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How To Make Refried Pinto Beans

Updated on February 19, 2017
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Ms. Venegas experiments with Mexican foods under the watchful critiques of her husband. The recipes need to pass a "when I was a kid" test.

Making Mexican Refried Beans From Scratch

Nothing goes better with Mexican food than refried beans on the side. It is true, at one time in my life I only knew the kind you get in the can.

One can not beat the taste of making the pinto beans and doing homemade refried beans yourself. Get tips on freezing pinto beans below.

In 1981 I married Edward Venegas, the eldest of thirteen from Echo Park in Los Angeles via Guadalajara, Mexico. I don't know when I made my first pot of beans but there was plenty of know how from Cuca, Ed's mother, and watching any one of his seven sisters in the kitchen at their home near downtown Los Angeles.

Why eat the beans? Read a brief about that at the end of this article.

dried pinto beans
dried pinto beans

The Bean Is A New World Export

The other half of the world did not have beans until the Spanish brought them back to Europe from Peru. Pinto means "painted" in reference to the light brown splotches on the pinto bean.

When cooked the pinto turns a light pink brown. The cooking water is slightly thick, flavorful, and a deep taupe hue.

Sorting pinto beans
Sorting pinto beans

How to Cook Pinto Beans


Take a little less than four cups of dried beans and sort through them to clear out stones and debris. Broken ones do not matter. Rinse in a sieve till clean.

No need to soak but allow at least three hours stove time.

Use a 5 quart pan with a lid. Choose the heaviest pan you own, however, anything will work. Cover beans with three inches of water over the top of the beans. Remember that the beans will expand. Have about three more inches of pan left for expanding.

Bean Cooking Pot

Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Stockpot with Cover, 6-Quart
Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Stockpot with Cover, 6-Quart

My pot is different but it is stainless steel and a 6 qt. pot makes plenty of beans for freezing. My household is always disappointed if I do not have home cooked pintos in the freezer for refried beans, soups or salads.

I have the satisfaction of using the same pot for decades.


Set Pan on Burner to Start Cooking Pinto Beans


Fire it up with medium heat. A slow start will cause less breakage for salads, and other whole bean dishes. It may take 45 minutes or more to get a low boil going. Check the pot and adjust the heat for a steady simmer.

Now you check occasionally to add hot water and give it a very gentle stir with a wooden spoon. Don't forget because at this stage the beans will absorb the water and the pot will need replenishing of water.

In less than an hour you will have a house full of fresh pinto bean aroma. They will be tender between 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hrs after the first hot simmer. Test for desired tenderness.

Done. Turn off the fire.


The cooked beans will have a slightly thick sauce that you will use when mashing. I like mashed beans with lots of liquid. Like hot pudding texture or thick tomato sauce. So it sticks to a tortilla but doesn't run off. Not that thick canned stuff.

Now for the mashing. How to make the refried beans.

Recently, my husband and I were thinking the refried beans needed new flavor. I have gone back to adding a scant 1/2 teaspoon of lard. That practice is not vegetarian, but variations can make refried beans wholly vegan. Fry the lard, or your favorite oil, for half a minute and add the pinto beans.

My family of four are light eaters so about four ladles of beans and the liquid go into the pan. This is the time to add the salt and a touch of garlic or onion powder. Lower heat and mash with a potato masher. Add more beans, salt or liquid to adjust consistency and taste. Add water if you need to or heat some more for thicker beans.

Simple, isn't it? Add any extra taste ingredients just before serving.

Serve with carne asada, pulled pork, chicken or seasoned ground beef or turkey, red rice and tortillas. Bring out your favorite bottled red and green salsa.

Optional garnishes are green onion, cilantro, sliced radishes, shredded crisp lettuce, Mexican cheese or Jack cheese.

