Quick refried beans

Vegetarian refried Beans
The best refried beans are those made with beans you have soaked overnight and simmered until they are meltingly soft, and then fried with with onion spices and lots of olive oil. Like these refried black beans. In an ideal world, we would always soak and cook our beans but we live in an imperfect world and refried beans with tacos or burritos make such an excellent weeknight family meal, it would be a pity not to have them just because you have had time to cook your beans from scratch.Vegetarian refried beans
These refried beans are super quick and are made from such store cupboard standards: they make a great stand-by meal when you have absolutely no idea what to make for dinner. Once you get your beans simmering away, you can concentrate on making your guacamole, salsa and, with some homemade chapatis from my local Indian shop (it’s hard to get decent ready-made tortillas in Australia), you can have dinner on the table in about half an hour. Not that it’s totally authentic, but still very, very good. The butter added at the end is optional but if you’re not using it, be extra generous with your olive oil. These beans are lighter than the traditional refried beans, which are made with lard, but refried beans shouldn’t be too low fat and virtuous – there’s really no fun in that.
Vegetarian refried beans
Quick refried beans
Adapted from The Splendid Table: How to eat supper

  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2–4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped or 1½ teaspoons of chilli powder of your choice
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 1 x 400 grams can of tomatoes
  • 2 x 400 grams of kidney beans (or any other bean of your choice, drained and rinsed)
  • 1½ cups of water
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of butter (optional)
  1. Heat a 28 cm (10 inch) skillet and cover bottom generously with olive oil. Saute onions with salt and pepper until softened (about 3 minutes).
  2. Add garlic, chilli, cumin and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add tomatoes and crush them with a potato masher as you add to the pan and simmer for about a minute.
  3. Now add the beans and water and bring to a rapid simmer, mashing the beans with a potato masher as they cook. As the beans begin to thicken, you stir the beans around the pan, mashing them all the time. Simmer until the beans thicken, about 10 to 15 minutes
  4. Add butter and season to taste. Garnish with chopped onion and coriander if desired.


  1. Great idea! I never really looked into making refried beans before, thinking that it would be too difficult to do at home. My wife loves refried beans, so this is going in her inbox and on my to-do list. Thanks!

  2. Homemade refried beans are definitely the best! But why kidney beans, when pinto beans are the classic choice? I know they aren’t really available in the UK, but I didn’t think that was the case for Australia. Maybe I am wrong, though. Anyway, I heartily approve of the homemade refrito! So good. 🙂

    • I’ve never seen canned pinto beans in Australia and canned black beans (my favourite) are very expensive and hard to get which is why I soak and cook my own beans a lot. I usually use a combination of kidney and Italian white beans for these refried beans but you can use any bean or any combination you like.

  3. I am going to sub in white beans as I am not a fan of kidney beans to be honest. American’s are constantly amazed at how we don’t get foods that they use as staples aren’t they? ;). Love this recipe and love Mexican, no matter how much we Aussies have to apply “fusion” to the label. Indo-Mexican 😉

    • I like kidney beans but that’s why I use a combination of kidney and white beans to mellow them out a bit and we really have to improvise and adapt to local ingredients as far as Mexican is concerned.

      • But the good thing is that it’s really adaptable and so long as you have plenty of avocado, sour cream and refried beans with your tortillas, who cares that it isn’t 100% authentic

  4. humble_pie says:

    this looks like a marvellous approach, i am going to do this soonest.

    but may i ask a bookish kind of question, which applies to just about any recipe involving canned beans of any type. Why are we always draining & rinsing the beans, then immediately adding water to the recipe?

    the standard explanation is that we want to drain away the salt & sugar added by the commercial canners. However, that bean liquid in the can must surely also contain minerals, possibly some vitamins, that were leached/soaked out of the beans themselves into the processing water? we are always throwing this away?

    by contrast, we are never draining canned tomatoes but are rather adding all of the processing liquid in the can to a recipe … yet canned tomatoes probably contain the same commercial salt & sugar …

    dull, rhetorical question, i know. Back to the tasty recipe, it looks fast, delicious & oh-so-healthy.

  5. These look delicious, I forgot how much I love beans!

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