Refried Black Beans

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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

Showing 4 of 48 Comments

  • Sue

    Just got finished making these, love the flavor, no more canned refried beans for me. Thanks so much for having a very detailed recipe to follow. I made them today for our tacos tomorrow, looking forward to them. I’ll make them in the future to freeze in batches for tacos or dip or whatever. Thanks again for a great recipe

  • LeahSD

    These beans are awesome! This was my first time making refried beans, and they came out great. My whole family, including my picky vegetarian husband who eats bean burritos multiple times a week and my picky 5 and 7 year old children, loved these beans.

  • Worked 1x Failed 4x

    Hi, I have tried your recipe many times but only had success on the first time! Every other time the beans haven’t softened, and the skin falls off in the simmering process to reveal a light brown colour. After 2.5h of simmering they are still rock hard in the middle! I’ve bought beans from multiple sources just in case it was the bean. (I do live in a hot area so perhaps the beans aren’t stored well?) Any ideas to what I’m doing wrong??? The first time it was so delicious!

  • Felix

    Fantastic recipe! Tried it today. I used homemade chicken broth as a substitute for the water. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Lori Hoenig

    These are awesome! Made it today for the first time. Trying to follow the “Eat Right for you Blood Type” diet and Pintos (how I normally prepare re-fried beans) are a no-no for O+ blood. This is an EXCELLENT recipe and the EVOO only adds the much needed monounsaturated fat we all need for brain power. Will definitely make these again. Next time, I’ll add some flank steak and avocado on top :)

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