Swapmeet Pinto Beans
Swapmeet Pinto Beans

Buying Dried Pinto Beans

I can only speak for Southern California. The standard grocery market like Ralph's, Vons etc. have bulk pinto beans in produce and packaged in the dried beans section usually near the rice. I have a Latino swap meet near my house and I buy the beans there. I asked the vendor and he buys direct from the farmer.

Dried beans will store well for up to a year in an airtight container.

Outdoor Market - Patzcuaro, Mexico

How to Make Black Beans

My husband's family was from Jalisco State and pintos were their mainstay. Black beans are used in Vera Cruz with the more Caribbean favors of that area. The swap meet vendor has the black beans next to the pintos and they look so colorful with the rich black hue and the white dot on each bean.

The other week I bought a couple of pounds. Ed remarks, "Why are you buying those?"

"Marcy and I are experimenting with a soup we found on a can. We want to use dried beans instead of canned."

Cooking the black beans was just as easy as the pintos. They were smaller and it took less time to cook. I used the same method as above. The soup was delicious.

Look for it below in related topics.

Freeze cooked pinto beans
Freeze cooked pinto beans

Freeze The Beans for Later

A big pot of beans means you have beans to freeze for later. I have used, for thirty years, the square round small Tupperware containers. They fill to just the right amount for a family meal. I will get four or five containers to put in the freezer from my pot. Save some of the thick liquid with each container.

Remember to let the beans cool before freezing.

This method is so easy for having beans handy to refry on a later day.

Making your own beans will cut your salt and over the years save you money too.

What Does The Pinto Bean Contain?

The pinto bean or any related bean like navy, kidney and black beans are excellent sources of fiber and folate. Fiber is essential for good digestive health, and it is known to help the cardiovascular system. The protein and sugars in beans are slow burning to help stabilize blood sugar levels to avoid spikes in energy.

There is zero cholesterol in dried and canned pinto beans. But avoid canned beans if you want some control over your salt intake.

Dried cooked beans have zero fat.

All choices of beans are also good sources of potassium, magnesium, vitamin B1, iron and tryptophan, an essential amino acid.

Beans are one of those foods like fruits and vegetables that we should add to our diets to optimize our health and well being.

photo by liza31337


En dondequiera se cuesen habas.

Beans are cooked everywhere.


If you try hard enough, you can accomplish almost anything.


Aranda, Charles. Dichos. Proverbs and Sayings From the Spanish. New Mexico: Sunstone Press, 1977.

Let me know if this has convinced you to cook your own refried beans. Of course, the vegetarian can be assured that their beans are just what they want when cooked at home.

© 2008 Sherry Venegas

Do you like rice and beans?

Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    EmergencyPrepar 4 years ago

    I just started cooking my own beans a couple of months ago and we LOVE them. I have not found a recipe for Mexican rice yet that I really like. I've tried several but maybe I don't like rice that much? I'll keep experimenting.

  • justDawn1 profile image

    justDawn1 4 years ago

    I love beans & rice & also refried beans & black beans! Thanks so much for the help...I've been to embarrassed to ask friends! :) I'm bookmarking this lens!

  • cheech1981 profile image

    cheech1981 5 years ago

    i love pinto beans, and it seems like everyone is always picking black beans over pinto when i'm in the burrito line at mexican post express...but the nutritional value is comparable...i'm a fan. :) nice mexican recetas thanks!

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    I love refried beans when I go to a Mexican restaurant but have never made them myself. Yes, I sure do like rice and bean, they are yummy good! Once when I was at a Mexican restaurant I could taste that the beans were burnt, others at my table thought they were okay. The waitress told the manager, he came to the table and asked if the beans had a chocolaty taste initially, guess they're supposed to have that and mine didn't. He left to go check them and came back to say I was right, they were burned and there was no chocolaty taste and brought me rice as a substitute side dish. I've always wondered if they just served all those beans anyway.

  • Frischy profile image

    Frischy 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

    Terrifico! My daughter loves refried beans and I always wondered how I could make them at home. This is very helpful information, and especially since they can be frozen too. I never thought of that before. This is excellent! Thank you!

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