From Our Pantry: Homemade Traditional and Fat-free Refried Beans

This is an oldie but goodie thanks to my dear friend Sumiko over at Near to Nothing!

One of my favorite ingredients is dry beans.  They are economical, easy, nutritious, and versatile (e.g. hummus, taco salad, chili, and burritos).  I’ve been cooking and serving dried beans for quite a few years, but a little over a year ago, I started using them to make refried beans.  I make a huge pot full of them and freeze them in small portions for future use.

They make a great side dish for taco night!!

Traditional refried beans are made with lard (or bacon drippings).  While not the healthiest way to eat beans, definitely one of the tastiest in my opinion.  If you’re willing to give up authenticity, you can make homemade fat-free refried beans.

Not only do I work to get the most food and nutrition for my money, I also like to get the most for my money when it comes to kitchen gadgets.  This means using them for more than their marketed use.  If a tool or utensil only has one specific use, you probably won’t find it in my kitchen.  No salad spinner here!  Consequently, my potato masher is used for more than just mashing potatoes:  sweet potato casserole, guacamole, baby food, cookie crumbs, and refried beans.

Traditional Refried Beans

  • 1 lb. dry pinto beans (about 2½ c.), rinsed and drained
  • 6 c. water
  • ¼ c. lard or bacon drippings (do not substitute vegetable shortening)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ Tbsp. cumin
  • Sprinkle of cayenne pepper (optional)

Put beans and water in crock pot.  Cook on high until beans are very tender, about 5-6 hours, adding water as needed to keep beans covered.  In a large skillet, melt lard over medium heat.  Add beans, cooking liquid, salt, garlic, cumin, and cayenne.  Mash beans with back of spoon or potato masher.  Cook, uncovered, about 10 minutes, stirring often, until desired consistency.  Yield:  about 6 cups (about 54 oz.).  Total cost:  less than $2!!!

Fat-free Refried Beans

  • 2 lb. dry pinto beans (about 5 c.), rinsed and drained
  • ½-¾ large onion, roughly chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 3 Tbsp. cumin
  • ½ Tbsp. dried oregano
  • ½ Tbsp. paprika
  • Sprinkle of cayenne pepper
  • 12 c. water
  • 4 tsp. salt, more or less depending on preference

Everything will be mashed later so just crudely chop the onions and smash the garlic.

In large crock pot, place all ingredients except salt.  Cook on high 5-6 hours, until beans are very tender, adding water as needed to keep beans covered.  Ladle out 3-4 c. cooking liquid, reserve.

The seasonings will settle to the bottom of the reserved liquids. Be sure to stir before using when adjusting consistency.

Stir in salt.  Mash beans with back of spoon or potato masher.  Add reserved liquid as needed for proper consistency.  Adjust salt if needed.

Yield:  about 12 cups. (about 110 oz.).  Total cost:  about $3.50!!!

Refried beans can be topped with cheese and served as a side dish or used to fill burritos and chimichangas.  They are also great for bean dip or seven layer dip.  Yum!


  1. Kristy Wilson via Facebook says

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!! Just this weekend I was thinking I needed to figure out a cheaper way to have refried beans. My daughter’s favorite meal is a bean burrito, but at $1 a can, they can get pricey quick!

  2. Kristy says

    I TOTALLY needed this! A couple of questions (some dumb, I know):
    1. Where do I get lard? Am I better off just saving the bacon grease next time we have bacon? (I threw some away last week and am kicking myself.)
    2. Do I need a cast iron skillet? I don’t have one.
    3. What’s the best way to store them, and how long will they keep?

    Thanks for your help!!!

    • Anonymous says

      1- Find lard either in the meat section or next to the shortening.
      2- I use my regular skillet and it works great.
      3- I’ve put them in bags or freezer proof bowls, and they’re usually good for a couple of months if there’s very little air. Of course they rarely last that long at my house – we love our beans!

      Thanks Julia and Sumiko for sharing! I’m off to check out your site!

  3. Emily says

    I have been making my refried beans using this crockpot method for over a year now. It is so easy, healthy, and they freeze great! Plus you can buy a huge bag of pinto beans at my Costco for really cheap. I’ll never go back to buying refried beans again!

  4. lili says

    Just checked out the “Near to Nothing” site and i already plan on using some of their recipes tonight. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Ronni says

    What a coincidence……I have a Crock Pot full of beans cooking as I type this. You know growing up the Potato Masher was known as the “Bean Masher” in our Mexican household…LOL!
    I was visiting my mother yesterday and she had just fried some fresh beans and had just made some fresh homemade corn tortillas (my favorite)….it was soooo good, so I decided to make some myself!
    I don’t make beans very often because they tend to go bad before we can eat them all, I never thought about freezing them, I will definitely do that now!

  6. Samantha says

    Ok so my husband goes on and in about how growing up is favorite thing was going to a friends house and there was always beans and rice on the stove. I have mastered the beans but I can’t cook authentic Mexican rice I have followed tons of recipies, does anyone have a good way for very authentic Mexican rice or honduran rice which is still white???

    • Ronni says

      I happen to be cooking some right now…..I usually don’t measure anything, but I’ll give it a try:
      1 cup of white long grain rice; 1 Tablespoon oil; 2 cups water with about 1 Tablespoon of Chicken Boullion (you can use 1 can of chicken broth instead); 1 clove of Garlic, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. ground pepper or to taste (I usually use my Molcajete and ground the Garlic, with cumin seeds and pepper corns); 1 small can of tomato sauce; salt if needed.

      I simply fry the rice until browned in the oil, than add the garlic, cumin and pepper. Immediately add the tomato sauce and chicken broth/water boullion. Taste the liquid for salt add some if it needs it, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until tender.

      Like I said….I never measure anything so the measurements may not be accurate…gotta go….my rice is done!

    • Anonymous says

      1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water ( chicken broth)
      1 4 oz can tomato sauce
      Oil to coat rice, not saturated
      Bullion to taste

      Brown rice in oil, add tomato sauce and stir, add water or broth. If using just water, add bullion to taste. Boil on low heat for 20 minutes or until rice is ready.

  7. Kristy says

    Just got back from Target and grabbed a 2lb bag of beans for $3.14. I’m going to try this tomorrow. Can’t wait to see how they turn out!!

  8. LeAnna McAllister says

    I haven’t bought refried beans in years. I make mine differently than the recipe above but once you make them yourself, you’ll never go back!! I’m ALWAYS asked to bring the refried beans (and apple cobbler, lol) to any get together and I’ve learned to just bring a recipe card so they can write the recipe down.

  9. Regina says

    I have never pre-soaked my beans Lynne. I remember my mother soaking them when I was little tho. And when she taught me how to make beans, she never mentioned I needed to!

    A caucasian friend of mine once asked me if I had a potato smasher… I told her “No, but I have a bean smasher if that will work?” LOL I have never called it a potato smasher in my life!! Just made me laugh when Sumiko mentioned it..

  10. Cheri Lynn Chavez via Facebook says

    I just put this recipe in the crockpot…they’ll be done by morning. I do this at least once a month to keep stocked. My cost is less than $3.50 though…my cost is about $1.50 for this recipe.

    • Sumiko says

      Wow! That’s great! Where do you buy your pintos? It used to cost me less than $2/pot, but I just heard that the price of pintos at our WinCo went way up–might need to find a new source.

  11. Kristy says

    My fingers are crossed. I didn’t measure my crockpot before I dumped the water in and I only got about 8 or 10 cups of water in. I’m hoping it still works!


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