Refried Black Beans

So, when it’s finally your turn in line to order at the taqueria, and the nice lady behind the counter asks, “what kind of beans?,” (to go with your burrito, taco, carnitas platter, etc.) and you gaze upon your choices of pinto beans or black beans, refried or whole, what do you say?

For me, it’s always a struggle. Must. Make. Up. My. Mind. They all look so appealing. I was raised on refried pinto beans, which mom still makes at home at least once a week. But black beans? They’re so good! There’s something about them, almost a smoky quality.

And then there’s the “whole” or “refried” question to be answered. If the beans are for a burrito, then naturally I’ll want them refried. They’ll stick to the tortilla better and won’t spill out as I eat the beast. (Burritos around here tend to be on the hefty side.) Actually, usually I’ll want them refried, which by the way, isn’t really “re” fried, but just fried and smashed, with more oil and seasonings, after the beans are first cooked in water.

Here is our recipe for refried black beans, or frijoles negros refritos, a Mexican and Southwestern staple. Consider it a base. You could easily add some jalapeños to it, more chili or chipotle. You can garnish with cilantro, green onions, cotija or queso fresco, or just serve naked. Once made, the beans will last several days in the refrigerator. Use them as a dip, to spread on tortillas for tacos or burritos, or as a side with steak and salsa.

Refried Black Beans Recipe

  • Prep time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 3 hours
  • Yield: Serves 6.

This recipe gives instructions for making refried beans from scratch, starting with dry beans which must first be cooked. You can also start with a couple cans of whole black beans, in which case, skip the first two steps, rinse and drain the beans and add to the pan with a little water in step 3.

Ingredients

Ingredients for cooking the dry beans:

  • 1 lb dry black beans
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (leaves and tender stems)

Additional ingredients for frying the beans after they've been cooked:

  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 large white onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Green onion
  • Cilantro
  • Crumbled cotija or queso fresco cheese
  • Tortilla chips or corn tortillas

Method

1 Place dry beans in a bowl and add enough water to cover the beans by two inches. Let sit overnight. Alternatively, if you don't have time to soak the beans overnight, place the dry beans in a large bowl and pour boiling water over the beans, covering the beans with at least an inch of water, and let sit for one hour. Note, if your dry beans are a little old, or if you have reason to believe that they will be tough to cook (beans stored in hot or humid climates can get tough), you can add some salt to the water (1 1/2 teaspoons of salt 2 quarts of water) which at this stage will help the beans soften when they cook later.

refried-black-beans-1 refried-black-beans-2refried-black-beans-3 refried-black-beans-4

2 Once the beans have soaked, they should have expanded noticeably. Drain the soaking liquid. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot on medium high heat.  Add the cumin. Once the cumin is sizzling, add the chopped onion.  Cook for 5 minutes or so, until translucent.  Add the minced garlic and cook for a minute more. Add the drained beans and 2 quarts of water.  Bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and lower the heat to maintain a simmer.  Simmer for 2 hours. At the 2 hour mark, add 2 teaspoons of salt (if you salted the soaking water in step 1, then taste first, and only add a teaspoon or so more of salt if you think it needs it). Add 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro. Let cook uncovered for another half hour, or until the beans are tender.

refried-black-beans-5 refried-black-beans-6

3 Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium high heat. Add the chipotle powder, chili powder, and cumin. Once the spices are sizzling, add the chopped white onion and cook until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook a minute more.

refried-black-beans-7

4 Add the cooked black beans (and liquid from the pot) to the frying pan. Use a potato masher to mash the beans in the pan.  Let them cook 3 to 4 minutes longer.  If the beans are a little soupy for your taste, just let them cook longer. If too thick or dry, add more water. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Garnish with chopped green onions, fresh cilantro, and crumbled cotija or queso fresco cheese. Serve with tortilla chips or corn or flour tortillas (corn if you are gluten-free). Great in tacos or burritos, or for a dip, or a side with steak.

