The Best Restaurant Style Refried Beans

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These from-scratch creamy refried beans are a top-notch restaurant quality side dish. With a rich creamy consistency and delicious flavor from plenty of aromatics, it's better than any can of refried beans any day!

My loves, have you ever had your favorite Mexican restaurant ripped from your hands?

When we would sit down, we'd be treated like family. Besides the free-flowing restaurant salsa and agua frescas, they had the best salmon al mojo de ajo and mexican rice!

And suddenly, you're met with a 'for lease' sign on your next date night. The horror.

Okay, yes, I'm being dramatic. But when we were kids, my husband and I would do date night at a family-owned Mexican restaurant that was complete with mariachi on Saturdays and Sundays, karaoke on Wednesdays and Fridays, and an after-Mass brunch and live singer every Sunday.

So am I truly being dramatic? This was no ordinary restaurant, y'all! A pearl amongst swine, honestly.

a close view of a bowl of restaurant-style refried beans topped with cheese and served with a slice of lime

Spoiler: most Mexican restaurants use canned refried beans and reheat them in the back of the house, but Cancun did not.

They had the best refried beans, I would literally just buy them to-go so I could snack on a big ole to-go bowl all day with chips. Home-cooked, flavorful refried beans cooked in lard (and the back of the house led by the abuela and mom in the family!) that took second place to no other.

I knew once Cancun was gone, I had to figure out how to make it myself.

You may think that refried beans would be some super difficult, labor-intensive thing, but they're an incredibly easy side dish that actually doesn't have to be "cooked twice" ;).

And these the best homemade refried beans you could ever bless your Taco Tuesday with. They are a huge hit with my family and yes, I will eat them by the spoonful or tortilla chip-ful every time.

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Equipment

Immersion blender - you could use a potato masher, regular blender, or food processor, but the immersion blender makes this recipe so easy with minimal work.

Medium-sized saucepan - gotta cook it in something! Make sure the pan is big enough to handle the immersion blender and the broth bubbling away so there's no mess.

Ingredients

Full ingredients, measurements, and printable instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

ingredients for restaurant style refried beans, including canned pinto beans, oil and butter, spices, garlic, lime, and chicken broth

Olive oil and butter - you need some fat in this recipe. I love using olive oil for the flavor, but vegetable oil works well. If you want to go the traditional route, a little bacon fat goes a long way.

Red pepper flakes - gives that bit of spice that rounds out the flavor of our refried beans. If you want less spice but still have that savory flavor, use chili powder.

Garlic - I use a ton of fresh garlic, we really love it in most of our savory dishes, but measure by your heart, chile.

Ground cumin - did y'all know that cumin is not a spice native to the Americas? It actually made it's way over with the Spanish colonizers and has been used frequently ever since.

Chicken broth - I really like using Better than Bouillon here with some water, it has that very intense 'chicken' flavor.

Pinto beans - I use canned beans because dry pinto beans require an overnight soak and preplanning. If you're using dry beans, plan for the soak and a longer cook time.

Lime juice - the bright acidity of lime juice will be missed if you forget it! Lime specifically is not sweet, it leans toward bitter, actually! So it helps round out all the different flavor aspects we are creating.

Monterey jack cheese - melt this on top before serving just like they do in the restaurants.

Instructions for Restaurant-Style Refried Beans

fats in a saucepan with spices to make restaurant style refried beans

Step 1 | Heat the fats over medium heat with your spices and garlic. We really want to bloom these flavors in the fat so they're well incorporated into the fabric of our recipe.

pinto beans and chicken broth in a saucepan to get cooked down into refried beans

Step 2 | stir in the canned pinto beans and chicken broth, put the lid on, and let this come to a lively simmer for about 10-15 minutes. You want those beans to really soak in the flavors you just bloomed!

creamy mashed refried beans in a saucepan

Step 3 | Once the beans are very soft...some of their skins have started splitting, even...turn the heat off and carefully blend your refried beans with the immersion blender (or carefully pour into a blender or food processor) until it reaches your desired consistency.

a serving bowl of refried beans ready to eat

Step 4 | Squeeze in plenty of lime juice and top with a ton of monterey jack cheese before serving hot.

Variations

Add in crisp, crumbled bacon (and cook the beans in the bacon grease!) and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro to take this dish to the next level!

