth as the liquid to add to the pot. We ended up using most of the box (2.5 cups) which might have been a bit much as the beans had just a hint of sweetness. Probably half that amount would have been perfect.

    Best thing about it all: there’s still tons for tomorrow (and the next day, and the next…)

  • 3 Chris // Oct 14, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    What does the term “refritos” as in “frijoles refritos” really mean? I’ve heard from a chef (a gringo) that it doesn’t really mean “re-fried” as in “twice fried,” but “well fried.” Is that right? I thought “re” meant the same thing in Spanish as in English.

    Also, refried beans taste pretty good when made with lard (in place of olive oil).

  • 4 not1word // Oct 28, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Chris, refritos—refried—doesn’t literally mean cooked again, or twice cooked. Its usage and meaning follow along the same lines as the word replenish in Genesis 1:28, where God speaks to his newly created couple, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

    What we take for a prefix in both words refried and replenish is actually a part of the main word, from French. It has to do with intensification. In the word replenish it as to do with filling to capacity, to stock fully, not just in part. God intended man to fill His creation fully. In refried, the word deals with the length of time and the full amount of cooking of the beans.

  • 5 Holly // Nov 4, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    These are the best! I added diced tomatoes adn green chilies, they really zing up the beans.
    Frijoles refritos ~ well fried beans, yum.

  • 6 Jessica // Jan 28, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I made the beans today, added a couple chipotle peppers….YUM

  • 7 michael gonzales // Apr 12, 2008 at 6:41 am

    Just to throw in my two cents,I have had experience with beans sticking in bottom of pot when cooking. Some sort of phenonon.The beans will geather all at the bottom even if you have a rolling boil going.When I cook my beans I allways have to watch for sticking,and stir often. This happens with all type’s of beans I have cooked. My recomendation is allways stir.

  • 8 Janet Gallmeyer // Apr 20, 2008 at 7:22 am

    I just ate canned re-fried beans yesterday and they were terrible. Can’t wait to try this recipe. Will let you know how it all turned out. Since we just had tacos, spanish rice, and beans, it will be a while before we eat Mexican again, but I’ll be back to let you know how they turned out.
    Thanks for your recipe!!

  • 9 Pat Crossley // Apr 28, 2008 at 10:00 am

    I work at a little village primary school (ust 100 pupils) in Devon in the SW of the UK. This coming Friday we are having a PTA Quiz Night and we are provding Mexican food. I thought I would make some Refried Beans as we have lots of different chillies coming and then I started to panic about how to make the beans. This recipe looks delicious. I will tell you how I got on. Wish me luck. Pat C.

  • 10 Crystal // Jun 15, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    I tried these the other day through step 3 (I didn’t sautee them) and they were really good! Thanks for the instructions.

  • 11 Ed // Jun 28, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Good stuff. I love refried beans. Thanks for the post.

  • 12 LISA // Aug 16, 2008 at 6:27 am

    These beans work really well in the crockpot overnight on low with six cups of water, in the morining add seasinings and one more cup of water and just stir them every so often until lunch, it cooks them unevenly at first, but they all catch up. Good direction on second part, they were excellent!

  • 13 Rhonda // Sep 18, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    These beans are delicious. I found that you need about 5-6 T of olive oil though, and I used 1 onion and it was plenty. The rest of the measurements were good.

  • 14 Martha // Oct 16, 2008 at 4:42 am

    What a wonderful narrative! I feel nourished after having just simply read it! – can’t wait to try the recipe… Thanks so much.

  • 15 gina // Nov 8, 2008 at 7:16 am

    Refried beans are one of the best and most delicious foods in the world. We have eaten them, or something very similar, in many countries where we have lived and worked. Thanks so much for contributing your very good—and entertaining—recipe here.

    My variation on your recipe: I always add the onions during the simmering stage (they can be roughly chopped, quartered or sliced), so they kind of disappear, but the flavour is there. The rest is spot on. So simple and so good (maybe because of their simplicity).

