Semi-Homemade Refried Beans Recipe

Refriend Beans

I know that not everyone has the time to cook up a big pot of beans from scratch. It’s not difficult but it does take some time. And even though I have more time available to cook than most people, I often use canned beans. They’re just so convenient!

But I’ll tell you one thing. Now that I discovered how great these taste and how easy they are to make, I am never using canned refried beans again! Yes, I did start with canned pinto beans, but what I ended up with was a bowl of rich creamy beans that I would never have guessed originated from a can if I hadn’t dumped them out myself!

There’s a reason these beans were so creamy and delicious and I’ll give you one hint… the secret ingredient is not olive oil!

It’s bacon grease.

And although I’m sure my vegetarian and vegan readers will be able to give some helpful hints for those of you who cringed at the last sentence, I stand by my ingredient list.

As good as these beans were, I’m positive that they would be even better if you made them completely from scratch. And for that, I will send you over to talk to Lisa, because if anyone knows a thing or two about refried beans, it’s a Homesick Texan.

But for a quick side dish, these semi-homemade refried beans really can’t be beat. I got the recipe from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday cookbook and he gives you the option to start from scratch or use canned beans. Obviously, I chose the latter. Rick also gives you the option to use vegetable oil instead of bacon drippings. So yes, all joking aside, this can easily turn into a vegetarian recipe.

The best part is that you can use just about any type of beans you want. I used pinto beans because I happened to have them in my pantry but you could easily substitute black beans (they would be great with some lime juice and cilantro stirred in) or whatever other type of beans you want to experiment with. And of course, you can get as creative as you want with the seasonings.

But these are the beans I made last night and I don’t think I’ll change a thing next time.

Semi-Homemade Refried Beans Recipe
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3 tablespoons bacon drippings (or vegetable oil)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 15-ounce cans of pinto beans

Salt, to taste


In a large skillet, heat bacon drippings over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or two. Add the beans with their liquid and start smashing them with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon. Keep stirring and mashing until you get the texture that you like then continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the beans are the consistency of soft mashed potatoes. Taste and season with salt if needed.

Recipe adapted from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

Recipe adapted from theΒ Fried Beans recipe in Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

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  1. Ruby

    Bacon grease is definitely something that should be used with refried beans. We Mexican’s can cofirm that, however if you want the flavor kicked up a notch what you do is add a few (fresh) serrano chilis to fry in the bacon grease before you add the beans. You don’t cut the chilis, you add them whole. It doesn’t spice up the beans (as long as the chili’s remain whole) but it does give it a wonderful aroma and flavor. I highly recommend trying it this way. Fresh jalapenos work too, but serranos are preferable.
    I also like to add shredded cheese on top…mmmmm!

    5:00 pm  Nov 6th, 2007
  2. Deborah

    I keep bacon drippings in my fridge – this would be the perfect recipe to use some of it with!!

    5:37 pm  Nov 6th, 2007
  3. Curt

    Ruby, what SHOULDN’T bacon grease be used with??? I’m not sure I can even think of anything that wouldn’t benefit from a bit of bacon grease (other than my arteries) πŸ™‚

    8:06 pm  Nov 6th, 2007
  4. Summer

    Sounds easy enough… yum!!!

    8:21 pm  Nov 6th, 2007
  5. Jonathan

    Oh YES! Just keep the cat calm around all that bacon. Bacon grease is brilliant! I love it in my carbonara. Why not beans, soups, ice cream….mmmmm.

    9:11 pm  Nov 6th, 2007
  6. Sandy

    I used to make them from scratch and they were good, but what isn’t with bacon fat?
    Sad to say, we had to switch to fat free refried beans for health reasons.

    10:12 pm  Nov 6th, 2007
  7. Evie

    I also keep my bacon drippings in the fridge because it is just too darn good with so many things. These beans are on my “to do” list!

    12:36 am  Nov 7th, 2007
  8. Steven

    Nicole! Bacon drippings? *cough* clogged arteries? In the slow cooker I have found that smoked hamhocks or something like that works really good. Now I am going to have to cook some bacon *cough* and give it a whirl.

    2:12 am  Nov 7th, 2007
  9. Nicole

    Ruby: Thanks for the tip, I’ll have to try it when I get back to California. We don’t have serrano chilis here but we can get jalapenos at the store on base (for about ten bucks a pound!!!!). I’m sure Italian chilis wouldn’t be bad but it’s just not quite the same. I won’t be making these again until after the move anyway…used up all the beans in the pantry, now I’ve got to use up the canned tomatoes!

