Slow Cooker Mexican-Style Refried Beans
Make this traditional staple of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine at home and you'll never want store-bought pre-made beans again.
Fun Fact: The name 'refried beans' is a mistranslation of the Spanish 'frijoles refritos' which correctly translated means 'well fried beans'. They are called this because traditionally when cooking this dish slow-cooked beans were mashed and then fried into a consistency almost like paste. It is much more common now just to cook the beans down until they either fall apart or can easily be mashed and then served.
You can of course cook your beans in a pot or deep pan but we've chosen to make our beans in a slow cooker, which frees us up to go about our day and make the other dishes to accompany our beans into a meal when the beans are nearly done.
Some recipes for refried beans will call for beans that have already been cooked. We start from scratch with dry or canned beans and the first part of the recipe you might recognize as closer to 'frijoles de la olla' or 'beans in a pot'. You can eat the beans once they are completely cooked or you can follow the additional instructions to create a more authentic-looking refried beans dish.
You may notice in our photos that we did not mash our beans but kept them in tact, much more like 'beans in a pot' than 'well fried beans'. This was totally not intentional; we just forgot that step before snapping pics. Either way you serve and eat them is great.
Best Way To Eat:
You can serve these beans super traditionally with cilantro lime rice, pico de gallo and guacamole. You can also put them in a seven-layer dip for Super Bowl Sunday, serve them in a burrito or burrito bowl or taco or go crazy and use them as a spread in a sandwich.
We adapted our recipe from the Restaurant Style Refried Beans recipe by Food, Folks and Fun. Thanks guys!
Tips, Tricks & Variations:
Always rinse your dry beans before soaking, taking care to spread them out on a flat surface to help remove any discolored beans, any small stones (such as you might find in a cheaper bulk bag) and any that float (that's right - the ones that float are supposed to be hollow from insect damage, so you're gonna wanna get rid of those).
Why soak your beans? To cut down on cooking time and in some instances even reduce gas when consumed. You should soak your beans in three times more water than beans - i.e., one cup beans to three cups water - and for at least 8 hours. You need all beans to be completely submerged in water so that they all cook evenly. If your kitchen runs warm you can refrigerate the covered soaking beans for at least 10 hours, to prevent fermentation. If you find you can't make your soaked beans the day after they've been soaked, you can switch out the water and keep them in the soaking water, covered, in the fridge for several days (as long as you switch out the water daily). Black beans don't need to be soaked quite as long as pinto beans.
Traditional Mexican refried bean recipes call for either pinto or black beans. Tex-Mex refried beans are almost always made with pinto beans. We use both beans in our recipe but you can use one or the other if you prefer. We like the taste of both as refried beans. We caution against using other types of beans however as the flavor profile will be way off.
To help reduce gas and indigestion after consuming beans we suggest adding 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar to every cup of dry beans while soaking. You can also add about 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar to the end of the cooking time (in the last 30-45 minutes) to assist with digestion and reduced flatulence.
Many refried bean recipes call for using a blender (best choice is an immersion blender, which is handheld so less mess and effort) to come up with the paste-like consistency of refried beans. We like our beans to still have hints of bean in them though so we suggest using a potato masher, just to mash up most of the beans while leaving little bits of bean here and there. It makes for a more authentic look, in our opinion.
This recipe makes the equivalent of about 6 cans of refried beans or roughly 12 cups. We suggest making the full recipe, even if you're only serving a few people, because you can freeze these beans for months and just thaw them out and reheat them when you're ready for taco night or a burrito bowl. Alternatively you can go crazy and have a Mexican meal themed week and have burrito bowl and taco night and seven layer dip and more and eat your refried beans every day of the week. Your choice. ;)
Try adding chipotle chili instead of traditional chili powder to the recipe for an extra kick. You may need to add a reduced amount if you don't want to have your mouth on fire - unless you like that sort of thing.
Restaurants sometimes add cheese and salsa to refried beans once their finished cooking. We suggest a medium or mild salsa, if you choose to add it, and a mix of cheddar and mozzarella plant-cheese.
