Refried Black Beans

This recipe gives instructions for making refried beans from scratch, starting with dry beans which must first be cooked. You can also start with three 15-ounce cans of whole black beans, in which case, skip to step 5, rinse and drain the beans and add to the pan with a little water in step 6.

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


Ingredients for cooking the dry beans:

  • 1 pound dry black beans
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin 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 (omit for vegan version)
  • Tortilla chips or corn tortillas


1 Soak dry beans: Place dry black 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.

2 Sauté cumin, onion, garlic:  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot (the pot you will use to cook the beans) 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.

saute onions cumin garlic as base for refried black beans

3 Add drained beans and water, simmer 2 hours: Once the beans have soaked, they should have expanded noticeably. Drain the soaking liquid.

Add the drained beans and 2 quarts of water to the onions. Bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and lower the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 2 hours.

4 Add Salt and Cilantro, cook 30 min more: After the beans have simmered for 2 hours, 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.

add cilantro to cooked black beans cook black beans uncovered a half hour

5 Sauté the spices, then add onions and cook: Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan on medium high heat. Add the chipotle powder, chili powder, and cumin.

saute spices for refried black beans saute onions in spices for refried black beans add in

Once the spices are sizzling, add the chopped white onion and cook until translucent.

Add the garlic and cook a minute more.

6 Add beans, then mash: 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.

add cooked black beans and mash them

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.

7 Serve: 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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  • Nicolette

    This was delicious! It will be my go-to for refried beans forever. My husband is a chef and he also thought they were fabulous. Thank you for the recipe ☺


  • Theresa

    How much does this make? It says six servings but doesn’t say how big a serving is. I need a cup of refried black beans for a vegetarian taco recipe

  • Ginny

    It seems what you do to the dry beans is almost exactly what I do when I cook dry black beans for storage: lots of onion and garlic, salt, and a red pepper if some sort. I would use some chipotle in the frying part, maybe cilantro. I’m less partial to cumin as I think that tastes like food in India.

    But it seems all I need to do is thaw what I’ve got and put Chipotle and cilantro and fry to proper thickness.

    Thanks for the primer!

  • Daniel

    These were amazing! I used them in a black bean, zucchini, and corn casserole and the beans made it truly elevated.


  • Dara

    I have never made black beans before and this recipe was a huge hit. The only speed bump I had was the beans seemed to take longer to get tender than I expected. The flavor was AMAZING!! Thanks so much for sharing.


  • SSC in Colorado

    After carefully following directions, I ended up with a thin black bean SOUP. 2 quarts of cooking water seems excessive; it’s taking me several additional hours to boil down to proper consistency. Flavor is DELICIOUS. Note: I live at 7,000ft elevation, water boils at a lower temperature and beans attained desired texture after original 2 1/2 hours cook time (so I don’t think elevation is the issue)

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi SSC, when you fry the cooked beans in step 6 they simmer off a lot of the water. If they are too soupy, you just fry them a little longer.

  • Donna in NC

    Typically I am not a bean eater. I made this recipe for my family & I absolutely love it & so do they !! I will make again – Thank you


  • Courtney

    When using canned beans, how big or many cans do you suggest for this recipe?

    • Elise Bauer

      You can use 3 15-ounce cans of whole black beans and skip to step 5, rinse and drain the beans and add to the pan with a little water in step 6.

  • Kris

    This makes a lot! I halved the recipe and served 4 with tostadas and had a lot left over. Good though,


  • KA

    Since discovering this recipe a few years ago it is now the only one we make. We love it so much, thank you!!


  • Hajar

    I made this recipe because I wanted to try something new with black beans. It was wonderful, and very easy. I used canned Goya black beans a 15.5 oz can.

  • Nora

    I’ve never made refried beans before – but had a can of black beans and wanted to try. Your recipe was simple and using the canned beans took the process to under 10 min. Tasted amazing, when I usually find them bland. Excellent recipe. Would use again.

  • 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.

    • Elise Bauer

      I’m so glad you liked them Leah!

      • LeahSD

        Yesterday’s comment was from the first time I made these beans a few months ago. I just made them again today and they were even more delicious because I followed the recipe more closely and used the two types of chili powder as recommended. I couldn’t find the chipotle chili in my local market, but they had whole dried chilis, so I bought those and ground them up in the Vitamix to make powder. These really are the best beans I’ve ever had. We made sweet potatoes and put them in tacos with the beans…soooo good. Thanks again Elise!

  • 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!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Jessica,
      You may be on to something regarding storing the beans. I checked with Shirley Corriher’s Cookwise book (great reference) and this is what she has to say. “Dried legumes stored cool, around or below 40°F and 50% humidity, cook nicely. However, those stored at high temperatures around 100°F increase in hardness and decrease in digestibility. Soaking in walt water before cooking can eliminate these problems. If you have a container of legumes that was difficult to cook, soak the next batch in salt water (about 1 Tbsp salt per gallon) for a couple of hours.”
      I also know that calcium will prevent softening of beans, so if you are cooking the beans with hard water (sometimes tap water can have a lot of minerals in it), that may be a problem too.

  • 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 :)

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Lori, so glad you liked the recipe! Though I am wondering, I thought all legumes were a no-no for O+ on the Blood Type Diet. Is that not so?

  • Jinna

    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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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 Bauer

      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.

  • Shanna

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

  • 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 Bauer

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

  • Steve

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

  • 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!).

  • 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 Bauer

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

      • Michele

        Beans sour if they take too long to cool, causing them to “ferment,” sour and go bad.

        The easiest way to prevent this, is to cool the beans rapidly in multiple flatter containers. After cooled, they can be combined into one container and stored in the fridge.

        You can also place the beans (I do this with soup and sauces, too) in the cooking pot into the kitchen sink filled with ice water. Once the hot items reach 40 degrees F. or less, they can safely be stored in the fridge without compromising the hot items, and without dangerously warming up the other items already in your fridge.

        In the cooler weather, here in NY, I place things outside in containers to cool. Nature’s refrigerator. This way, the heat from whatever I’m cooling doesn’t raise the temp inside my refrigerator.

  • 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 Bauer

      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!

  • F S

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

    • Elise Bauer

      Those chips are homemade! I’ll do a tutorial on making them soon.

  • 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.

  • 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!

    • David Young

      Like the phrase bacon grease..! In England grease is a bad word. ,Maybe you’re describing bacon fat, which we have as lard

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?


    • Elise Bauer

      Yes, you add them the beans with the water, I’ll make that more clear. Thank you!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Mag

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

  • 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.

  • 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 Bauer

      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.

  • 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 Bauer

      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

      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.

  • 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!