These are the BEST refried beans ever! Once you make homemade refried beans with bacon and onion, you’ll never go back to the canned stuff again. Best of all? It only takes 15 minutes and 6 ingredients to whip up. They’re packed with rich, savory, smoky flavor and can be used as a side for a Mexican-inspired meal, on tacos, on nachos, as a dip… or however you usually use refried beans!
These truly are the best refried beans ever. They’re bursting with flavor- smoky, spicy, simple, fresh, and decadent. And while these are made with bacon and bacon grease for extra decadence, you can easily make them vegetarian or vegan if you prefer.
Homemade refried beans are best when eaten hot and right away, but you can also make these and save them for later.
In this post I’ll explain how to make the BEST refried beans ever, and be sure to check out the video! This is such a yummy, hearty side dish that’s packed with plant-based protein. You’re going to love it.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Pinto Beans – I used canned, but you can cook them from dried beforehand if you prefer. Pinto are the most traditional for refried beans, but you can use black beans or other beans as a substitute if you like.
- Bacon – only two slices.
- Spices: Chili powder and cayenne pepper. You can omit the cayenne if you don’t want them spicy (or use more to pump up the heat). Add other spices if you like, such as cumin, garlic powder, etc.
- Chicken Broth – vegetable broth or water (in a pinch) will work, too.
- Fresh cilantro – you can omit this if you like.
How to make Homemade Refried Beans
- First, cook the bacon. After it’s cool, chop into small pieces. Leave the grease in the skillet.
- Sauté the onions in the bacon grease until nice and browned and softened.
- Then, add the spices – chili powder and cayenne pepper – and stir to coat the onions in them
- Add the beans and chicken broth. Use a potato masher to mash to the consistency you prefer. Continue to heat if the beans seem too thin, keeping in mind that they will continue to thicken as they cool.
- Turn off the heat and stir in chopped cilantro and the chopped bacon.
- Serve! I like to top with shredded cheese and reserved chopped cilantro and bacon.
How to make really smooth refried beans
As you’ll see in the recipe below, I used a potato masher to make my beans. I like the texture somewhat lumpy, and I like that it’s a really simple process to mash them directly in the pot.
If you like very smooth refried beans, however, you can puree the beans and broth in a food processor or blender before adding to the skillet.
How to make refried beans vegetarian or vegan
If using bacon and bacon grease sounds like a little too much for you, or if you are vegetarian, you can omit the bacon, use vegetable broth instead of chicken, and use butter to sauté the onions (or oil or plant-based butter for vegan).
You may want to throw a little smoked paprika or chipotle hot sauce in there to give it some of the smoky flavor it will be missing without the bacon.
I recommend using a well seasoned cast iron skillet for this recipe (here’s how to use and season a cast iron skillet!). It’s perfect for cooking the bacon, and since it’s so hearty, you can use a metal potato masher in there without worrying about damaging it.
How to serve refried beans
- On nachos with cheese and jalapeños.
- In breakfast tacos.
- As a side with your favorite Mexican main dish, such as this Mexican-inspired shredded chicken.
- As a dip with homemade tortilla chips.
Other Mexican-inspired recipes
- Mexican Street Corn Pasta Salad
- Mexican Roasted Zucchini
- Smoky Chicken and Avocado Tacos
- Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos
- Zucchini and Corn Tacos with Fresh Guacamole
- Mexican Baked Beans with Chorizo
- Vegetarian Enchiladas Verdes
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The Best Homemade Refried Beans
- Cast Iron Skillet (or other 10-12" skillet)
- Potato Masher
- 2 slices bacon
- 1/2 onion (diced)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less, if you prefer mild spice)
- 15 oz. canned pinto beans (drained and rinsed, about 1.5 cups cooked beans)
- 1/2 cup chicken stock/broth (or veggie stock, or water)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a heavy skillet (I used a cast iron one), fry the 2 slices bacon until crispy on medium high heat. Remove the bacon and set aside. Chop into small pieces when cooled.
- Meanwhile, the diced onion to the bacon grease in the skillet; sauté until soft and slightly browned (about 2 minutes).
- Add the chili powder (1 teaspoon) and cayenne pepper (1/4 teaspoon); stir to coat the onions.
- Add the drained and rinsed pinto beans and chicken stock (1/2 cup). Use a potato masher (or a fork) to mash the beans to desired texture, then stir to incorporate with the liquid.
- Continue heating until heated through. It may seem pretty watery at this point. If there is too much liquid, continue heating until some of the liquid has evaporated, until you reach the desired consistency, stirring frequently, keeping in mind the beans will thicken additionally as they cool.
- Stir in cilantro (1/4 cup) if using, the chopped bacon, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
- Like super creamy refried beans? Puree everything together in a blender or food processor instead of using a food processor.
- Vegetarian? Use butter to sauté the onion, omit the bacon, and use veggie stock or water. For a vegan option, use olive or canola oil. I recommend adding a little smoked paprika to the spice mix since you won’t get that smokiness from the bacon.
- Make ahead Instructions: They can be made ahead of time and reheated, but they will dry out a bit over time. Adding a little water or a squeeze of lime juice should help with that.
Nutrition Information Disclaimer
The provided nutrition information is my best estimate and does not include any added sodium from seasoning to taste, any optional ingredients, and it does not take brands into account. I use an automatic API to calculate this information. Feel free to calculate it yourself using one of these tools:
This post originally appeared on Bowl of Delicious on February 2, 2015. It has been republished with new photos, improved recipe instructions, and more pertinent information.
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