Mexican Refried Beans

Who doesn’t love a good, refried bean recipe! Using dry beans makes this dish infinitely better tasting and the end result is a rich, dark, silky pot of plant-based goodness. Your vegetarian and meat-loving friends alike will be very thankful for this protein rich, delicious, party-starting appetizer.

Chef Partner: Chef Cat McInroy

Chef Cat McInroy is a born-and-raised Yukoner, retired RCMP-member-turned-professional Red Seal Chef and Red Seal Baker. She owns the only private cooking school in northern Canada and is dedicated to “Making Home Cooks. Better.”

Prep Time:
12+ hours
Cook Time:
50+ minutes
Total Time:
12+ hours
Serves: 8


2 cups dry beans, soaked*

2 tbsp canola oil

1 cup finely chopped white onion

1 tsp fine sea salt, more to taste

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp chili powder (the kind you make chili con carne with, not spicy hot-chili pepper powder such as cayenne)

1/2 tsp ground cumin

Finely diced fresh Jalapeño chili pepper (avoid seeds and veins to keep the spice level down) - optional

3-4 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1-2 tbsp fresh lime juice, to taste

Cotija cheese


  1. Using dry beans: soak the dry beans in cold water with 2 tsp of baking soda and 2 Tbsp of sea salt in 2 litres (8 cups) of cold water the night before you need them (or at least 12 hours). After soaking, drain the beans and rinse under cold water. The soaking liquid is quite salty, and you do not want to cook the beans in it. 
  2. In a medium sized pot, add the soaked beans and enough cold water to cover the beans by about 1” (you may need to add more water during cooking). Use your index finger to measure the water: hold your finger over the beans so the tip of your finger is just touching the top of the beans in the pot. Add cold water up to the middle of your first knuckle. This is about 1” more or less. Keep some extra water handy to add during cooking so the beans do not boil dry as they cook.
  3. With the cover off, bring the beans to a boil and then reduce the pot to simmer and cover. Set a timer for 30 minutes and periodically check the beans to ensure the pot is not boiling dry. Once the beans begin to soften, they will quickly absorb a lot of water. Keep the water level flush with the beans during the cooking process, this amount of water will give you a loose-paste texture in the refried bean dish. As the beans cool they will continue to absorb water and gelatinize (thicken) the mixture. Starting a little loose won’t hurt anything, you can always cook out extra water to achieve your preferred texture.
  4. While the beans are cooking, finely chop the onion, garlic, cilantro, and Jalapeno (if using) and measure the spices.
  5. In a medium frypan over medium heat, warm the oil and add the chopped onion and salt. Sauté until the onion is soft and translucent. 
  6. After the onions are fully cooked, then add the minced garlic, chili, and cumin powders. Sauté for about 1 minute. Do not brown the garlic or it may become bitter.
  7. If using fresh Jalapeño pepper, add it now.
  8. Once the beans are cooked to tender (taste one to determine if it’s cooked and tender. If it’s still crunchy keep cooking and adding water as needed), add the fried onion and spice mixture to the cooked beans and simmer this mixture, uncovered, for about 15 minutes to meld the flavours. Stir often and make sure you get the bottom of the pot. The mixture will look quite soupy and loose. That’s normal, it will tighten up the more you cook it. 
  9. Mash the beans to your desired consistency. I like to have some mashed and some left whole, texture is an important part of how humans enjoy their food. If the bean mixture is too loose (too much moisture) cook uncovered for a few more minutes stirring occasionally until the desired consistency is achieved. The ideal texture will mound on a tortilla chip and not drip off.
  10. Add the lime juice and chopped cilantro. Stir and taste for seasoning. If you want more tang, add more lime juice. If you want more flavour, add more salt.
  11. Grate Cotija cheese over the beans at serving time. This funky, salty, traditional Mexican cheese can be difficult to find but is worth it.
  12. Serve warm in tacos and burritos. Your vegetarian friends (vegan without the cheese) will be very thankful for this protein rich, delicious, meat alternative. 


  • I prefer Canadian grown black beans, but Canadian grown pinto beans work just as well) soaked overnight in at least 8 cups cold water and 2 tsp of baking soda and 2 Tbsp of sea salt. Remove any beans that float and discard those – indicates the beans are old or inferior.
  • Try substituting sheep milk feta if you can’t find Cotija
  • Keeps well for up to 1 week in the fridge. As the beans sit in the fridge, they will release moisture which may pool in the container. That is normal, just mix it back in and warm the beans before serving. A squeeze of fresh lime juice will brighten up the flavour of the left-over beans.


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