Healthy Refried Beans
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!


  • 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)


  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.


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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