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51 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Mars

    I just did a post on re-fried black beans about a week ago. Because I’m Australian – Mexican food is a bit foreign to me, and I always feel a bit anxious about the authenticity when I make it, so it’s good to check out how you re-fry your beans. Your site is such an amazing resource for home cooks around the world. Thank you.

  2. Becki's Whole Life

    I have made your refried pinto beans and they are so good. I will try these and I am excited to make them from scratch with the dried black beans. Will be a great addition to our next mexican fiesta!

  3. vicuna1

    I don’t choose between pintos or black beans. I very decisively tell the person making the burrito, “I will have some of both, please.” No regrets.

  4. Kalyn

    Utah has a local fresh-Mex franchise called Cafe Rio, and I always have that same reaction when I’m ordering there, what kind of beans. These look great; haven’t made refried black beans.

  5. Lou Grubaugh

    My philosophy (inherited from my Dad): There has never bean a bad bean!

  6. Frank Mosher

    Luv refried beans, but simply won’t buy them because of the high fat content-(canned refried beans)! Your recipe is very interesting (without any added lard/fat). I shall try very shortly, as I have been wondering how to get around this. Thank you.

    • Elise

      Hi Frank, well there is some fat in this recipe, in the form of olive oil. The fat is very important for the flavor and the way the beans feel as you eat them.

      • Frank Mosher

        I have no problem with the Olive oil, just with canned refried beans where the listed fat content mimics that of fried chicken. Thanks

    • T. Hannibal Gay

      Frank,
      Lard was used for generations in Mexico, just as bacon grease was the staple American fat. Our incidence of heart and stroke problems were almost non-existent back then. The introduction of trans fats caused most of the problems. A smaller problem is hydrogenated fats, but we want our fats soft, or in liquid form. Trans fats have finally been removed from our diets and we will all be better for it. As Elise points out, fat is absolutely necessary for making refritos and if lard doesn’t work for you try a whipped vegetable oil or Extra Fine Olive Oil. It doesn’t have all the ground up green olive that EVO has that definitely influences the flavor.

      • Carolyn

        In place of vegetable oil or olive oil, try using coconut oil. It is one of the “good for you” fats with a very mild taste.

  7. Lisa H

    So hard to decide!!! As a kid I grew up in Southern Cal, just 15 minutes north of the border. Standard refried beans use pinto beans. I lived off those creamy delights as a high school kid and always had a side of beans and rice at the restaurants growing up. Now, I prefer the darker, mustier black beans. The cool thing about the new recipes is the lack of lard (a “must” back in the day). Your recipe is almost identical to the one I use! Thank you for sharing!

    • Elise

      We often use bacon fat for the fat in making refried beans, which gives them a wonderful flavor. You can get some of that smoky flavor by adding chipotles or chipotle chili powder to this recipe.

  8. Judy @Savoring Today

    My choice is black beans and I would be tickled with the combo you have in the photo — beans and chips all by themselves. Of course, any leftovers could be used in other things too, but that is unlikely. Great recipe, thanks.

  9. Coriander

    We eat refried beans so often in our house… but always canned. (The kind without lard.) I would love to start making them myself from scratch, and this recipe looks great! Do you know if it would freeze well? Perhaps if I added the cilantro while reheating from the freezer instead? It would be great to replace canned beans, but I won’t have time to make a batch of these every time a burrito is needed!

    • Eddie Cox

      I am a transplanted Southerner living in SoCal. When I cook beans of any kind, I always cook two pounds, so that I can freeze some. Beans freeze very well.

  10. Mag

    In Mexico when we say frijoles refritos, thats mean add lard, this recipe is great and no regrets!!!!

  11. Mimi

    We use bacon grease and a squeeze of lemon- it makes me crave my family’s comfort food. Add some white rice, fried plantains, sliced tomates and milanesa- it’s my favorite childhood meal. With corn tortillas of course.

  12. Susanne

    we would use pinto beans, bacon grease and a little bit of milk to make them nice and creamy. I love how Elise mentioned having them with steak. Steak, beans, tortillas and home made salsa was my family’s favorite meal growing up! Thank you for this recipe, it looks easy and delicious.