    Deborah: I do the same thing sometimes. But lately, if I cook bacon in the morning I usually try to figure out a way to use the drippings by dinnertime πŸ™‚ Usually I only cook about half a pack of bacon at a time so I don’t end up with that much to save anyway!

    Curt: Very true πŸ™‚ Sometimes if I have some bacon grease sitting around from breakfast, I’ll make some savory muffins to go with dinner and use some of the bacon grease instead of oil. Whole wheat cheddar muffins made with bacon drippings are wonderful!

    Summer: Very easy and a million times better than the stuff in the can!

    Jonathan: Bacon ice cream? Hmmmmm…maybe. πŸ™‚

    Sandy: Yes, if you have to cut back on fat for health reasons, these aren’t the best option!

    Evie: Hope you like them!

    Steven: Didn’t you hear? Lard is the new “good fat!” πŸ˜‰

    6:45 am  Nov 7th, 2007
  10. Kevin

    I was just looking for a refried beans recipe. This one looks good.

    12:10 am  Nov 8th, 2007
  11. Dexter

    I’m making it tonight and its gonna be good!!!!!!!!

    12:53 pm  Jan 9th, 2008
  12. chief

    Just wanted to say thanks for this recipe. I am making a 7 layer dip and I almost feel bad for using these beans. They are finger-lickin’ good! First time I’ve made home-made re-fried beans and I may never ever buy them “canned” again.

    I added about 1/2 a small white onion and sauteed for about 5 minutes before adding the garlic.

    3:24 pm  Feb 2nd, 2008
  13. Nicole

    I was also planning on making a 7 layer dip for the superbowl tomorrow. You’re right, though. These beans are almost too good to cover up with all those other things πŸ˜‰

    4:14 pm  Feb 2nd, 2008
  14. Valerie

    Does anyone use anything OTHER than bacon grease? Just curious, if I dont have any on hand.


    2:42 pm  Feb 25th, 2008
  15. Nicole

    Valerie, you can use any kind of oil for these. The bacon grease adds some extra flavor but I’ve made them with olive oil and they’re still good. Any vegetable oil would be fine.

    3:39 pm  Feb 25th, 2008
  16. Drinda Howell

    Sounds delicious! But, for another twist on bacon grease — use it to make homemade popcorn instead of microwave. To die for.

    11:13 am  May 3rd, 2008
  17. victoria

    ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww bacon grease that disgusting………….even for me , a meat-eater that just weird

    2:29 pm  May 11th, 2008
  18. jim

    Since bacon has a lot of sodium/nitrite/nitrate etc, I use a technique that adds a few minutes to preparation, but yields very nice drippings (grease). I cover the bacon slices with water, bring just to a simmer, swish them around to remove any stuff that has been exuded, remove slices from frypan, pour off yucky water, wipe with paper towel, then fry those bacon, as Jacques Pepin might say. If you don’t overheat the grease, it’s very pale and tasty in recipes. I’m gonna use some in yo’ refried beans recipe!

    3:04 pm  Jun 5th, 2008
  19. colleen

    Thanks for the super easy recipe!

    I just made these for our taco night dinner…so delicious! I added some green Tobasco and Adobo seasoning. Next time I will add canned green chilis. Plus I got to have a BLT for lunch so I had some fresh rendered bacon fat! πŸ˜‰

    4:10 pm  Jul 28th, 2008
  20. Stephanie

    I made these tonight… I did use olive oil though, as I never have bacon grease on hand. I followed everything exactly, and I have to say they came out great. I was somewhat skeptical too, considering the easiness of the recipe. One note–if you don’t like things too salty, which how much you add. The liquid in the can is salty itself and you may not need more.

    10:32 pm  Aug 23rd, 2008
  21. Dave

    Here are more Bacon Grease recipes here…

    12:37 pm  Oct 7th, 2008
  22. PL

    Hi! I found this entry through a random google search. I just made the beans and they’re great! I’ve used many other recipes and they never came out quite like these did. I used vegetable oil instead of bacon grease (no bacon at home! grr…) and only one can of pinto beans (b/c I didn’t read carefully enough to see that I was supposed to use 2!) but the consistency and taste is great. Reminds me of El Pollo Loco’s, actually… Super easy and super tasty! I can’t wait to try it with the bacon drippings.