This recipe has just enough salt as it is. If you'd like to add extra salt to your beans (besides the salt found in the bouillon and veggie broth), we suggest waiting until the last 30-45 minutes, so that the salt doesn't seep into the beans and make it too salty or even worse, prevent the beans from cooking down to be soft enough to mash.
If you'd prefer to use veggie broth over bouillon cubes or better than veggie bouillon you should use at least 6 cups of veggie broth, add a teaspoon of salt at the end of cooking, about 30 minutes before serving, and only add a cup of extra water if the beans get too dry closer to the last two hours of cooking.
You can spice up your already awesome refried beans by adding dried oregano or cilantro or de-seeded jalapenos to the beans in the last hour of cooking.
When we say 'roughly chop' or 'roughly dice' we mean the size of the pieces don't matter so much, just that the ingredient is broken down into smaller pieces before being added to the pot. Everything will pretty much cook down into mash, so the size of the cooking pieces doesn't matter overmuch.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Mexican-Style Refried Beans
Skill Level: Beginner/Easy
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Soak Time: 8-12 hours
Cook Time: 9-10 hours
Total Active Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 12 servings, 1 cup each
2 Tbsp avocado oil
1 large red onion (2 cups chopped)
1½ cups dried pinto beans (or 15oz can)
1½ cups dried black beans (or 15oz can)
10 cloves garlic (about 2 Tbsp diced)
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1½ Tbsp better than veggie bouillon (or 4-5 cubes of veggie bouillon)
1 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 cup veggie broth (or an additional cup of water)
5 cups water
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (optional)
If you are using dry beans -
Lay your beans out in one layer on a flat surface (such as a cookie sheet, to prevent beans going everywhere on your counter) and remove any stones or discolored beans you find. Rinse your beans a couple times before placing in a large bowl (soak black and pinto beans separately) and adding three times more water than beans (for 1½ cups of beans use 4½ cups water). Remove any floating beans (see notes above). Add 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar to each bowl of beans to prevent excessive gas and promote easier digestion. Soak covered beans overnight on countertop for at least 8 hours. Alternatively, soak covered beans in refrigerator for at least 10 hours.
If you are using canned beans -
You do not need to soak the beans but can drain and rinse the beans and add them into the slow cooker before the liquid ingredients.
Preheat the slow cooker, starting on high, while you prepare the other ingredients.
Add avocado oil to the slow cooker.
While oil is heating in the slow cooker, peel, rinse and roughly chop onion. Add chopped onion to slow cooker.
Peel and roughly dice garlic and add to onion in slow cooker. Mix to coat onion and garlic with oil.
Add dry spices - cumin and chili powder - to mixture in slow cooker. Mix everything to coat with oil and dry seasonings.
Add better than veggie bouillon or bouillon cubes (if using veggie broth instead of bouillon, wait to add later). Mix everything to coat with additional seasoning.
Add liquid smoke and mix thoroughly.
Add soaked, drained and rinsed beans (pre-soaked dry beans or drained and rinsed canned beans). Mix to coat with all seasonings in slow cooker.
Add veggie broth and water, mix all ingredients in slow cooker until fully combined, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for at least 9 hours. In the last two hours you can check the liquid level and if you find the beans are getting too dry you can add another cup of water, but that shouldn't really be necessary unless your slow cooker runs hot.
In the last hour of cooking, once the beans are fairly soft, mash beans with potato masher and mix thoroughly to make sure all flavors are fully incorporated. You can also add any additional seasonings you'd like to now (like apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, jalapeno, oregano, cilantro, salsa or plant-based cheese). However, we think it's fantastic just how it is, so you don't need to add any extras if you don't want.
Once beans have reached a desired consistency, turn off heat and eat whenever you're ready. Beans are great hot, room temperature or even cold. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for about 8 days or the freezer for about 6 months.
Let us know how you liked our bean recipe and what did you do differently to make it your own? What did you serve your refried beans with? Tell us in the comments below!