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These vegan refried beans pack tons of flavor and creamy satisfaction. Start from scratch or with canned pinto beans — you can’t go wrong.

vegan refried beans in a bowl
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Why we love this recipe

Refried beans make me so happy. They’re comforting and nutritious and versatile. This version takes things to the next level with lots of flavor and lots of flexibility. It:

  • Packs tons of balanced flavor
  • Works well with home-cooked or canned beans
  • Can be puréed until perfectly smooth or roughly mashed, whichever you prefer
  • Makes a great vegan source of protein and complex carbs
  • Is 100% make-ahead and freezer-friendly

I first published this recipe here in 2017. I’ve since updated the post and the recipe for clarity.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • Pinto beans get their name from their speckles. They’re mild, creamy, and easily available. The 3 ½ cups of cooked beans called for in this recipe come from two cans, or from one heaping cup dried. (Here’s how to cook great beans from dry.) If you prefer, you can use black beans without making any further changes to the recipe.
  • Poblano peppers have a great combination of flavor and very mild heat. They’re generally easy to find in U.S. supermarkets, but if you can’t find one or would rather, you can use an Anaheim or Hatch chili, or even a green bell pepper.
  • I’ve called for good old yellow onion, but you can definitely substitute white or red onion if that’s what you’ve got.
  • You’ll need a little bit of liquid to simmer the beans. If you’ve cooked them from scratch, it’s nice to use the bean cooking water for extra flavor. If not, veggie broth or even water is fine. (My favorite veggie broth by far is Imagine No Chicken.)
  • Safflower oil is my high-smoke-point, neutral-tasting vegetable oil of choice. You can substitute another oil that has similar properties, such as canola, sunflower, peanut, corn, or vegetable oil blend.

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a dreamy batch of vegan refried beans. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. First you’ll cook the onion and the poblano pepper in the oil.
  2. Add the garlic, tomato paste, cumin, and chili powder and cook for a minute.
  3. Add the beans along with a little bit of bean cooking water, broth, or plain water and bring to a boil.
  4. Simmer for 15 minutes. Then mash or blend until beans are as smooth as you like. Stir in lime juice That’s it!

Expert tips and FAQS

How do you serve refried beans?

Vegan refried beans make an amenable side dish for a wide variety of Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, or a nice accompaniment to a tofu scramble or fried or scrambled eggs for a weekend breakfast or brunch.

And here are a few of our favorite recipes that incorporate them: the best vegetarian nachos, vegetarian quesadillas, carne asada tacos, and bean and cheese enchiladas.

Um, is that bacon fat in the video?

It is. An earlier version of this recipe called for either bacon fat or safflower oil. Both versions are wonderful, but only one is vegan. Feel free to use whichever suits your personal preferences.

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

For sure. Beans will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a year, so feel absolutely free to make them in advance.

More favorite Mexican-inspired vegan recipes

vegan refried beans in a bowl

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Refried Beans | Umami Girl 780
4.85 from 13 votes

Vegan Refried Beans

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
These vegan refried beans pack tons of flavor and creamy satisfaction. Start from scratch or with canned pinto beans — you can't go wrong.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 6
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Ingredients 

  • 3 ½ cups cooked pinto beans, see note 1
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) safflower oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, very finely diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, very finely diced
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon (16 grams) tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder blend
  • ½ cup bean cooking water, reduced-salt veggie broth, or water
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice

Instructions 

  • In a medium-sized pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add the diced onion and pepper along with the salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about five minutes.
  • Add the garlic, tomato paste, cumin, and chili powder. Cook, stirring, for one minute.
  • Add the beans along with the bean cooking water, broth, or water.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Using a potato masher, the back of a wooden spoon, or an immersion blender, mash the beans until they're as smooth as you like.
  • Stir in lime juice.

Step-by-step video

Notes

  1. The 3 1/2 cups beans in this recipe come from two 15.5-ounce cans, rinsed and drained, or 1 heaping cup dried beans cooked from scratch. (Here's how to make them great.) If you prefer, you can use black beans instead of pinto beans, without making any further changes to the recipe.
  2. Poblano peppers have a great combination of flavor and very mild heat. They're generally easy to find in U.S. supermarkets, but if you can't find one or would rather, you can use an Anaheim or Hatch chili, or even a green bell pepper.
  3. Safflower oil is my high-smoke-point, neutral-tasting vegetable oil of choice. You can substitute another oil that has similar properties, such as canola, sunflower, peanut, corn, or vegetable oil blend. If you're not vegan, you can swap in bacon fat for the safflower oil for an additional layer of flavor.
  4. Beans will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a year, so feel absolutely free to make them in advance.

Nutrition

Calories: 201kcal, Carbohydrates: 27.7g, Protein: 8.6g, Fat: 6.9g, Fiber: 8.9g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Sides
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

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Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

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Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

4.85 from 13 votes (13 ratings without comment)

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