    Finally, I want to confirm what you said about the mashing and final texture of the refrieds: the consistency should NOT be uniform, as that is how tinned refried beans come from the factories.

    Many thanks.


  • 16 Cathy // Nov 18, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Great recipe! One thing I’ve learned since my kids left home is that you can freeze cooked pinto beans. Just drain them, put them in a zip lock bag, press out the extra air and pop into the freezer. So cutting this recipe down is easy, you can make just what you need without too many leftovers, and you only have to boil the beans once.

  • 17 Terry // Dec 8, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    I’m making the beans for 40 on Friday. My staff says “nothing but beans in the cooking, and bacon fat in the skillet”. My Mexican grocer says “3 jalipenios in the center of the skillet” which soften and dissappear when you mash them”

    So regretfully I’m going to leave put the cumin onion garlic etc. This time
    and sneak in the peppers past my staff. Wish me luck it’s my first attempt.

  • 18 clarissa // Dec 26, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Regarding the post about the beans sticking in the pan, if you use a crock pot, this won’t happen. My beans were a bit dull tasting, so I added a bit of chicken boullion… cheating, I’m sure, but it helped.

  • 19 aadi // Feb 3, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    Great recipe! no lard, wonderful and more healthy with olive oil

  • 20 Foodie Search // Feb 10, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    [...] posts the most commented on post is Isaac’s post from a few years back on how he makes kick-ass refried beans.  In her words, a post on “Mennonite Martinis” would appear to be more relevant [...]

  • 21 Linda // Feb 22, 2009 at 6:31 am

    I was “surfing” for a recipe to see if how I cook them is the “right” way or not and your reicpe is identical to what I am doing right now, exactly identical!

    I don’t like lard either and prefer olive oil. After church they should be done cooking and I will mash and refry them for our church fellowship dinner to go with Nachos.

    who has adopted children from Cambodia with spicy tates buds. We “max out” the spices when we cook, and usually add Thai hot chili sauce besides!!

  • 22 Betsy // Apr 19, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    These were DELICIOUS! Followed the recipe up to the frying part! Plenty of leftovers – which is a good thing!

  • 23 riina // May 11, 2009 at 6:10 am

    in the pub/restaurant i work in, we add a little bit of hot salsa to the beans before serving – ok, it might be cheating :) but if anyone’s got a problem with dull tasting beans, this is definitely the easiest way to spice them up and add flavour.

  • 24 rob carnival // Jun 2, 2009 at 10:22 am

    these beans aren’t just delicious, they have a great story attached. i tried the recipe with butter and then made one with bacon grease.Surprisingly,they both taste the same. The one with bacon grease was a tad saltier. But WOW what a great recipe> Thanx so much

  • 25 Tanya // Aug 22, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Thanks for the recipe. I had a vague idea how to make these, so this was the perfect set of instructions.

    I used black beans I had already made yesterday. I put them in a blender on slow, as I was in a rush. Then, I fried them as you suggested. Ate them with fresh homemade tortillas and avocado.


    As for the “RE-frito” comments, in some parts of Latin American the prefix “RE” can mean “very,” but it also has the same meaning as in the English as “again.” So, REfrito can mean re-fried or very fried, depending on the context.

  • 26 Eric // Sep 22, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    I tried this and it was awsome only difference is I used bacon drippings instead of olive oil.

  • 27 judy // Mar 4, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Everything is better from scratch. And most of the time not that much effort. I have an equally easy spanish rice reciepe which I am going to us with the bean. My beans are cooking . I can’t wait. This receipe is also very healthy.

  • 28 Marla // Mar 12, 2010 at 2:17 am

    Living in Singapore I have to make my own refried beans. How I miss Mexican food! I soak my beans in a crock pot overnight and cook all day on low. Then I’m ready to follow your recipe!

  • 29 Marla // Mar 12, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Ok, talk about a small world. I see Isaac is a Mennonite pastor. My husband was a Mennonite pastor too; now we serve with Mercy Teams International.

