Healthy Refried Beans

When I was a kid, my best friend’s mom used to take us to Taco Bell and I would always get the same thing: soft tacos with cheese and sour cream. Her mom always, always, always ordered pintos and cheese. She always offered to share with us; I think because we thought it was the grossest thing ever and she would laugh when we would squeal in disgust at her offer.

Fast-forward 30 or more years later and I finally see what she saw in pintos and cheese all those years ago. Beans are delicious! I love beans in any dish but have taken to really appreciating a good refried bean as of late. They are relatively easy to make, even when you use dried beans instead of canned, which I insist that you do.

Classic refried beans are made with lard but you can easily make a healthier version with olive or avocado oil. Refried beans is a great recipe to make when you’ve cooked beans too long; that’s the reason I decided to make refried beans in this instance. You can make refried beans with pinto or black beans. I’ve also accidentally made refried red beans before which took forever and a half to make, and I honestly wouldn’t recommend.

This recipe is naturally vegan but you can add cheese if you want to make your own pintos and cheese. Add to nachos or eat alongside or inside tacos or quesadillas.



  • 1 lb dry pinto beans sorted, rinsed, and soaked overnight or up to 24 hours
  • 2 + 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 ¼ tsp. fine sea salt or more to taste
  • ¼ c. olive oil or avocado oil
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • garlic salt and pepper to taste


  1. Slow cooker directions: Drain and rinse the soaked beans and place them in a 5-quart slow cooker along with 2 cloves of garlic. Add 8 cups of water. The beans should be covered by about 2 inches of water. Cook 6 to 12 hours on low. Drain the beans reserving half a cup of bean water.
  2. Stovetop directions: Drain soaked beans and return them to the pot. Add fresh water to cover the beans up to two inches above them. Add 2 cloves of garlic to the pot and a couple dashes of salt. Bring beans to a boil, cover and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. Check the beans and if they’re not completely cooked after one hour, let them simmer a few minutes longer until they’re done. Drain the beans, removing the onion and reserving 1/2 cup of the bean broth water.
  3. In a large heavy-duty pan (cast-iron if you have it) over medium-low heat, heat oil. Add onions and cook until soft. Add 4 garlic cloves, chopped, for the last minute or two. Add beans, cumin and cilantro and cook until heated through. Mash or puree beans using an immersion blender as the beans cook. Add bean water and or regular water to thin out if necessary.
  4. Add garlic salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.

Recipe rating: 

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