    2:49 pm  Dec 5th, 2008
  23. Donna | The Healthy Eating Site

    Cooking your own beans is soooo much nicer than anything you can get in a can. It doesn’t have to be a chore either. I use my crock pot for beautiful beans. Beans are a little more hassle than most slow cooker meals because you have to bring them to a boil on the stove, and keep at a rolling boil for 10 minutes (especially important for kidney beans, take note all you chili lovers) before putting them in the crock pot. But it’s worth it!

    2:55 am  Jan 8th, 2009
  24. Dave

    Be sure to add your Bacon Grease and Bean recipe here and have others rate it!

    10:04 am  Jan 8th, 2009
  25. TR

    Thanks so much for this recipe!
    We just made these beans and they are GREAT!
    Our days of eating canned re-fried beans are happily put behind us.

    6:50 pm  Jan 8th, 2009
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  27. AMANDA

    I used this recipe except i boiled my own pinto beans and it came out so good real soul food along with some enchiladas and rice youll be set

    3:41 pm  Mar 10th, 2009
  28. Scott

    I’ve made ’em with manteca (lard), bacon grease and no oil at all. Although they taste better with fat, fat free is still much better than anything you can get in a can

    2:55 am  Mar 28th, 2009
  29. Angela

    These turned out great! I added a little onion powder, cumin and chili powder, too.

    8:45 am  Apr 8th, 2009
  30. Pat

    The trick to making flavorful homemade beans is to make them yourself w/fresh ingredients….combine 1 1/2 lbs of pinto beans, about 5 garlic cloves cut in half, 1/2 an onion diced (if you don’t like onion but want the flavor cut onion in half and throw in the whole halve, this way when beans are done all you have to do is pull out the halved onion) and salt. Bring to a boil then place on low/med fire w/lid and slow cook for about 3hrs. Then once they’re done you can use the bacon grease to refry some of the homemade beans you made!!! and place the beans you have left over in freezer bags once they’re cooled and place in freezer this way whenever you need beans…all you have to do is pull out the bag and refry them in your bacon grease!!! My momma taught me this!! I PROMISE YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!!

    9:47 am  Apr 16th, 2009
  31. Nicole

    Pat: You’re right, homemade beans are definitely the best! Thanks for the instructions!

    3:30 pm  Apr 16th, 2009
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  33. Nancy

    I don’t mind using bacon occasionally to flavor foods, but I have been trying to avoid animal fat. So…I used extra virgin coconut oil and a tiny bit of hickory liquid smoke instead, and it came out GREAT. I used coconut oil a lot, read the Wikipedia article on it. It’s not the dangerous fat people used to think it was.

    7:40 pm  May 23rd, 2009
  34. Terri

    I just wanted to tell you I tried this tonight and it was very good. The beans were not bland as they usually are out of the can. the only thing I would do different next time is to drain a little bit of the liquid from the cans before adding to the frying pan. It took quite a while to cook down the the consistency I wanted. The taste was to die for though! Thanks!

    5:00 pm  Sep 12th, 2009
  35. Julie Beaver

    If you don’t have bacon grease, just use the old stand-by, olive oil. It doesn’t have the full flavor that bacon grease adds, but it adds a nice flavor.

    3:08 pm  Mar 26th, 2010
  36. Stacey E

    I tried making refried beans from a mix of recipes, and I found that adding even a small amount of salt made my beans too salty.
    I also used canned beans; a combo of kidney and pinto beans, and I’m guessing the water they’re packed in must have had salt in it already. I just assumed those cans were purely just beans and water, never tried reading the labels. So some people who aren’t salt fans will want to not add salt at all.

    2:14 pm  May 23rd, 2010
  37. Nicole

    I’m making a Meatless Mexican feast tonight for some flexitarian friends. I don’t have bacon grease so I’ll try it with some wholesome chicken fat drippings I’ve had waiting for just such an occasion in my freezer. God-given, natural fats are so much healthier over the long term than heart-damaging seed oil! Plenty of low-impact exercise is so important, too… But that’s another topic… I didn’t prepare ahead of time for dried so I was relieved to find this recipe with the canned beans! Thanks for posting.

    2:27 pm  Jun 18th, 2010
  38. greenjeans

    I add cheese and a little honey. Mmmm!

    2:47 pm  Nov 4th, 2010
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  40. Elfette

    Finally a good recipe for refried beans, no more canned ones for me! This is a great recipe and just so easy to halve for the two of us. Thanks for the keeper!

