Homemade Garlicky Refried Beans

Garlicky Refried Beans from scratch #HealthyFoods #Recipe

Refried beans are a staple food at our house. I can’t imagine trying to feed five boys without refried beans, to be honest. One person or another is always ‘STARVING!’ and ‘ABOUT TO DIE IF I DON’T EAT!’ or ‘HAS A STOMACH THAT IS A GIANT VOID!’.  You thought drama was reserved for daughters? Oh, no. I assure you it isn’t. This is most especially true when it comes to describing the depths and depravity of their hunger and when the last time was you provided food for their neglected, shrunken stomachs. That last one? The one about the void? That’s my eight year old’s preferred method of telling me he’s hungry. And it is delivered with such a look of pain the child actor should get an Oscar.

Enter refried beans.

I make a batch of these almost weekly but sometimes more often and divide them into snack sized containers then stash them in the freezer. Even the littlest knows how to pull out a container of beans, crack the lid open, and microwave it until hot all the way through. Granted, he does it wearing an apron and oven mitts that go up his arms past his elbows, but people- it’s an independent kitchen skill. (In other words, I can go to the bathroom for five minutes without someone banging on the door yelling about how their stomach will invert if I don’t feed them immediately.) I’m not arguing!

Where does a kid go from there? In our house, we have an almost bottomless supply of tortilla chips. I buy them by the case at Aldi. (Glorious, wonderful, fabulous Aldi. Long may it remain in business!) The guys take a reheated container of refrieds, a bag of chips, and it holds them in gastronomic comfort for at least an hour.

Those beans aren’t just snack fare, though, they’re the basis for an almost limitless number of meals from fast beans-n-rice and quesadillas and nachos to burritos and tacos or veggie burgers.

Why should I make refried beans from scratch?

That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? It’s not like canned refried beans are expensive. They’re dirt cheap. And, honestly, I keep a couple cans around for emergency situations (like when the kids had friends over and had failed to tell me ahead of time they had eaten the last of the freezer stash the previous day.) Dried beans are also cheap and shelf stable. When you break it down by money, you’re about even whether you use canned or dried.

Sure, you can make arguments that the homemade ones are healthier (mainly because they can be when you control the amount of sodium and fat that goes into the mix.) So if money and health aren’t my main motivators what is? The reason is simply this: Homemade Refried Beans are so much better tasting and texture-wise that it’s hard to believe they’re the same food as the canned ones.

Hyperbole? No. Not here. Homemade refried beans have FLAVOUR. They’re not just mushed pinto beans with fat. Granted, we’re still talking mashed pinto beans with fat, but the ones from scratch are INSANELY delicious. My version is simple but sublime: JAM PACKED with garlic, a hint of smoky spice, creamy with some whole beans still visible.

Garlicky Refried Beans from scratch on foodiewithfamily.com

One of our favourite snacks: a simple tortilla, charred lightly, spread with refried beans, topped with a little grated cheese and a couple cilantro leaves or salsa.

 Cooking Notes:

  • No. You don’t need to soak the beans. That’s a bill of goods we were sold for years. Believe me. Using this method will free you from bean-soaking slavery.
  • Yes. You can cook the beans with salt. (That salt toughens the beans if added while cooking is another load of malarkey.) In fact, you SHOULD cook the beans with salt. You have ONE chance to get that flavour that salt delivers down to the very core of the bean and that’s by adding the salt at the beginning.
  • I give you a range of amounts of fat in the recipe. The low end is, in my opinion, the bare minimum amount necessary to have a delicious batch of refried beans. The high end is a more indulgent (and more fabulous) version. Let me know which way you like it better!
  • I also give you a serious number of fat options in the recipe. This is because everyone has a different favourite. I personally like bacon grease in my refried beans more than anything else. Lard is most traditional. Play around with it and figure out which fat YOU like best.
  • In the second stage of cooking (the “refrying” stage), avoid the temptation to cook the beans down to the finished thickness you like. If you do boil it to this thickness, you’ll end up with a stodgy blob o’ beans. They’ll continue to thicken after being removed from the heat as they cool.
  • If you do end up with a stodgy blob o’ beans, you can probably save them. Stir in some more fat and a little chicken stock until they’re thin, then bubble away until about the viscosity of banana bread batter. Remove from the heat and let cool. Tada!
5 from 1 reviews
Homemade Garlicky Refried Beans
There's nothing like these flavour packed, creamy, slightly smoky and spicy Homemade Garlicky Refried Beans. They blow the stuff in a can out of the water in taste, texture, AND nutrition while being easy to make and easy on your wallet!
  • 1 pound (2 cups) dried pinto beans
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
  • ½ an onion, trimmed of both ends, peeled, and roughly chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Ancho pepper (dried poblano chile), wiped clean, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ to ½ cup peanut, canola, or vegetable oil, vegetable shortening, lard, or bacon grease
  1. Preheat the oven to 275°F.
  2. Put the pinto beans into a colander. Pick through and remove any foreign objects and dried, shriveled or discoloured beans. Rinse them well and put them into a 3 quart or larger dutch oven. Cover the beans by 2 to 3-inches of fresh water then stir in the garlic, onion, bay leaves, Ancho pepper, oregano, and salt. Bring to a boil, put the lid tightly in place on the dutch oven and place in the oven for 60-90 minutes (*See notes), or until the beans are quite tender.
  3. Add the fat of choice to a cast-iron or other heavy-bottomed 8 to 12-inch skillet over MEDIUM HIGH heat. When it is shimmery, use a ladle to transfer about 3 cups of the cooked beans and liquid to the skillet. When this comes to a boil, add 2 more ladles-full of beans and liquid. Let it return to a boil and repeat the process (2 ladles then boil) until all the beans have been added then drop the heat to MEDIUM LOW. Stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon to help break up the beans. Keep simmering until most of the beans are broken up and the mixture is creamy and thick. There will still be some whole beans visible in the pan(**See Notes). Keep in mind that the mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.
  4. Taste the beans and adjust with salt if desired.
The final cooking time on the beans is largely dependent on how old your dried beans are. This doesn't necessarily mean that if you just bought them they're newer. That's okay, it's a product that's MEANT to be shelf-stable for years. Just have a little patience, add more water while it's in the oven if it starts running out too soon, and you'll be rewarded with delicious beans!

