Refried Beans

Refried Beans

I judge a good Mexican restaurant, cafe, or fast food joint by their beans and rice. Yep, beans and rice. If they get those two things right, then the rest of the food usually falls in line with being good, also.

I have ‘studied’ dozens of recipes for refried beans over the years and have tried many of them. Some of them have been fairly good and some have been decidedly unrepeatable. An authentic recipe for refried beans is actually very simple, involving only a few ingredients, namely pinto beans, salt, lard, and maybe some onions. Lard has a life of it’s own in Mexican recipes and is often the background flavor for many of those dishes.

SOMETIMES I use lard, but mostly I try to behave myself. Sometimes I just really crave that flavor and have to take a walk on the wild side.

In this recipe for refried beans, I circumvent using lard because I flavor the beans with smoked pork hocks while they are cooking. Pork hocks are probably even less glamorous than lard, but man oh man do they pack a lot of flavor. I also use my slow cooker to both soak and then later cook the beans. It is the easy way out  an easy way to make great beans with minimal effort on busy days…or even on I-have-all-the-time-in-the-world days. I also circumvent the “refrying” process by using hamhocks–no need to reheat/recook the beans in oil.

When I make refried beans, I often make a lot. I use what I need and then divide the rest into freezer safe containers for future meals. It is simple to just pop the container of frozen beans into the microwave for a few minutes to defrost and heat the prepared beans.

When preparing the beans, I use my food processor to quickly blend the beans to the consistency that I want–smoother and thinner for a simple refried bean side; chunkier and thicker for using in bean burritos. I toss a few seasonings in the food processor along with the beans so that everything gets chopped/blended at the same time, again this is a time saver.

A vegetarian version of refried beans can easily be made by leaving out the pork hocks and cooking the beans in vegetable broth and adding a few simple seasonings.

Refried Beans


  • 3 cups dry pinto beans
  • 1 pound of smoked pork hocks (this is an approximate weight--more is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated or powdered onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated or powdered garlic


  1. Rinse and sort over beans. Remove any debris such as small stones or imperfect beans.
  2. Put the beans in a large bowl, pot, of the crock of a slow cooker. Add enough cool or tepid water to cover the beans by at least 2-inches.The beans will double in volume, so make sure that there is plenty of water to accommodate the doubling. Soak over night or at least 8 hours.
  3. Pour off the soaking water and rinse the beans again. This helps to reduce the bloating and gas that is often caused by beans. Believe it or not, over time regular eating of beans will cause less gastric distress.
  4. Put the beans in whatever container they will be cooked. Add the pork hock(s), then fill cooking container with enough cool water to again cover the beans by at least an inch. DO NOT ADD SALT! The beans will not soften when cooked if salt or an acidic product such as vinegar or tomatoes are added. Just FYI.
  5. If using a slow cooker, cook on high for approximately five hours or on low for 8-10 hours. If cooking on a stove top, bring beans to a boil then lower the heat to keep the beans at a simmer. Cook for about 1-1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Old beans may take longer to cook.
  6. Drain beans, reserving 1-2 cups cooking liquid. Put beans, salt, granulated onion, and granulated garlic in a food processor and pulse several times or blend until the beans are broken down to the size you desire. While pulsing or blending, add some of the reserved cooking liquid, a little at a time, until beans are at desired consistency. Alternatively, beans can be mashed with a potato masher, fork, the back of a spoon or with a flat bottom object such as a jar or glass.
  7. Taste and adjust the seasonings. For spicy beans, add chopped jalapeno, hot sauce of choice, or a favorite chili powder.
  8. Suggested toppings: cheese, sour cream, cilantro. Try the beans in quesadillas, burritos, dips, etc.

Refried Beans

You might also be interested in these recipes:

Easy Mexican Rice
Easy Mexican Rice
Beef Brisket for Tacos, Enchiladas and Tosadas {Slow Cooker}
Beef Brisket for Tacos, Enchiladas and Tosadas {Slow Cooker}
Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas
Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas


  1. Mary Olbricht says

    Hello, your recipes are wonderful. I am a white woman, & on one of my jobs I worked with a lot of Mexican ladies. They were a wonderful, & friendly group. It was interesting to discover the differences in our cultures. Mexican ladies (at least the ones that I worked with) do NOT soak their beans. All of the white women that I know, do soak their beans, as I always had.

    After pondering this for a while, I decided that these people had been cooking beans before my ancestors even knew what a bean was, so I started doing it their way. Their recipe is pretty much the same as yours. They make the beans in a crockpot sometimes too, but they also add: onion, and garlic, & salt & pepper, & some bacon grease. Basically like your recipe. I use their recipe, but I also like to add a couple of seeded & diced jalapeno peppers for a little extra spice.

    By not soaking the beans first, I think that I end up with a creamier product. Also, salt is added at the beginning, & it did not prohibit the beans from cooking, but perhaps they would cook sooner if I would wait til the end to add salt.

    Enjoyed your post very much, & thought you might enjoy hearing how the Mexican ladies in my area do it. Mary O.

    • says

      Mary, thanks for the information. I always feel hesitant about posting a recipe from another culture; sometimes it can really raise a ruckus in the cyber community, LOL.

      As for soaking vs not soaking the beans, I have done it both ways, too. I used to make lots of different meals with dried beans when I was raising my family. For me, my main reason for soaking the beans was to cut down on the potential abdominal discomfort. Soaking and rinsing off the soaking water helps to reduce the complex sugars which can cause uncomfortable gas in most people. However, if one eats beans regularly, the gut becomes accustomed to them and gas or GI discomfort is no longer a problem.

      I’m going to have to pay attention to the creaminess factor the next time I cook beans without soaking them first. I’m also going to experiment with adding salt in the beginning to see what impact, if any, the salt will have on the beans. I should do a post on beans — they really are so interesting and come in such a huge variety. If I’m not mistaken, I have about 17 different kinds of dried beans at my house! 🙂

      Thanks again for all of your information. I really love learning about how the “everyday person” in any culture prepares common foods. Eating at a restaurant doesn’t give a clear picture of how a food tastes in the average home. (I hope that all just made sense.) ~Terri

  2. Cynthia Cook says

    Thank you for your work in producing your recipes of both the rice and now the beans. I hadn’t known cooked beans could be frozen which is good news as well as a good way to incorporate beans into our daily life and save time.
    I wanted to ask if you have used a pressure cooker to cook your beans? My brother says his beans cook more evenly and in less then 20 minutes if I remember right. He uses a lot of water as after beans are cooked he uses the extra flavored water for soups and other dishes.

    I haven’t tried your recipes yet but intent to. I must say that everything sounds (tastes) just right when I do the flavors in my head. Been looking a long time for just the right recipe(s) and am thrilled to have discovered your site, all the wonderful information, different ideas to try but overall, your generosity in sharing with all of us in search of…….help.

    • says

      Hi Cynthia. No, I have not used a pressure cooker to cook beans, but have read about it. If you would like to know more about cooking beans in a pressure cooker (or cooking anything else in a pressure cooker), I suggest visiting Pressure Cooking Today. This woman’s recipes are excellent. She also runs the blog “Barbara Bakes“.

      As per using bean water — Yep, it can add some nice flavor to soup and other dishes. Thanks for dropping by and leaving such great comments. Have a nice day. ~Terri

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