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Healthy Homemade Refried Beans

by Lorraine Thompson on June 9, 2009

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Culinary legend tells us that pot-au-feu—soup stock—simmers on the back burner in any and all French homes.

A pot of warm pinto beans is just as ubiquitous in most Mexican and Mexican-American homes.

Growing up in California in the 1970s I loved hanging out at my best friend Teresa’s house. Treesie’s Mexican-American family made guests feel at home and her grandmother always had a big pot of pinto beans warm on the stove ready for meals or snacks at any hour.

Next to the pot stood a foot-high stack of fragrant, fresh tortillas—the perfect foil for the succulent, pink-fleshed pintos.

No wonder pinto beans remain one of my favorite foods—and a staple for our family that includes several vegetarians.

At Copywriters’ Kitchen we always have a bowl of pintos in the fridge ready to reheat for breakfast burritos, lunches or stick-to-the-ribs snacking.

I also cook and freeze pintas in 2-cup containers so they’re ready for chilis, casseroles and salads.

But being a 3rd generation Californian who grew up eating delicious homestyle Mexican food, nothing says “comfort food” to me more than refried pinto beans.

Traditional refried bean recipes call for copious quantities of bacon grease, lard or oil. My lower-fat version is just as tasty—though Teresa’s abuela might raise a questioning eyebrow—and you can eat as much as you like without guilt.

Healthy Homemade Refried Beans are delicious in bean dips, as a side dish with spicy south-of-the-border main courses or scooped onto a heated tortilla.

Healthy Homemade Refried Beans

4 cups cooked pinto beans, reserve one cup bean broth
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

  1. Cook pinto beans ahead of time. Rinse a pound of pintos, pour into crockpot, cover with water and add 1 teaspoon salt. Cover pot and simmer for several hours. Or cook beans traditionally according to directions on package. Spoon out and drain 4 cups of beans. Reserve 1 cup bean broth.


  2. pinto-beans-washed-250pinto-beans-raw-250pintos-cooked-close-250bean-cooking-liquid-250

  3. In a Dutch Oven or large skillet, heat one tablespoon of oil over medium flame.
  4. When oil is hot, add two cups beans, mashing them down with a potato masher.
  5. Adjust flame to low and fry beans for 2-3 minutes, stirring often and adding bean broth as needed to keep beans from drying.


  6. pintos-in-fry-pan-250refrying-pinto-beans-smashed-250refreid-beans-creamy-250refried-beans-creamy-close

  7. Push beans to the sides of the pot and add remaining tablespoon of oil.
  8. When oil is hot, add remaining beans and repeat process, mashing beans, cooking and adding extra bean broth. The beans will continue to absorb liquid after being removed from heat so add enough liquid to make them sloppy moist. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Serve immediately or store in covered container in fridge.

    Serves 6.

    8 comments - Please leave another.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tree June 9, 2009 at 7:19 am

Lorraine,
Love your blog. It is colorful, charmingly descriptive and the recipe seems easy to achieve. Thank you for mentioning my abuelita. I am missing her especially this month as June 21 is her 100th birthday! Todays blog is her gift as she wondered if she would be remembered, and here she is. What you say is true about her beans and tortillas as that anytime snack! Yum.
Great site Laurie,
love treesie

Lorraine Thompson June 13, 2009 at 5:23 am

Dear Tree:

I can’t believe your Grandma thought she’d be forgotten. I remember her vividly: her printed house dresses and saint statues, her gliding walk, quiet voice and gentle smile.

And, of course, her nurturing yummy food!

Happy 100th birthday, abuelita.

By the way, the above recipe IS easy to achieve–especially for a good cook like you. Remember how you slaved over those homemade corn tortillas?!

Maggie Kendall August 24, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Teresa put me in touch with you/this. I’m VERY impressed — keep it up!

Lorraine Thompson August 25, 2009 at 9:47 am

Hi Maggie:

Thanks for visiting. If you subscribe to Copywriters’ Kitchen–see box above right–you’ll get my posts automatically emailed to you.

karen February 9, 2010 at 6:55 pm

I saw this recipe time and time again in your posts and I never really paid attention since we don’t eat Mexican food that much……until we decided to eliminate basically all ingredients from American foods…like dairy, wheat, sugar, eggs…..the list goes on. But corn is not one of them. So, Mexican food is one of the few ethnic foods we are eating now. And what’s Mexican food without Refried Beans!!

I’m going to make this and store it in the fridge for our Taco Salads and Burritos.
Thanks!!

Lorraine Thompson February 10, 2010 at 6:43 am

Hi Karen:

When I made these last night I was surprised at the amount of bean liquid they absorbed. Be sure to add extra–even making the beans a little sloppy-wet. The liquid will absorb when you reheat.

Hope you survive the snow day!

karen February 23, 2010 at 11:18 am

I made this last night and had with Taco Salad. It was a hit!

Hubby: refried beans? I thought we are not eating canned foods.
Emily: Dad, you just insulted Mom. Does this TASTE like it came from a can?
Hubby: You are right! This DOES so much better. I thought it was different!

I love Emily more than I love my hubby right now.

p.s. I added chopped onions before I added the beans. I may try adding some smoked bacon next time.

Thanks again!!

Sarah July 26, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Just made this recipe…turned out AMAZING! I will never buy canned again!!!

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