Refried beans

Refried beans
Credit: Adobe Stock / Adelina

Refried beans, also known as ‘frijoles refritos’, are a staple of Mexican cuisine. It’s a great way to use leftover beans, and makes for a delicious filling in tacos, burritos, and wraps – or served as a side dish with fluffy white rice and a leafy salad.

  • Preparation Time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes


Servings: 5
  • 2 cans (800g)
    beans (e.g. kidney, pinto, or black beans)
  • 1
    onion, diced
  • 2 cloves
    garlic, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp
    vegetable oil
  • 1
    small chili, seeded and minced (optional, see notes)
  • 1 bunch
    fresh coriander leaves, with the stems removed (optional, see notes)
  • salt and black pepper, for seasoning


  1. Using a mesh strainer, drain the canned beans over a bowl, reserving the liquid.

  2. Peel and finely dice the onion and garlic, then set aside. If using chili, slice in half, discard the seeds and the white ribs, and finely chop into small pieces.

  3. Bring a medium-sized skillet (see notes) to a medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion, chili, and garlic, stirring frequently until softened.

  4. Add the beans to the pan, stirring them into the mixture with a wooden spoon. Add some of the reserved canned bean liquid to the pan, making sure to scrape any browned bits from the bottom.

  5. Using a potato masher or a wooden mortar (see notes), mash the beans until they turn into a smooth, homogeneous paste. If the paste feels too dry, add more of the bean liquid to loosen the mixture and mix until you’ve reached a good consistency.

  6. When the beans are tender when poked with a fork, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Top with chopped fresh cilantro leaves and serve!


Tip #1 You can make this dish as spicy as you like. If you want it to be really hot, use a jalapeño or a Thai pepper. If you don’t want any heat but still want that earthy, mildly bitter kick, half of a green pepper will do the job.

Tip #2 We recommend not using a non-stick skillet for this dish, as the beans need to be mashed in the pan and the process might damage the non-stick coating. A stainless steel or cast-iron pan is ideal. (If you’re using an enameled cast-iron pan, it’s better to use a wooden implement rather than a metal one.)

Tip #3 If you have a wooden mortar and pestle, the reverse end of the pestle can be used to mash the beans in the pan. Otherwise, a potato masher will work just as well.

Tip #4 Fresh coriander leaves (also known as cilantro) are a common addition to Mexican dishes and provide grassy, flavourful notes to savory dishes. However, if you’re not a fan of cilantro, or if you’re cooking for guests who might not like it, it’s okay to leave it out.

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