  • 30 Maria // Mar 20, 2010 at 4:36 am

    I often have dinner parties for friends, and the theme of the weekend was Mexican! My friends where impressed I made everything from scratch, even the beans!....... Tho I failed to mention I pinched your recipe!! Shhhhhh…...
    All the way in our part of the world, Ireland!

  • 31 Kim // Jul 7, 2010 at 7:48 am

    I used your recipe a year or so was GREAT!! when I went to use it again it was gone; I spent hours searching for YOUR recipe nothing else would do. I found it be remembering the story….I know have it saved and printed and in my favorites…wouldn’t want to lose it again!

  • 32 Brad from Brisbane Australia // Jul 30, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Good recipe. Definately better with the spices. Praise the Lord.

  • 33 Julie // Aug 7, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I cheated a little bit and used my electric pressure cooker. From beginning to end it took about an hour from dried hard beans to putting them in a tortilla. I even placed a few frozen pieces of chicken, rubbed with seasonings on top so we had chicken burritos for dinner….my son loved it.


  • 34 Susan // Aug 27, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    I made these refried beans today and they are excellent! I will never be happy with canned refrieds again! My favorite part of your recipe is where you say to mash the beans until you’re sick of it, that is so cute. I also tried my hand at making flour tortillas today, they didn’t turn out as well as I hoped but these beans are so good that no one will pay much attention to the tortillas. Thank you for a great recipe.


  • 35 Gayle // Feb 7, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    I made these beans….. I soaked them overnight….drained the water for the most part. Then I put them in my crockpot and cooked them all day until they were soft. Checking to make sure I didn’t need to add more liquid. I added cooked onions, garlic and cooked bacon with a little bacon grease for good measure. I also added a little hot sauce. Oh, and a little cheese (grated)..... I transferred beans by big spoon fulls over to frying pan to “refry” then put the finished dish back in the crock pot to keep them warm….Yummmmmmmm

  • 36 Ceaser reicpe | Dinhgiaquamang // May 30, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    [...] recipe for refried beansI was “surfing” for a recipe to see if how I cook them is the “right” way or not and your reicpe is identical to what I am doing right now, exactly identical! [...]

  • 37 Carin // Jul 5, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    My boyfriend has eaten beans and rice every day for the last year now. always trying to switch up the flavor. Am taking one day ole beans and using your recipe. Chose this one overall the rest. Hope he likes them. I believe in the flavors and simplicity of the spices, but I am substituting Coriander for the cumin. Love Coriander in my corn enchiladas soo Anyway thanks

  • 38 Carin // Jul 5, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    tonight I’m cooking him mashed potatoes, a boyhood favorite of his his father tells me his mother used to cook consisting of boiled parsnips and carrots-each cooked separately-mashed together. then your refried beans.

    Thanks again. Carin

  • 39 Lisa // Feb 8, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Wish you had a Facebook Share button. I’d post this recipe for sure! Can’t wait for dinner tonight! Thank you

  • 40 KhatNip // Feb 9, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Thanks for this! Like so many of the comments above, my house really enjoyed your recipe. I appreciate some of the hints from those who commented, too. Also enjoyed the fact that this has been running for almost 6 years and people are still discovering it and leaving their thoughts. Nice. Kind of like a Guest Book. lol

  • 41 Kareen // Feb 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Awesome recipe thanks

  • 42 Deena // Mar 16, 2012 at 5:31 am

    Oh, gosh, thank you for this recipe!! My son and I love Mexican food and refried beans are one of our favorites. We’ve been using canned refried beans and although they’re fairly good, I have been wanting to make some from scratch….because I know they would be even better! Just had no idea where to start. I think the instructions here are excellent and will also use some of the ideas that have been commented (I read them all :) ). Saturday night is usually our ‘Mexican night’, so I’ll be trying this recipe tomorrow! Yay!!

  • 43 karen // Jan 6, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Thank you for this tip on beans. My boyfriend is a veg no fish or chicken either so beans are most nights. I never have tried putting pices in during the last stage of boiling. Will try this tonight.