Vegetarian Refried Beans


Why is it that some of the most simple recipes end up being the best?

Yes, this is a bowl of refried beans.  It’s a humble, modest bowl of beans.  There are 6 ingredients in these beans…and really only four if you don’t count the salt and water that you cook them in.  I know that refried beans may not be the most exciting or photogenic blog-worthy of foods, but, if you think about it….they really are to be respected.  As someone who doesn’t eat meat, so often I am disappointed when I learn that the beans in my favorite restaurants have been made with animal fats. I always buy the canned vegetarian versions from the grocery store.  Canned refried beans are quick, easy, and (if you get the low-fat kind) are good for you.  I always have a few cans on hand.

But you know what?  After trying this recipe, I am hesitant to ever go back to the canned version.   Yes, this recipe takes a while to simmer the beans.  But it’s so incredibly simple.  You have the power of knowing what is actually in your beans, and you can adapt and modify this recipe to your own likings.  It’s amazing how versatile refried beans can be. And the taste of “real” cooked refried beans after eating the canned version for so long is like getting a breath of fresh air.  I never knew how fantastic little pinto beans could be. Really.  It blew my mind.

I made this recipe and ended up with quite a bit of leftovers.  I ate them wrapped in flour tortillas, plain with cheese and onions on top (like in the picture-actually I was taking pictures as fast as I could so that I could eat that bowl before it got cold).  I whipped up a quick queso recipe and ate them with tortilla chips and cheese.  Here is another leftover that I can safely say I finished off with ease.  That is extremely rare.

Try these beans, if you are a beans fan.  I promise you will enjoy them.


Vegetarian Refried Beans

Servings: approximately 6 cups


2 cups dry pinto beans (roughly one 16-ounce bag)

10 cups water, plus more if needed****I ended up using about 14 cups to avoid burning the beans.  Watch them carefully and add more water as needed.

2 tablespoons salt, plus more to taste

4 ounces vegetable oil, warm

4 ounces grated cheese (*I used a combination of cheddar and Monterey Jack)

For garnish: cheese, onions, tomatoes, etc.  Your choice!


1. In a large Dutch oven, combine the beans, water, and salt.

2.  Cook over medium-high heat for about 1 and 1/2 hours, or until beans are softened and tender, stirring occasionally.  ***Remember to add more water to the pot if need be.

3. Reduce the water to a minimal amount.  I strained my beans (reserve the cooking water) and added about 1/2 cup water back to the beans.  You can add more for a thinner consistency if you like.

4. Add the vegetable oil and cheese.

5. Mash the beans with a potato masher until thick and smooth. **You can also use a food processor for this step if you want.

Source: Adapted from the El Cholo Cookbook.


May 3, 2011 - 5:52 am

Blog is the New Black - THese look wonderful. I agree- sometimes the easiest, most standard recipes win your heart! I made the most divine bowl of couscous the other night… and I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s the only way I ever want to eat it! 😉

May 3, 2011 - 12:31 pm

Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking - Now this is my kind of dip! It looks so delicious, Shanon – Great job on this and thanks for sharing! Your photos are so beautiful and colorful, too.

May 3, 2011 - 12:36 pm

Shawnda - My kiddo is a huge pinto bean fan so I make a pot every week. Scooping out a little to make refried beans is my favorite part. They really are one of life’s simple pleasures – especially on a tortilla 🙂

May 3, 2011 - 9:23 pm

Happy When Not Hungry - I LOVE refried beans! These look amazing. Def need to try!

May 4, 2011 - 11:31 am

Wendy@Cooking Quinoa - This looks so good! My six year old son loves refried beans (to the point of asking for them about every other day) and I’ve been thinking I needed to try making them to avoid the BPA in the cans. Thanks for the great recipe – I can’t wait to give it a try!

May 4, 2011 - 11:57 am

Kim - Liv Life - I’m with you! I truly love refried beans, actually I think I could probably eat them every day. I like them topped with onions, salsa and avocado, and I treat myself to chips to scoop up every last speck. I’ve never made my own, but you’ve totally inspired me!! Thanks!!

May 4, 2011 - 3:10 pm

mike @ the lil house that could - I add a sminch of garlic to my veggie refried beans… good stuff

May 5, 2011 - 5:02 am

The Curvy Carrot » Bean and Tortilla “Pie” - […] in-your-face, over-the-top, and deliciously satisfying.  And, it was another excuse to make the refried beans, since I had eaten all my previous […]

May 5, 2011 - 9:25 pm

Emily - I have always wanted to try making refried beans. This looks so delicious!

May 8, 2011 - 12:32 am

Maria - I never thought to make my own refried beans! I can’t wait to try this and add to my repertoire of Mexican dishes. Thanks!

May 26, 2011 - 4:13 am

Pressure cooker (beans) « grace garden - […] Smashed Beans Recipe adapted from The Curvy Carrot […]

June 1, 2011 - 7:20 am

Mary - The beans look so good and the recipe looks so easy, I am definitely going to have to try it. I have never had refried beans but I think it’s a good time to start!

Also you managed to make mushed up beans look photogenic!

October 8, 2011 - 9:12 am

Spicy Refried Beans (Stovetop or Crockpot) « Scrumptious and Sumptuous - […] adapted from What’s Gaby Cooking and The Curvy Carrot and Real Mom Kitchen Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

January 9, 2012 - 10:25 am

Kristi Rimkus - I’m one of those people who would choose refried beans over salsa any day. When I was dieting they were a staple because they were low in fat and high in fiber. Love your recipe!

January 12, 2012 - 11:51 am

72 Healthy Recipes to Jumpstart 2012 - […] Refried Beans from Scratch […]

March 17, 2012 - 10:25 pm

Abby - How would I change the recipe to use canned pinto beans?

March 18, 2012 - 12:55 pm

srlacy - Hi Abby-

Just substitute in the pinto beans-if they are whole, they will work great in place of the kidney/black beans. If they are mashed, just heat them up and mix in the seasonings as stated.

May 16, 2014 - 9:19 am

Kelly Mitchem:roasted vegetable burritos. - Kelly Mitchem - […] 1.5 cups of refried beans (recipe can be found HERE) […]

May 18, 2014 - 10:01 am

VZ 048 - Foods That Seem Vegetarian (But Are Not!) - Vegetarian Zen - […] Vegetarian Refried Beans by The Curvy Carrot […]