Almost no dish is as flavorful, comforting, and nutritious as a serving of refried beans.
Even better, this simple, instant pot refried beans recipe becomes a go-to side dish that stretches your food budget without leaving a hole in your wallet.
I cooked this recipe using pinto beans. However, you may feel free to use your personal favorite legumes.
If you have a hectic schedule, you can make a big pot of beans and serve them in their whole form one evening. Then smash the leftovers down and fry them the next day.
You will see these are very versatile and so simple to make. They are fool-proof, even for beginning home cooks.
A Short History of Refried Beans
In an earlier recipe, Mexican Savory Black Bean Salad, I mentioned how rare it is for any food to go to waste in an authentic Mexican kitchen.
This zero-tolerance for food waste policy also applies to inexpensive ingredients like the humble bean.
When you dine out at an authentic Latin American restaurant, you’ll often find these listed on the menu a frijoles refritos.
That term translates literally to “well-fried beans.”
If you travel to Mexico and immerse yourself in the culture, you’d find that they don’t reserve frijoles only for lunch or dinnertime.
Indeed, the people traditionally enjoyed them next to their eggs in the morning as a cost-effective protein instead of breakfast meats.
They will usually prepare these with leftovers from the previous evening’s meal.
Americans have a love affair with pintos. Agriculture experts note that pinto beans outsell all other legumes in the United States.
They also love pintos in Mexico. However, you’ll commonly hear of people making frijoles refritos from these other legumes:
- Red kidneys
- Black beans
- Pink beans
- Navy beans
When you eat Mexican food at an American restaurant, you are probably eating pink beans, which offer a pleasing, warmer color.
Fortunately, each preparation is delicious and brings its own special flavor.
The Traditional Preparation of Frijoles Refritos
After cooking and standing in the fridge, legumes lose flavor and become somewhat dry.
Thus, cooking refried beans requires two essential things:
A good-quality cooking oil. Plain vegetable oil is the traditional choice, however, I prefer extra virgin olive oil to ensure I’m consuming healthy fats.
Adding salt or seasoning is a must. Traditionally, table salt is the only seasoning. However, you might find Latin spice blends convenient. We favor the Frontier Mexican Fiesta blend if buying ready-made, but usually we use our own. Also, you can use salt-free seasonings if you enjoy a low-sodium diet.
In addition to the oil and salt, which are “must-haves,” you might also like a delicious topping for your beans.
Consider trying one of the following toppers or mixers with your refried beans:
- Shredded cheese, placed on top of the beans while piping hot
- Sour cream
- A dollop of creamy guacamole
- Shake on some hot sauce
- A spoonful of your favorite salsa
- Rotel tomato-chili mix is good to have on hand for when you don’t have salsa or time to make it
- Creamy non-fat Greek Yogurt if you want something on the lighter side
How to Use Refried Beans
So you now you know that Latin Americans enjoy refried beans for breakfast.
And, of course, you know that your favorite Tex Mex restaurant serves them alongside your entree.
But you might be surprised at just how useful refried beans can be!
- Serve as a side dish with your favorite entree or meat. They pair beautifully with chicken, pork, and beef.
- Are you a vegan or vegetarian? Enjoy a healthy portion topped with lettuce, avocado slices, and vegan cheese.
- Stuff them inside a burrito, quesadilla, or taco on your next Meat-free Monday.
- Layer them between cream cheese and shredded cheese for a quick and easy bean dip. Bake in the oven (or microwave) until the cheeses melt.
- Prepare a Mexican-inspired casserole with frijoles refritos, taco meat, cheese, and onions in the morning and pop it into the oven to heat up after work.
- Stuff refried beans inside your favorite grilled chili pepper.
Life without Mexican food is like no life at all. 🌮😎🌯
Instant Pot Refried Beans Recipe
This recipe serves almost as a part two to our previous recipe, Instant Pot Pinto Beans. Our perspective on instant pots is that they’re worth having just for being able to cook dried beans quickly. Of course, we use them for so much more, but that’s one of our most frequent uses. We have this 6 Qt. Instant Pot version.
In case you missed the entire recipe, let’s recap.
You can cook pinto beans in your Instant Pot, using a no-soak method. You’ll have a pot of beans ready in about 45 minutes.
You will start by rinsing any dust off the dried legumes in cold water. Pick through to ensure you don’t find any debris or stones from harvesting (it happens.)
Then, cover 2 cups of dry pinto beans with water. Be sure the water line is about 2″ above the beans.
Add a Goya Sazon dry seasoning packet (or your favorite spice blend), one tablespoon of olive oil.
Close the lid on your Instant Pot, hit the “beans/chili” setting, and tap “more” to increase the cooking time to forty minutes.
Once you are at this point, you are ready to eat the beans.
Or, you can carry on with the rest of these instructions and make the best refried beans recipe, in your Instant Pot.
You can make Instant Pot Refried Beans that are comforting, creamy, and restaurant quality.
- 3 cups of Instant Pot Pinto Beans, cooked
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tbl. of extra virgin olive oil
- Make a batch of Instant Pot Refried Beans
- After the timer beeps, remove the Instant Pot lid. Remove the entire inner liner carefully and while wearing kitchen mitts. Drain off the excess liquid by pouring the beans into a colander.
- Flip the setting on the Instant Pot to saute. Put the olive oil and chopped onion into the liner pan and place it back into the Instant Pot. Pour the beans from the colander back into the pot.
- Using a potato masher, mash the beans until you get the texture that pleases you. Some like their beans a little smoother, while others like a little texture left. Either way is fine. You're the boss!
- Move the beans around the Instant Pot every couple of minutes until you get a nice, browned color to them. The saute setting runs for 30 minutes, but your processing time will only take seven to ten minutes.
- Enjoy your refried beans!
This recipe calls for onions. Some cooks like onions in their frijoles refritos but others do not. You may omit them if you like.
Storage Tips for Refried Beans
If you do not eat the refried beans all at once, you can save them for a short time.
Note that the longer you keep them, the drier they become. When you reheat them, add a teaspoon of extra oil if they seem lifeless.
But do note that you are adding fat and extra calories.
Beans keep best, covered tightly in plastic wrap or an air-tight bowl, for just a couple of days. Toss them if you don’t use them rather promptly.
The Bottom Line: You Can Serve Mexican Style Refried Beans in Your Instant Pot
If you crave Mexican cuisine, especially the dreamy refried beans they serve at your favorite Tex Mex hot spot, you can make them at home.
The “saute” function on your Instant Pot is one you might have overlooked in the past.
Or perhaps you did not know how to use it, exactly. Well, now you have the perfect use for the previously unused feature.
With very inexpensive ingredients, a little bit of time, and the knowledge of your Instant Pot, you’ll be cooking up fresh, hot Mexican style refried beans in no time.