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Refried Pinto Beans

Earlier this week, I said that brothy beans are my favorite side dish with a Mexican meal. My kids love Diane’s homemade tortillas above all other foods, so we have a lot of Mexican meals at my house.
The kids’ top 5 favorite foods of all time:
1. Tortillas
2. White Rice
3. Pizza
4. Chicken Lettuce Wraps
5. Brats
(Oh, and of course, Banquet Chicken Nuggets. Oh, the shame. But when we’re trying to get the kids fed for the babysitter so we can go out to a real, grown-up dinner, compromises have to be made…)

Even though I love them, with how often we eat tortillas, brothy beans can get repetitive. For something different, I make refried beans using leftover brothy beans from my freezer. With some help from my food processor I can quickly get refried beans on the table. And…the kids will sometimes eat them. Timmy, my youngest, is turning into a beanivore.
That’s a word, right? Well, it is, if you’ve watched Timmy eating beans. I had to do a sales job to convince him that these were “smushy beans”, but once I did, I had to stand back.

So, are you looking for a quick weeknight side dish for your next taco night? Here it is.
And, trust me…it tastes so much better than the stuff in a can.

Recipe: Refried Pinto Beans

Adapted From: Cooks Illustrated Magazine


  • Food Processor (Like my KitchenAid, but any food processor that can fit four cups of beans will do.)


  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 4 cups pinto beans (Preferably homemade, but three 15oz cans will do)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (or lard, if you want to be authentic and have better tasting beans)
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Mince the aromatics: Peel the garlic; cut the stem off the jalapeno, and cut the jalapeno in half. (To reduce the heat, remove the seeds and white ribs from inside the jalapeno with a teaspoon.) Drop the garlic cloves and jalapeno into a running food processor, and let it process until they are finely minced. (They are done mincing when they stop bouncing around in the processor). Scrape the garlic and jalapenos into a 12″ nonstick fry pan, and add the 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Don’t worry about cleaning out the food processor; the garlic and jalapeno add flavor to the beans.

2. Process the beans: If you are using homemade beans, put them and their liquid into the food processor, and add the 1/2 tsp kosher salt. (If you are using canned beans, drain and rinse the beans and put them in the food processor with 1 cup of water to substitute for the bean liquid. Skip the salt, because canned beans are pretty salty to begin with.) Process the beans for 1 minute, or until smooth.

3. Cook the beans: Turn the heat to medium under the fry pan. In a couple of minutes the garlic will start sizzling; when it does, scrape the beans from the food processor into the fry pan. (Be careful, this may splatter a bit.) Cook the beans, stirring and scraping until they thicken up in the pan, five to ten minutes. When they are thickened, taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Different beans: You can make this recipe with black beans or kidney beans instead of the pinto beans; everything else works just about the same.

If you want to get fancy, replace the oil in the pan with a couple of slices of bacon. Cut the bacon into small pieces, then cook it over low heat until it renders its fat and is brown and crisply. Continue with the aromatics and beans from there.

I thaw my freezer beans in the microwave. It takes about eight minutes, with a stir of the beans after four minutes to get the frozen clump of beans in the center out to the edges, where they will thaw quicker.

How do you get homemade beans to use in this recipe? Cook some slow cooker dried beans, or pressure cooker dried beans, and freeze them in 2 quart containers. Or you could, you know, cook them in a regular pot. But I’ve got all these toys that I want to play with.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Pressure Cooker Pinto Beans in Tex-Mex Broth
Basic Technique: Pressure Cooker Beans
Basic Technique: Slow Cooker Beans

Adapted from:
Cooks Illustrated Magazine

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Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. @Greg:

    Sorry to disappoint you, Greg.

    These instructions work well for me, with the tools I have on hand. Are they authentic? Probably not. But I can get refried beans on the table on a busy Tuesday night, and I love the way they taste.

  2. I’m sorry but you can’t choose CI as a source of info on Southwestern/Mexican food.

    A food processor? Try a potato masher.

    A teflon skillet? Umm no….

    I guarantee you will not find ANYONE who eats beans as a staple follow these instructions.

    You have a fine blog but choose your sources carefully.

    • Jennifer says

      This very old and ironic comment on peasant food snobbery was exactly the laugh that I needed today!

  3. Mely (mimk) says

    Hello there,

    So bad I do not live in Ohio anymore. I would love to cook Mexican food with you. When I first move to Akron we had to drive all the way to Chicago to get Maseca. Things are different now.

    I do miss Ohio a lot.

    Great Blog, please stop by my blog I think you will enjoy yourself and you can also have some more uses for those dry peppers. 🙂



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