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.
Refried beans are endlessly warming & cozy.
The creamy 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 refried beans 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, these days I usually have to skip them, 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.
Here are the ingredients you will need to make this recipe.
Oil: You’ll need a neutral flavored cooking oil to sauté onions and garlic. Avocado oil is my go-to.
If you prefer to keep this dish oil free, sauté in a Tablespoon of water instead.
Onions: Yellow onions are my favorite here, but red also works.
Garlic: Freshly minced garlic has the best flavor. But if you prefer, it can be replaced with ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder. If using powdered, add it at the same time as the other seasonings.
Pinto beans: Canned pinto beans are a convenient pantry staple. But if you’d prefer to use pinto beans that you’ve cooked from dried ahead of time, that works too.
Seasonings: Ancho chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.
Ancho chili powder is made with just one ingredient – dried poblano peppers. It has a wonderful full-bodied flavor.
Ancho chili powder can be replaced with standard chili powder. But keep in mind that chili powder blends vary from one to the next, and may include varying amounts of cayenne.
Step by step instructions
Here’s how to make this recipe at a glance. For complete ingredient amounts & instructions, keep scrolling to the recipe card below.
Sauté 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.)
My favorite way to blend them is by transferring the beans to a food processor. Process until smooth, or leave it somewhat chunky if you prefer.
However, if you’d rather, you can easily blend the beans in the pan using an immersion blender, potato masher, or even a fork! 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.
Make it your own
You can make these refried beans your own by varying the ingredients or amounts:
- Instead of using pinto beans, make black refried beans instead.
- Make them oil-free by replacing the one teaspoon of oil in this recipe with a splash of water. Then saute the onions and garlic in that instead.
- For extra tang & heat, add a splash of brine from a jar of pickled jalapenos to the beans before mashing them.
- For even more heat, saute finely diced jalapeno pepper with the onions and garlic.
- Make a double batch. Refried beans store well in the refrigerator or freezer and are terrific for re-purposing and meal planning.
Of course, you can enjoy refried beans on their own, right out of the bowl.
Or use them in these other tasty dishes!
- They are a must in vegan 7 layer dip
- Slather them on vegan tostadas
- Add dollops to breakfast nachos
- They make an excellent “glue” on double decker tacos
- Serve them as a side dish with jackfruit carnitas or vegan chicken tacos
- Slather them into a refried bean quesadilla
- Add them to an Austin-style breakfast
Store vegan refried beans in a covered container in the refrigerator. They will keep 3 to 5 days.
Or store them in the freezer for up to 6 months. Then thaw in the refrigerator when you’re ready to use them.
If the refried beans have dried out in the refrigerator, add a splash of water and stir before popping them in the microwave to reheat.
Vegan refried beans
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil or your preferred neutral flavored oil
- ½ cup chopped onions yellow or red
- 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
- 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.
- Now it's time to mash the beans. My favorite way to mash them is in the food processor. Carefully transfer the beans to a food processor. Turn the processor to high, and blend until smooth. Or set it at low, and just go for a few seconds until it's broken up but somewhat chunky. (If you miscalculated and the beans are too runny, transfer them back to the pan to cook off some liquid. If the beans are too thick, add a splash of brine from a jar of jalapeno peppers or water.)If you don't have a food processor, leave the beans in the skillet. Then use a fork, potato masher, or immersion blender to 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.
Content updated January 29, 2024. Original recipe posted October 2015.