Creamy vegetarian refried beans (made from canned pinto beans)

Canned pinto beans get a lot of grief – and for good reason! Pinto beans have so much more flavor when cooked from dry beans. But here’s the issue – people are busy and they (or should I say I) do not always have the foresight to set beans out to soak the night before. 

Well if canned beans are the problem then this recipe is the solution. These vegetarian refried beans are bursting with flavor. They are one of my absolute favorite things to eat and I put them on so many different dishes. Taquitos? Check! Sopes? Check! Chalupas? Check! Expect to see this recipe popping up on my blog from time to time – I just can’t get enough of it!

vegetarian refried pinto beans

What kind of beans are refried beans made of?

Refried beans are most commonly made of pinto beans. However, that does not mean you cannot make refried beans with other types of beans. Black beans and kidney beans are other common options for making refried beans. In this recipe we use pinto beans.

How do you mash refried beans?

You have a few options when it comes to mashing refried beans. If you have an immersion blender, using an immersion blender is probably the easiest way to mash your pinto beans. If you do not have an immersion blender you could also pour your beans into a standard blender or food processor. If you do not have any kind of blender, you should mash your pinto beans with a potato masher or a fork. 

As you can see in the picture of my refried pinto beans – I do not generally mash all of my beans. I prefer to mash about half of my beans to thicken them and leave the other half intact. If you prefer to mash all of your beans, that is totally fine! This is just a matter of personal preference.

vegetarian refried pinto beans on taquitos

Can you freeze refried beans?

Can you freeze refried beans? Yes, in fact refried beans freeze pretty well. I like to make large batches of refried beans then partition them out into small containers and freeze them. As always, make sure any beans you want to freeze are stored in an airtight container. You should try to eat your frozen beans within 3-6 months.

Refried beans is a good dish to keep in mind if you are into meal prep. This is because they freeze well and it is easy to make double batches. You just have to double the recipe and chop a few more vegetables. There is no additional work beyond chopping the vegetables. 

What else can I do with refried beans?

You can eat refried beans by themselves as a side dish or incorporate them into a larger dish. Here is a list of some of our favorite dishes that use refried beans. 

How bad are refried beans for you?

Some people warn that refried beans are bad for you – and some refried beans definitely are! But how bad are refried beans for you? The answer varies and it depends what ingredients are used to make the particular batch of refried beans. The main issues to look out for with refried beans are the fat content and the sodium content. Refried beans are often fried in large amounts of lard, adding a lot of unhealthy animal fats to them. Canned beans and broth can contain astronomical amounts of sodium.

To relieve any fears you might have, this particular recipe for refried beans is not bad for you. It is actually made with lots of health veggies and packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. The good thing about making your own refried beans is that you can choose what you put into them. If you use low or no sodium beans and low sodium broth, you will not have an issue. You could even replace the broth with water. If you are concerned with the fat content of this recipe, you can just replace the heavy cream with milk. 

How to thicken refried beans?

The best way to get nice, thick refried beans is to make sure that you cook off most of the broth (or water) you simmer the beans in. If you cook off most of the liquid then mash half of the beans this should make the consistency relatively thick. 

Another note about the thickness of refried beans is that the beans thicken as they cool. In this recipe we recommend that you cook off most of the broth because we are adding some additional liquid (heavy cream) at the end. If you choose to omit the heavy cream, and you do not replace it with another substitute such as coconut milk, you should leave a little more of the broth in the beans. As you mash the beans and the beans cool they will begin to thicken.

Refried pinto beans

These creamy pinto beans are gluten free, vegetarian, and totally delicious!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time45 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Keyword: gluten free, vegetarian
Servings: 4 people


  • 1 can pinto beans (preferably low sodium or no sodium)
  • 1 cup veggie broth (preferably low sodium, substitute water or make homemade broth to further reduce sodium)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil


  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 roma tomato
  • 2 cloves garlic


  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder


  • Chop the onion, jalapeño, tomato, and garlic.
  • Warm 1 tsp vegetable oil in a pot over medium heat then cook the onion for 10 minutes.
  • Add the jalapeño and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add the tomato and garlic to the pot and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add all ingredients other than the heavy cream and simmer for 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Add the heavy cream to the beans and mash about half of the beans with an immersion blender, food processor, or potato masher.

Additions & Substitutions

  • You can make this recipe for refried beans vegan friendly by swapping out the heavy cream with coconut milk. 
  • If you do not have heavy cream but you do eat dairy you can sub in sour cream or whole milk for the heavy cream. If you sub in whole milk you should use 1/3 cup of whole milk. If you sub in sour cream you should use 1/4 cup sour cream. 
  • I love to add chipotle chiles in adobo sauce to this recipe. If you happen to have a can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce open, add 1-2 chilies and an additional half tbsp of adobo sauce. 
  • Adding a dash of liquid smoke can make these beans taste smokier and more similar to their non-vegetarian counterparts. 

Other recipes you might like

Mexican white beans in a gray bowl with tomatoes and jalapenos in the background.

Do you have some white beans you need to use up? Check out this recipe for creamy Mexican white beans! These tasty white beans are made with garlic, onions, tomatillos, jalapeños, oregano, and cumin. They are finished off with some heavy cream and creamy monterey jack cheese. 

Did somebody say chalupas? Oh wait, that was me. These refried pinto beans would make a great addition to our vegetarian chalupa recipe. These chalupas are made with our homemade chalupa shells

Baked vegetarian taquitos with pinto beans

I use these vegetarian refried beans in my recipe for baked cheese and bean taquitos. Check out this recipe if you are looking for some crispy, cheesy snacks!

easy mexican chilaquiles

Refried pinto beans make a great companion for chilaquiles. Check out our recipe for chilaquiles rojos, or use our salsa verde recipe to some chilaquiles verdes. 

creamy vegan black bean dip

I love beans and I am pretty sure you do too since you found yourself on this page. Well if you are looking for more tasty bean recipes, check out our recipe for our favorite creamy vegan black bean dip

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