    • Dagwood

      Steak with beans, tortillas and salsa? Sounds just like fajitas! You must have been ahead of your time! LOL

  13. TexasDeb

    For those of you without a lot of experience cooking dry beans, may I suggest you try Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo bean varieties sold online? (I’m not an employee – pinky swear!). I use them all the time – they are always fresh/dried, he grows heirloom varieties, and the taste is amazing.

    http://ranchogordo.com/

  14. susan

    Thanks Elise – Just made these and they are fantastic. It’s not clear after cooking the beans for 2 hours if they should be transferred from the pot to the frying pan without draining or not. I drained them but they were a bit too dry so I added water. Would I have avoided that by adding the beans from the soup pot directly to the chipolte/onion mixture?

    Susan

  15. Courtney

    Found your site- I really like the way it is organized and easy to navigate through your recipes! I love to cook and am always seeking out new things to try, so I will definitely be digging through some of your older stuff as well as visiting often to see what else you’ve come up with!

    -Courtney

  16. T. Hannibal Gay

    Just one more comment. Cilantro grows wild in the Yucatan peninsula. It is a staple spice in the deep south of Mexico. Cilantro is almost never used in border cooking or TexMex as it often called. In fact most northern Mexicans I’ve grown up with don’t like the taste at all. It was largely NY chefs who learned Mexican haute cuisine in Acapulco and Vera Cruz who introduced cilantro to America. If you watch any chef on the Food Network you notice they put cilantro in every Mexican dish north or south. Not in Mex-Tex and if you do use it, please use it sparingly. Like some women’s perfumes less is more.

  17. CLcooks

    Yes, dried beans are better and better for you. However if I was to use canned should I keep some of the bean liquid and add that with the beans to mimic the liquid left in the pan if using dried? Also you seasoned the dried beans while they cooked, any suggestions on how to infuse some of that flavor into canned? If I do cheat and make them with a can because of time, I will make them the long way with dried once the weekend comes. Thanks for another great recipe.

  18. drunklion

    Growing up with lots of poorly advised home cooked meals, I was inspired to play with food and seek the knowledge of those people willing to share good recipes. Thanks. For all those people out there willing to walk us poor fools through, step by shaky step, thank you. I would never have tried to slice a mango, let alone attempt enchiladas, without this website! I truly enjoy cooking now! (It helps that the bf is designated dishwasher as long as I provide delicious food!

  19. Julie

    I have some left over black beans in the fridge I cooked a few days ago for another recipe. I think you just showed me what to have for lunch! I’ll be frying them with bacon grease, with lots of guacamole on the side. Yum!

  20. Graham Watkins

    Hi. yet another fantastic recipe which I shall try instead of my standard refried beans recipe.

    However, the reason I have commented is to point out that the print facility on this site no longer appears to work. Is it just me?

    • Elise

      The print function should be working fine. If anyone else has a problem with it, please let us know!

  21. JoanneNicole

    Hee-hee…serve naked…my husband would probably get a kick out of that ;)

    I loooooooove black beans, they’re by far my favourite! I’ve never made refried beans myself, I’m just not a huge fan. Every couple of weeks I make a giant crock pot full of what I call “Burrito meat” and freeze the leftovers. My burrito meat consists of whatever cheap cut of stew meat is on sale, black beans, corn, rice, peppers, onions, and spices. Throw it in the crock pot and let it cook all day – by dinner time the meat is falling apart – give it a good stir and it ends up all shredded – and mixture is savoury and delicious. We use it for burritos and enchiladas. Making it this way makes $3 worth of meat stretch out for at least 4-5 meals for our family.

  22. Oui, Chef

    I’ve never thought of making “refried” beans myself, but now I will thanks to this great recipe…thanks!

  23. F S

    This looks delicious! Can you tell me what brand of chips are pictured? They also look fantastic!

