Vegan refried beans are a cozy & satiating side dish alongside rice. They’re a tasty burrito filling. Or eat them on their own with chips as a dip! Add jalapeño slices, non-dairy cheese, or hot sauce to increase the yum factor. Vegan & gluten-free.
The tastiest foods are often not the prettiest.
Lucky for refried beans, they are endlessly warming & cozy. The mushy texture has a mild, savory flavor that works so well as a side dish or as an addition to a burrito.
Or when you need something snackable, a bowlful of them with non-dairy cheese on top makes for an excellent partner to that bag of tortilla chips in the cupboard.
Before I went vegan, refried beans used to be a regular order of mine at Mexican restaurants. However, I usually have to skip them these days, as they’re often made with lard. Womp, womp.
(You can occasionally find vegan refried beans in restaurants, though. Just be sure to ask when placing your order.)
Luckily, it’s not hard to make them at home. Grab some pinto beans, onions, garlic, and spices, and you’re practically there.
(For a change of pace, make refried black beans instead!)
I like to make mine on the not-too-spicy side. That way I can add extra dashes of hot sauce & jalapeño peppers at will.
It’s also handy if you’ll be serving it to people who prefer things on the milder side.
My recipe is spiced with ancho chili powder, cumin, and oregano.
Ancho chili powder
Keep in mind that ancho chili powder is different from chili powder blends that you may already have in your cupboard.
Standard chili powder blends often include things like cayenne. So the amount of heat can vary by brand.
Ancho chili powder comes from dried ancho chilies, which has wonderful depth, but isn’t spicy hot. It’s my favorite chili powder to have around, because of its dense, rich flavor.
You can find ancho chili powder in Mexican grocery stores, at spice shops, or online.
How to make them
Start by sautéing onions and garlic in oil. Once they are translucent and fragrant, you can add the remaining ingredients to the skillet.
Add water, ancho chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.
Once the water is at a simmer, lower the heat. Allow the beans to absorb and cook off most of the liquid.
When there are roughly a couple Tablespoons of water left in the skillet, it’s time to mash them.
(Just eyeball the liquid amounts. If you misjudged and end up with watery beans, you can just cook them a little longer once they are blended to make them denser.)
I like to use an immersion blender right in the skillet. It’s very quick and convenient.
However, if you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a potato masher.
I’ve even used a fork in a pinch. It’s rustic, but it works fine.
If some of the beans are left whole as you’re mashing, that just adds extra texture. Make them as smooth or chunky as you like.
How to use them
- They are a must in vegan 7 layer dip, layered alongside non-dairy cream cheese, pico de gallo, and shredded vegan cheese.
- Add dollops to breakfast nachos (or anytime nachos with cashew queso) for a creamy addition on crunchy chips.
- They also make an excellent “glue” on double decker tacos. They hold soft tortillas to crunchy hard shells deliciously well.
- Serve them as a side dish with your favorite jackfruit carnitas tacos.
- Slather them into a refried bean quesadilla.
- Add them to a brunch platter. This Austin breakfast is one of my all-time favorite savory brunches. It was inspired by a meal at Bouldin Creek Café on a trip to Texas several years back.
- You can finish them with a crumbling of vegan feta cheese, as if it were cotija.
Have leftovers? No worries!
Refried beans reheat beautifully. (You can freeze them too!)
If they have dried out in the refrigerator, just add a splash of water and stir before popping them in the microwave.
For packed lunches, roll the refried beans into burritos ahead of time. Then the whole thing can go in the microwave as a compact bean-y parcel.
Vegan refried beans
- 1 teaspoon organic canola oil or your preferred neutral flavored oil
- ½ cup chopped yellow onions
- 1 to 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 ½ cups pinto beans or 15 ounce can, drained and rinsed
- ¾ cup water + a few Tablespoons more if necessary
- ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon oregano
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Ground pepper to taste
- Optional toppings: Diced onions, jalapeño slices, non-dairy cheese, hot sauce
- Bring a large skillet to a medium heat. Add oil to the skillet and sauté onion and garlic a few minutes, until fragrant and translucent.
- Add pinto beans to the skillet along with water, ancho chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.
- When the water begins to simmer, lower the heat and continue cooking for about 15 minutes until most of the water has been absorbed, except for a couple of tablespoons.
- Using a fork, potato masher, or immersion blender mash the beans until smooth. If the beans are too dry, add water by the tablespoonful until they are soft and smooth like mashed potatoes, but not too watery. If the beans are too liquidy, keep cooking until they reach your preferred texture.
- Taste for salt and add more if necessary. Top with any of your preferred optional toppings.
Original recipe posted October 2015. Photos & content updated February 2019.