Healthy Refried Beans

By Ann Fulton

Quick and easy to make with pantry staples, homemade refried beans add filling, plant-based protein to a variety of meals and form the flavorful foundation to one of my go-to speedy dinners!
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Quick and easy to make with pantry staples, homemade refried beans add filling, plant-based protein to a variety of meals and form the flavorful foundation to one of my go-to speedy dinners!

 

Beans can be a hard sell for some. Their reputation precedes them and they don’t look especially pretty.

So if you happen to be gazing at this picture of seemingly mushy beans and wondering why the heck you should make them, I ask you to trust me and read on.

Not only is this recipe simple to make with inexpensive pantry ingredients, it forms a flavorful base for one of my family’s favorite quick and easy meals.

Casual and fun, Speedy Mexican Pizzas (pictured below) offer a protein and fiber-rich meatless meal that is hearty enough for those who gravitate towards meat on their plate. For added appeal, they can be enhanced with a flexible list of fresh ingredients.

Incredibly easy, healthy, satisfying - and endlessly customizable.

The very best part, however, may be how these nontraditional pizzas always garner far more oohs and ahhs than the effort seems to merit. (Don’t you love it when that happens?) As a bonus, leftovers offer a welcome lunch.

Spoiler alert: you may use canned refried beans for the pizzas (and I have many times), although the texture and flavor of the homemade alternative is a step up and can be adjusted to taste. It can also be made in advance in mere minutes.

Of course, there are many more ways to enjoy refried beans, and I’ve offered some suggestions below. But first, the photos below illustrate the ease of this one-pot recipe: a brief sauté followed by a covered simmer, a few more minutes uncovered, and then a quick mash.

Don’t have a potato masher? A dinner fork can be used instead.

While the contents of the pot may not look particularly beautiful, the flavor is there. For those who would like the beans to score points for visual appeal, I’ve shared topping and garnish options within the recipe card.

Quick and easy to make with pantry staples, homemade refried beans add filling, plant-based protein to a variety of meals and form the flavorful foundation to one of my go-to speedy dinners!

The first step involves sautéing an onion until tender and then adding garlic and a short list of spices. Two cans of rinsed and drained pinto beans and a half cup of water are then added, and the mixture is cooked, covered, for five minutes.

Quick and easy to make with pantry staples, homemade refried beans add filling, plant-based protein to a variety of meals and form the flavorful foundation to one of my go-to speedy dinners!

At this point, use a potato masher or fork to mash at least half of the beans, or until your desired consistency is reached. Continue to cook the beans, uncovered, stirring often, for 2 to 3 more minutes. Now is the time to add more water to achieve your desired consistency. (I add water to one of the empty bean cans and add several  generous splashes to achieve a consistency that is loose but not runny.) Finally, stir in the lime juice and cilantro (skip the latter if not a fan) and adjust seasonings to taste. 

Quick and easy to make with pantry staples, homemade refried beans add filling, plant-based protein to a variety of meals and form the flavorful foundation to one of my go-to speedy dinners!

Of course, if you opt for homemade refried beans instead of the canned variety, you may wish to enjoy the creamier texture and fresher flavor in other meals as well. Following are some simple ways to incorporate more of these heart-healthy, fiber-rich legumes into your weekly meal plan.

Other ways to enjoy refried beans

  • In Salsa Verde Chicken Bowls
  • As the “sauce” on Speedy Mexican Pizzas
  • As a wholesome, warm dip with tortilla chips
  • And you can ratchet up that dip a notch by spreading on a platter and topping with traditional taco toppings like chopped lettuce, tomatoes and/or salsa, avocado or guacamole, black olives, shredded cheese, as so on
  • In tacos, burritos, and quesadillas
  • As a simple side dish to any Tex-Mex or Mexican meal
  • For added protein, fiber, and nutrients, get creative and spread a layer over grilled or baked chicken, and then top with the aforementioned taco-type toppings
  • To thicken soup, whether a bean-based recipe or Mexican-inspired variety, like Chicken Tortilla Soup
Healthy Refried Beans
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 13 minutes
Total Time: 18 minutes
Yield: 6 servings (~ 3 cups)
Quick and easy to make with pantry staples, homemade refried beans add healthy, plant-based protein to a variety of meals and form the flavorful foundation of one of my go-to speedy dinners!
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon (14ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ a small yellow or white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans low-sodium pinto beans, rinsed and drained (or 3 cups cooked pinto beans)
  • ½ cup (4oz) water, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Optional topping: crumbled cotija cheese (or crumbled feta or shredded cheddar for a worthy substitute)
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and are translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, salt, chili powder and cumin. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the drained beans and water. Stir, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and remove the lid. Use a potato masher or fork to mash at least half of the beans, or until your desired consistency is reached. Continue to cook the beans, uncovered, stirring often, for 2 to 3 more minutes. At this point, you may add more water to achieve your desired consistency. (I add water to one of the empty bean cans and usually add several splashes to achieve a consistency that is loose but not runny.)
  4. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Taste, and add more salt and/or lime juice if necessary. Cover until ready to serve, topping with cotija cheese if desired.
Notes

Optional toppings can be use to add a hint of extra flavor and visual appeal. Possibilities include additional chopped fresh cilantro, snipped chives, crumbled cotija or feta cheese, lime wedges, sliced jalapeños–even chopped avocado or minced bell pepper.

Ways to enjoy: refried beans are delicious as a side to Mexican and Tex-Mex meals, in tacos, burritos and quesadillas, as a dip, and in Speedy Mexican Pizzas.

Nutrition per serving: Calories 145, total fat 3 gm, saturated fat 0.4 gm, cholesterol 0 mg, protein 7 gm, sodium 100 mg, carbohydrates 23 gm, fiber 8 gm

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Quick & easy to make with pantry staples, loaded with healthy, plant-based protein, and the flavorful foundation of one of my go-to speedy dinners!

For its crisp crunch, lettuce in one of the toppings I always include. (Chopped hearts of romaine or even iceberg lettuce work well.) But as I was making the pizzas recently, I realized that I was completely lettuce-less. I did, however, have a bag of cabbage slaw, so I whipped up this Tex-Mex-inspired slaw ⇩⇩ and piled that on top after baking.

Cumin Lime Coleslaw's crisp texture, vibrant flavor and impressive versatility might just make this super simple side dish a new favorite!

The oohs and ahhs were just a little louder thanks to this new twist, and the effort was still quite minimal. (For those who may be inclined to try, the slaw holds up well over several days in the fridge, making leftovers a treat. It can also be used in traditional or fish tacos, burrito-type bowls, burgers, sloppy Joes, turkey sandwiches, or served as a simple side salad.

By the way, a fork and knife may be used to eat the pizzas, but my family likes to pick them up and fold them over, taco-style.

Quick & easy to make with pantry staples, loaded with healthy, plant-based protein, and the flavorful foundation of one of my go-to speedy dinners!

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