  24. Sara A.

    I’m splicing these together with your cheese enchilada recipe to get a black bean enchiladas recipe! I do have a rather odd question/problem. We’ve started to use dried beans in our house and have found that no matter how much I soak or cook them they don’t get soft like canned beans do. Is this normal?

    • Elise

      Hi Sara, many things can contribute to the toughness of beans, including the alkalinity of the water, the heat and or humidity of the storage conditions, the age of the beans. Try soaking them over night in salted water (1 1/2 teaspoons of salt for 2 quarts of water). This is a recommendation of Shirley Corriher, food scientist and author of Cookwise, an excellent resource.

      • Sara A.

        Thanks so much, Elise! I’ll try salting the water and see if that helps. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, after all I’d cooked them to death.

        We made the enchiladas last night using these beans as a filling and the result was delicious! My house smelled like a good Mexican restaurant!

  25. Jim Gauntt

    Elise, I have been told that you should not refrigerate the beans after cooking, but before frying, until they completely cooled. The Mexican family I know that does a recipe just like this says they will sour if put away warm/hot. Is there a preferred way to save these since we only cook for 2 and always have leftovers when we make recipe? Anyone else have advice on saving these as leftovers?

    • Elise

      We’ve never had any issues with refrigerating the cooked beans, either before or after frying.

  26. Jessica M.

    Thank you Elise for this recipe! You’ve ruined canned refried beans for me forever! It was amazing. I made this with your slow cooked pulled pork taco and pico de gallo recipes. It was all so amazing my husband and I just kept saying “OMG! This is so good!” as we ate. We couldn’t decide what part of the meal we liked best but my husband is leaning towards your beans. Thank you again!

    Oh and I did it exactly like your recipe, no changes at all (none needed!).

  27. Steve

    Awesome recipe thank you!
    Just turned a Kilo of dried black beans into 6 cartons of lovely spicy bean stuff. love it.

  28. Rama

    In step 2, you talk of draining the water used for soaking and later you say add water. Any specific reason? I would rather use that soaked water as it may contain the nutrients from the original beans. But again, you perhaps worried about dirt etc. in the beans? TIA

    • Elise

      It’s standard practice to drain the soaking water, as the soaking water contains stuff (for lack of a better word) that causes flatulence.

  29. Shanna

    These are seriously the best refried beans I’ve ever had. Including from a restaurant. YUM.

  30. Thrifty Writer

    If you want to cook dried beans relatively quickly, a pressure cooker is great. You can soak them overnight and cook them in the morning. Just make sure that you pour off the water they’ve been soaking in, as soaking releases insoluble sugar (i.e., the stuff that give you gas) before pressure-cooking.

    • Elise

      You also have to be very careful with beans in a pressure cooker, as to not fill the pressure cooker more than 1/3 full. Beans tend to bubble up, and if the pressure cooker is too full, an errant skin from one of the beans can bubble up and block the air escape valve in a pressure cooker allowing pressure to build up to dangerous levels. The newer pressure cookers have better safety measures built in to prevent things like this from happening, but it is definitely an issue with the older models like the one my family uses.

  31. Sefa

    I made your recipe today, and followed it faithfully. It was absolutely lovely: my entire family, including the fussy 2-year-old were instantly in love! This will be a family staple for sure. Thank you.

  32. Charlotte and Amelia

    Hi Elise. We are 2 students from England and we just wanted to tell you how great this recipe is. After previous struggle trying to cook beans, we stumbled across your recipe and gave it a try. We were so impressed. They are delicious. This recipe is going to become a staple in our house as it is so cheap and really comforting and yummy. Thank you!

  33. Julie

    I just found your website and can’t wait to try your recipes for a cinco de mayo dinner for my hubby and I. Thank you!

  34. Jinna

    Elise,
    This is the second time I’ve made this. The first time was two weeks ago to go with my son’s birthday dinner request for tacos. It was super yummy! I made it again for a Mexican potluck dinner, preparing it a day ahead knowing that the flavors heighten the day after. I don’t think we can ever go back to canned refried beans! Thanks for sharing your family favorites.

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