Once you’ve had homemade refried beans, you’ll never want to open a can of beans again.
Not only are they tastier, but they also cost about half as much as canned beans, and they’re so, so easy to make in a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot!
2 Steps for Instant Pot Refried Beans
Making refried beans in the pressure cooker is a two-step process.
- First, you add beans, water, and salt to the pot and pressure cook them until tender (beans can be either soaked or unsoaked).
- Next, you mash or purée the beans with onions that have been sautéed in your cooking fat of choice. That’s it!
New to the Instant Pot? Check out our post How To Use an Instant Pot: A First-Timer’s Guide.
What Are the Best Beans for Refried Beans?
Technically, you could make refried beans out of almost any bean, but pinto or black beans are the best choices.
Sometimes beans will take longer to cook than expected, especially if they happen to be very old. Soaking tends to help even the playing field in this regard. I almost always soak my beans the night before I want to make them to ensure even cooking, unless I haven’t planned ahead far enough!
What Is the Best Fat for Refried Beans?
One thing you won’t want to skimp on is the cooking fat—I like to use about three tablespoons cooking fat for one pound of beans.
The most flavorful options are bacon fat for a rich and slightly smoky background note, lard for all that richness without the smoky flavor, or extra virgin olive oil for a vegetarian-friendly pot of beans.
What Should You Serve With Refried Beans?
Plain pinto beans are a fine accompaniment for Mexican dishes, but refried beans are even better. Their silky, spoonable texture and rich mouthfeel are just that much more luxurious.
Ladle them onto a plate alongside enchiladas, tamales, mole, or any other main dish. I often have a serving of leftover beans for breakfast the next day too, under a couple of fried eggs with a little bit of cheese grated on top.
Ways to Adapt This Recipe
This is a very simple recipe, requiring just beans, water, salt, cooking fat, and diced onion. You’ll be surprised at how delicious they are with such a minimal ingredient list.
I’ll sometimes add in diced green chilies, a dash of hot sauce, a pinch of cumin, or garlic, but they honestly don’t need it.
Oh, and make sure you season your beans well—enough salt is definitely key to taking them from bland to irresistible! I soak my beans with salt to ensure that they’re seasoned all the way through, then add extra at the end of cooking if needed.
This recipe calls for kosher salt, which has a large, coarse grain—use a little less if you’re using a denser salt, such as table salt or sea salt.
Storing and Freezing Refried Beans
Refried beans can be kept refrigerated for up to 5 days and can be reheated over low heat on the stovetop or in the microwave. If they seem dry, add a little water or broth.
Refried beans can also be frozen for up to three months.
Need More Beans in Your Life?
- Refried Beans
- Refried Black Beans
- Pinto Beans with Bacon and Jalapeño
- Easy Black Beans and Rice
- Spicy Citrusy Black Beans
Instant Pot Refried Beans
- 1 pound dried pinto beans
- 8 cups water
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 3 tablespoons bacon fat, lard, or extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- Grated cotija, Monterey jack, or cheddar cheese
- Lime wedges
- Hot sauce
Combine the beans, water and salt:
Add the pinto beans, water, and salt to the pressure cooker and stir to dissolve the salt.
At this point, you can let the beans soak for 8-10 hours, or cook them right away. You can also cook the beans in their soaking water, or drain and replace with fresh water if you like. It’s up to you!
Cook the beans:
When you’re ready to cook the beans, secure the pressure cooker lid in its sealed position.
Select the manual setting on your pressure cooker (or the bean setting, if it has one) and set the time for 20 minutes at high pressure for soaked beans, or 25 minutes at high pressure for unsoaked beans.
(It will take about 15 minutes for the pot to come up to pressure before the cooking program begins.)
Release the pressure:
When the cooking program ends, let the pressure release naturally—this will take about 35 minutes. (When cooking foods like beans, grains, and fruit sauces in a pressure cooker, it’s best to let the pressure release naturally to avoid a hot, spurty mess.)
Open the pot. If the beans are not cooked through at the end of the cooking program, close the pot and cook them for another 5 or 10 minutes. You’ll need to let the pressure release naturally for at least 15 minutes before opening the pot once more, to prevent any liquid spurting out of the pressure cooker lid.
Drain the beans:
Ladle out 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and reserve. Next, wearing heat-resistant mitts, lift the inner pot out of the pressure cooker and drain the beans in a colander. Rinse out the inner pot, wipe it dry, and place it back in the pressure cooker housing.
Sauté the fat and onions:
Reset the pressure cooker’s cooking program by pressing the cancel button, then select its medium sauté setting and add the bacon fat, lard, or olive oil.
Once the fat has melted (if using olive oil, heat for a minute or two), add the onions and sauté them for about 3 minutes, just until softened but not browned. Cancel the sauté program and turn off your pressure cooker, then add the beans (they should still be steaming hot).
Mash the beans:
For a chunky texture, use a potato masher to mash the beans as much as you like. For a smooth texture, use an immersion blender to purée them.
Add 3/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid and stir to combine. Continue adding the cooking liquid a little at a time until the beans reach your desired texture. (I like to use a full cup.) They will also thicken as they sit. Taste for seasoning, adding salt if needed.
Serve or keep:
At this point, you can serve the beans right away, or set your pressure cooker to its “Keep Warm” setting, cover the pot, and let the beans sit, covered, for up to 10 hours.
Spoon the beans into bowls or onto serving plates, sprinkle with cheese, and serve warm, with lime wedges and hot sauce at the table.