*If you want a smoother end-product, you can use a potato masher in the pan to help break up the beans while they cook. If you want an ULTRA smooth finished product, you can whirr the cooked beans in a food processor fitted with a metal blade.


  1. Kel says

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe! I made the beans yesterday and am going to turn them into refried today – will use your recipe.

  2. Elizabeth says

    Can’t wait to try these~(I want that taco=) Could I make these refried beans entirely on the stovetop…skipping the oven roasting; mine is out of commission )= Thanks for the recipe!

    • says

      You can very surely do it… You’ll need to keep an eye on liquid levels and may find you need to add it more often. Just keep on bubbling it away until you get there!

  3. Barb Fuller says

    I don’t have an oven proof dutch oven; options please?! Also, what can I substitute for that poblano? Could I use canned chipotle in adobo? Or ancho chile powder? If so, what quantities would you suggest? My biggest flaw in cooking is I tend to under-season. I do like a little spiciness & heat, but I’m afraid to overdo, especially since I often make large batches to bring to our weekly church lunches. Thank you!

    • says

      Do you have a pot of any sort that’s oven safe and stove-top safe? A stainless steel pasta pot that has an oven safe lid can work here, too. You could even use a cast-iron skillet if you have one with a lid! The keys you need to keep in mind are choosing something that is both oven- and stovetop safe that has a tight fitting lid. Alternatively, you could do the primary in the slow-cooker, but I’m not sure how the times will translate for this particular recipe. Probably about 3 hours or so but I’m not entirely sure.
      The canned chipotles in adobo would be nice but more powerful. You can absolutely add that, but keep in mind it’ll be a spicier end product. The nice thing about the poblano is that it’s fairly mild and lends a nice, mild smokiness to the finished beans. Most grocery stores have little packets of dried chiles in the produce section. I do recommend you try ’em out sometime!

  4. says

    I’ve never made refried beans and I refuse to buy the cans because I think that stuff is, in words you and your kids will understand, ‘yucky.’

    But this…I may have to try this; I mean like in the next few minutes. I have pork for carnitas and seems these would be a great side…thanks!

  5. Bridget says

    Thanks for this excellent post on beans. Yum! I’m starting a pot now! Living in the southwest, poblanos are the fresh chiles; when they are dried, they are called anchos. Maybe I’ll use my new chili powder in mine (a blend of chile, cumin, garlic, mexican oregano). Love your blog!

  6. says

    The fat that is best for refried beans is bacon grease! Not healthy , I know. I know, but still the best and my theory (or rationalization) is the beans’ fiber will cancel it.

  7. Rie says

    Question…..I cook my dried beans using your technique of crock-pot and boiling water. Can I substitute making my beans with the above oven method? Would they need to be longer in the oven if they weren’t to be re-fried??? Just wondering. Like to have options. REALLY like the slow cooker method.

  8. ktr says

    I may have to try that way to cook beans. Right now we cook large batches of beans in the crockpot and then freeze the leftovers in 2 cup portions – about the size of a can of beans.
    By the way, I laughed out loud at your description of your boys! My son is only two and he already has no patience when he is hungry. Good to see what I have to look forward to!

  9. says

    I just put my bean & spice filled dutch oven in the 275 degree oven and set the timer for 90 minutes. I have great hope that the beans will turn out great! I have tried many methods for making my own pinto beans and I have the same problem every time: hard, dry beans. I have boiled beans literally for hours before, adding boiling water when the water level goes down, all to no avail. Crunchy beans after 4-5 hours of cooking time are such a disappointment. Like I said, I am very hopeful that this recipe will be The One I’ve Been Looking For!

    • says

      Update: It took 2.5 hours but my pinto beans came out tender for the first time! My husband I were skeptical when I lifted the lid of the dutch oven, scooped out a single bean, popped it in my mouth, chewed it – perfectly cooked!! Of course, since my family was hungry about an hour before they were done cooking, I had already served bean & chorizo burritos for dinner using canned beans (I doctored them up similarly to the seasonings in your recipe). Tonight I will put the finishing touches on the beans then serve homemade garlicky refried beans alongside veggie enchiladas!

      • says

        Final update: Best refried beans I’ve ever made. I used canola oil (all I had, will try bacon grease next) for the re-frying. Served them alongside Mexican Fideo. The beans were devoured by my 4 guys (husband & 3 sons in their early 20’s) and the pan was scraped clean (by me with a scrap of a flour tortilla). Such a simple success but for me a huge breakthrough — thank you!!

  10. :D says

    Delicious! I made it yesterday and cooked the beans for 90 mins. I used dried pasilla (thinking that is the same as dried ancho). IS IT? Do you discard the chilii after the beans are baked tender or do you add the chili and beans to the skillet? I also used Mexican oregano which was a little stronger in flavor so next time I will use a tsp. less. I think this recipe is very easy to do and LOVE THE RECIPE I used the refried beans to wrap a meatless taco with pickled onions, Mexican cabblage salad, avocadoes, salsa verde, cilantro, pickled sliced jalapeno in corn totrilla. It was delicious! I love refried beans eaten any way. I always order a plate of rice and refried beans just as my meal in a Mexican restaurant.


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