    5:20 pm  Apr 29th, 2011
  41. C Hall

    I grew up in a Mexican household so homemade beans were a must! As our lives get busier and busier I too have used the canned bean method. I just put all the same ingredients my mother did. She added ONIONS to SMOKED BACON GREASE- she says letting it smoke a little is the key- add BEANS, CHEDDER CHEESE, GARLIC POWDER, SALT, PEPPER, and CUMIN. Cook till soft and mash. Yum!

    7:45 am  May 14th, 2011
  42. Whateve

    To all the VEGANS and VEGHEADS……Get over the fact that us normal people are carnivores and this recipe calls for bacon grease drippings! It’s ridiculous that the author has to call you out in fear of being back lashed for using bacon drippings.

    PETA really stands for….People for Eating Tasty Animals. =)

    8:49 am  Nov 5th, 2011
  43. Steph

    I can’t wait to try this tonight with olive oil. I’m one of those abnormal VEGANS and VEGHEADS that Whateve obviously loathes. How sad to feel so small inside that you have to lash out anonymously on the internet to people you don’t even know.

    Thanks for the recipe!!

    6:45 pm  Nov 17th, 2011
  44. Angela

    Use coconut oil! works great & healthy.

    5:28 pm  Mar 19th, 2012
  45. Stacey

    This is a great alternative to the can!!! I used my immersion blender and it worked great! Thanks for the tips!!

    5:20 pm  Apr 23rd, 2012
  46. LeAnne

    Wow!!! I was so excited to find this recipe!!! I made this to add to a Taco Pizza I made this evening and I will never buy canned refried beans again!!!

    I had one can of Pinto Beans Low Sodium and one can of Black Beans Low Sodium. It so rocked!!!! Thanks for sharing the recipe!!! Love it!!! Love it!!!

    6:45 pm  May 26th, 2012
  47. MelisaBerry

    To the ones commenting about the bacon grease being weird or nasty or wrong, I really have to ask what is wrong with you? Seriously. Do you not know that bacon grease has been a standard staple of cooking basically since bacon was pulled off the first pig? It is as traditional and old school in cooking as you can get. Do you really think in the days before grocery stores that your great great grandmothers had bottles of hydrogenated vegetable oil around? Its the same with lard. No one was dropping off from clogged arteries and heart attacks in droves then from a little of either. Its the processed and prepared and artificial junk thats killing us. There is nothing wrong with bacon grease. Learn your culinary history!

    I will be making this tonight with white beans. I used to love the refried white bean tostadas they used to serve us in college. Its an awesome alternative to black or pinto.

    12:46 pm  May 30th, 2012
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  49. G

    Reduce the chances of being gassy when you eat beans by discarding the can juice and rinsing the beans under cold running water. (Or if you cooked dry beans, discard the cooking water and rinse).

    8:40 am  Feb 13th, 2013
  50. Stacey E.

    Oh, Melissa Barry, perhaps you should study up on your medical history. Claiming nobody ever dropped dead from heart attacks and clogged arteries from cooking “the traditional (animal fat laden) way” is a giant lie. Sure, artificial stuff is bad for you, but constantly cooking with animal fat is, too. Just because you don’t like the fact, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
    The difference between now and then is advances in medical technology, and the knowledge of what we’re consuming in relation to poor health. People used to just die of “natural causes”, now we know that many of them died with serious medical issues. We never bothered studying it back in “the good old days”. We used to just let people die in their 50’s and 60’s and thought nothing of it.
    Anyway, I squashed my beans this time with a hand blender. Why not, right?

    10:22 am  Oct 21st, 2013
  51. Allegra

    What does the “T” stand for? Tablespoon? Teaspoon?

    1:29 pm  Dec 21st, 2013
  52. Rhonda

    Allegra, ‘T’ (upper-case) stands for Tablespoon. ‘t’ (lower-case) stands for teaspoon.

    5:26 pm  Feb 20th, 2014
  53. Emee

    After the bacon drippings have cooled, freeze them in a container.
    Just scrape out what you need when cooking.
    Lasts forever and you never run out :))))

    Also, ground cumin and some chili powder added to the beans is delish.

    11:25 am  Apr 6th, 2015
  54. Lisa Higdon

    Yes, indeed, some things just gotta have bacon grease πŸ™‚ I find you can use 1 part bacon grease, 2 parts olive oil with good results – if it’s something we eat often. Occasionally, I go all out and fix a big skillet of fried potatoes in bacon grease. Drain on a paper towels and top with chopped green onion!

    8:34 am  Jan 19th, 2016
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