Dollop on or stir in a scoop of sour cream to make the beans even more rich and creamy and turn it into a bean dip for your next party.

Pro Tips

A regular blender or food processor work well to mash the beans if you want, just keep a little bit of water on hand to make it smoother, if needed.

Refried beans are made with pinto beans in Northern Mexico, but they're made with all types of beans. So use that can of black beans you have waiting in your pantry!

Did you know that dried beans can expire? They can last a minimum of 1 year in a cool, dark pantry or storeroom in an airtight container up to 3-5 years before they lose their nutritional value. Make sure your beans don't have any wrinkles, mottled skin or mold.

What to Serve with Your Delicious Refried Beans

Refried beans are perfect for tacos! I love them on carnitas street tacos and served with al pastor tacos, too!

overhead view of a serving bowl of

They're the perfect side dish for your breakfasts, top huevos rancheros, or burritos!

Serve on carnitas nachos or just simply as a dip with your tortilla chips.

And don't forget the drinks! Guava mojitos, spicy strawberry jalapeño margaritas, or smoky mezcal cocktails all go so well with you Mexican-inspired meals.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Keep the refried beans in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

To reheat, put them into a microwave-safe dish and heat until completely warmed through. To reheat stove top, put into a saucepan with a splash of broth or water over medium heat, stirring occasionally until warmed through.

FAQs

What are refried beans?

Refried beans is a dish of 'well-cooked' and mashed seasoned beans that is a staple in traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine.

What makes refried beans refried?

Refried beans are actually only cooked once.

Many English-speaking people think that refried beans are cooked twice. 'Re'fried, right? But in Spanish-speaking culture it is called frijoles refritos or beans that are 'fried very well' because the 're' means 'very well' and 'fritos' is 'fried'.

Are refried beans vegetarian?

Traditionally, refried beans are cooked in lard. But this recipe can be made vegetarian (just omit the butter!) so you can have vegetarian/vegan refried beans!

What kind of beans do Mexican restaurants use?

Most restaurants use pinto beans or black beans to make refried beans.

More Mexican Dishes

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📖 Recipe

close view of a bowl of homemade restaurant style refried beans topped with monterey jack cheese

Restaurant Style Refried Beans

Eden Westbrook
These homemade creamy refried beans (frijoles refritos) are a top-notch restaurant quality side dish. With a rich creamy consistency and delicious flavor from plenty of aromatics, it's better than any can of refried beans any day!
4.89 from 9 votes
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 13 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Side Dishes
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8 servings
Calories 120 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoon salted butter
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 2 15 oz cans pinto beans, drained
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Monterey Jack cheese for serving

Instructions
 

  • In a medium sized saucepan, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add ¼ teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 4 cloves of minced garlic to the fat and stir with a wooden spoon for about a minute to infuse the fats with all the aromatics.
  • Once the garlic has become fragrant, add the pinto beans and ½ cup of chicken broth, stirring well. Cover the saucepan with its lid and cook for 10-15 minutes, The beans should be very soft and the skin of some of them should be splitting.
  • After the beans are softened, begin to mash the beans (or if using immersion blender, turn the heat off and blend carefully with short bursts).
  • Stir in lime juice, taste, and and salt and pepper to taste, serve topped with cheese.

Notes

Storing and Reheating Instructions

Keep the refried beans in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
To reheat, put them into a microwave-safe dish and heat until completely warmed through. To reheat stove top, put into a saucepan with a splash of broth or water over medium heat, stirring occasionally until warmed through.

Variations

Add in crisp, crumbled bacon (and cook the beans in the bacon grease!) and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro to take this dish to the next level!
Dollop on or stir in a scoop of sour cream to make the beans even more rich and creamy and turn it into a bean dip for your next party.

Pro Tips

A regular blender or food processor work well to mash the beans if you want, just keep a little bit of water on hand to make it smoother, if needed.
Refried beans are made with pinto beans in Northern Mexico, but they're made with all types of beans. So use that can of black beans you have waiting in your pantry!
Did you know that dried beans can expire? They can last a minimum of 1 year in a cool, dark pantry or storeroom in an airtight container up to 3-5 years before they lose their nutritional value. Make sure your beans don't have any wrinkles, mottled skin or mold.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 120kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 3gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 158mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4g
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