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 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


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.

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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.

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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.


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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Refried Black Beans

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Showing 4 of 57 Comments

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

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