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Authentic Mexican “Refried” Beans (Oil-free)

I am an Arizona native and devoted lifelong Mexican food lover.

My husband and I lived in Alabama for two years while he did graduate school. I never realized that authentic Mexican food was not universally available, but it soon became quite clear that the South does fried chicken and okra way better than they do burritos. We had to hunt down authentic-tasting Mexican food. We eventually found our go-to’s (the little red food truck down on Highway 31 and Sol Azteca, if you ever find yourself in Birmingham in need of Mexican food) but we missed how widely-available and cheap it is in the West. In such times, it’s necessary to make your own Mexican food. Thankfully, we have Hispanic friends who have taught us their ways. This recipe is from our friend in Sedona who makes the most delicious Mexican food that is as authentic as you can get.

You can eat them whole, like pictured above, or keep the liquid and blend them or mash them for “refried” consistency.

Aside from being the cheapest recipe on my blog, these beans are so easy to make and are extremely versatile.  For Cinco de Mayo or any celebration, make a big pot of these beans, invite all your friends, and eat outdoors together–it’s what all Hispanics do to celebrate and it’s seriously the best way to do life!

These beans are a delicious blank canvas–here are some ways you could use them:

  • mix with salsa or hot sauce for a chip dip
  • dollop them on a platter of chips for nachos
  • serve them in corn tortillas for a quick lunch
  • make Mexican pizza with them (recipe coming soon!)
  • serve them with Spanish rice as side dishes
  • make a burrito bowl with rice, guacamole, salsa, cilantro, or roasted veggies
  • make tostadas
  • make rice and bean burritos
  • make 7-layer dip

Epic Vegan Nachos featuring homemade refried beans, cashew queso, pickled jalapeños, tomatoes, cilantro and avocado.

Or, make this satisfying and flavorful Mexican Pizza!  It’s a soft, whole wheat crust with beans/salsa spread on it, and then ALLLL the toppings with an easy smoky cashew queso drizzled over. Swoon!

5 from 4 votes
Authentic Mexican Refried Beans (oil-free)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 10 mins

 These creamy beans make an authentic side dish with rice, a delicious topping on nachos, are perfect on tostadas or in tacos, burritos, or on Mexican Pizza. 

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: beans, pinto, refried
Servings: 15 -ish people
  • 5 cups dry pinto beans
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 TBSP cumin (optional)
  • 2 TBSP salt
  • 1 whole onion, peeled and cut in half
  1. Place beans in a large bowl and cover with several inches of water. Let soak overnight or at least 8 hours.

  2. Rinse beans and put into an Instant Pot or Crock Pot. Add 7 cups of water (the water should just barely cover the beans), salt, cumin and a whole, peeled onion cut in half. 

  3. If using an Instant Pot, set to high pressure for 25 minutes. Let it release naturally. 

    To cook them in a crock pot, let cook for 3-4 hours on high. 

  4. Once beans are cooked, remove onion and discard. Either remove the beans with a slotted spoon and serve whole, or blend to make smooth.

To make smooth "refried" beans
  1. Use a ladle to fill your blender with beans, and include enough of the liquid so that it reaches about halfway up the blender side of the beans. Blend until very smooth. If needed, add a little more cooking liquid to make it blend. Pour into a container immediately while they are runny. They will be runny and thin at first, but thicken as they cool. They especially thicken overnight in the fridge.

    To add more flavor, add about 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable broth base and about 1/2 cup salsa (I always eyeball this part) and blend.

To freeze:
  1. These beans freeze very well in individual glass or plastic containers, and can be thawed on the counter, under hot water, or in the microwave for future recipes.  I always like to make a big batch and freeze some for a quick meal in the future. 


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  1. Some of the best refried beans I’ve ever had (southern Arizona native)…so much flavor with so few ingredients and effort. We make these at least once a month and freeze the leftovers to use until the next batch. Mexican food is in short supply here in Japan and these are so comforting to me!

    1. I’m so glad you can make good refried beans in Japan! As an AZ native myself, I know I couldn’t live without Mexican food. 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review, McKenzie! And I’m so excited for your family’s new arrival on the way!

  2. These are authentic! I love that I can just drop the whole onion in and not have to chop it. We use them in lots of ways, but most often for bean burritos and tostadas.

  3. We love these beans! I tried reducing the salt, but they didn’t taste quite as good. These are so easy! I usually use my instant pot and freeze most of it for quick meals.

  4. These beans are delicious! I really can’t believe how easy they are and that there is no oil in them. We make them often to make sure we always have some in the freezer.

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