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July 22, 2022

by Alyssa

How to Make Vegetarian Refried Beans

Make a batch of these vegetarian refried beans and use them to make easy dinners for days! They’re easy, super flavorful, packed with protein, and so much better than store-bought.

Vegetarian refried beans in white bowl with cilantro and lime wedge

It’s time to get excited about refried beans… said no one ever. But I’m hoping that maaaaybe after reading through this post, you’ll come to appreciate this vegetarian refried beans recipe as much as I do.

In fact, I’m pretty sure you will because refried beans are the key to unlocking delicious Tex-Mex meals for days. Whip up a batch—you might even want to double it!—and you can use them in endless ways.

Since so many Mexican-inspired recipes are made with the same core ingredients, you can buy lettuce, salsa, tomatoes, and tortillas and repurpose them each night. It’s cost-effective and it takes the stress out of getting dinner on the table. I’d say that’s a pretty big win, yes?

(Make my Grilled Corn and Avocado Salsa, Vegan Sour Cream, and Spicy Mango Guacamole and you’ll have everything you need for a Tex-Mex dinner. Just add Healthy Grapefruit Margaritas!)

Spoonful of vegetarian refried beans held over bowl

Are Refried Beans Healthy?

If we’re talking traditional refried beans, well, not so much. They’re loaded with sodium and fat—usually either bacon fat or lard.

This recipe for vegetarian refried beans is much healthier because it’s made with healthy olive or avocado oil and you can control the amount of sodium by using low-sodium pinto beans and vegetable broth.

Overhead view of ingredients for vegetarian refried beans

What You’ll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

  • Olive or avocado oil
  • Yellow onion – Red or white will work, too.
  • Garlic cloves
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo – You can use more for spicier refried beans, or less if you like things milder.
  • Chili powder
  • Ground cumin
  • Dried oregano
  • Pinto beans – Or use dried pinto beans and cook them. You’ll need about 3 cups of cooked beans.
  • Low-sodium vegetable broth or water
  • Kosher salt
  • Lime

How to Make Vegetarian Refried Beans

This is a fantastic recipe for doubling or even tripling. Just increase the cooking time a bit, and use a bigger pan.

Side by side photos showing sauteed onions and spices added to onions

Cook the aromatics. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and oregano and cook for a minute more, or until the spices and garlic are fragrant.

Side by side photos showing beans in skillet and broth being poured into beans

Simmer. Add the beans and broth or water to the pan and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Side by side photos showing refried beans before and after mashing

Finish. Add the lime juice to the beans and use a wooden spoon or potato masher to mash the beans to your desired consistency. Season to taste with salt, add an extra squeeze of lime juice, or stir in some adobo sauce for more heat.

Variations

This vegetarian refried bean recipe is very adaptable. Here are a few variations to try:

  • Use black beans or your favorite heirloom beans instead of pinto beans.
  • Add smoked paprika or liquid smoke for some smoky flavor.
  • Stir in chopped cilantro once the beans are done cooking.
  • Add cayenne or hot sauce for a kick.
Vegetarian refried beans in cast iron skillet with wooden spoon

All the Ways to Use Vegetarian Refried Beans

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Get creative and find new ways to use refried beans! Here are some of my fave ideas:

  • Make a restaurant-style dinner platter with Mexican quinoa and refried beans served on the side with Pan-Seared Crispy Fish Tacos.
  • Assemble your own Mexican pizzas with refried beans as the base. (Who needs Taco Bell?!)
  • Use refried beans to add protein to quesadillas.
  • Fold them into burritos with rice, fajita veggies, and cheese (vegan or otherwise).
  • Spoon refried beans onto tortilla chips, then top with vegan queso, salsa, and your favorite nacho toppings.
  • Use your refried beans as a taco filling or tostada topping.
  • Make a layered taco dip by adding guacamole, sour cream, cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce.
  • Fill enchiladas with refried beans.
  • Add a scoop to your next burrito bowl.
Bowl of vegetarian refried beans with cilantro and lime wedge

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

Refried beans will last about 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat them in the microwave or on the stovetop with a splash of broth to loosen them up a bit.

Can This Recipe Be Frozen?

Yes, vegetarian refried beans can be frozen for up to 3 months. Transfer them to a freezer bag and freeze them flat, or store them in an airtight container. Let them thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.

Vegetarian Refried Beans

Make a batch of these vegetarian refried beans and use them to make easy dinners for days! They’re easy, super flavorful, packed with protein, and so much better than store-bought.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 235kcal
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Vegetarian refried beans in white bowl with cilantro and lime wedge
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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion , diced
  • 3 garlic cloves , minced
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo , minced
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 15- ounce cans pinto beans , drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup low-sodium vegetable broth or water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 lime , juiced

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin and oregano and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.
  • Add the beans and broth/water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning.
  • Remove the lid, add the lime juice and use a wooden spoon or potato masher to mash the beans to your desired consistency. Season to tase with salt, lime juice and/or adobo sauce for more spice.

Notes

Refried beans will last about 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat them in the microwave or on the stovetop with a splash of broth to loosen them up a bit.

Nutrition

Calories: 235kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 1253mg | Potassium: 669mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 470IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 127mg | Iron: 4mg

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About Alyssa

Hey there, I’m Alyssa Rimmer, a certified Holistic Nutritionist, yoga-lover, dog mom, and founder of Simply Quinoa. It’s nice to meet you! I created SQ as a way to provide solutions for women just like me, who were struggling to find helpful information about how to live a healthy and fulfilled life. My hope is that you will find inspiration here on SQ – in my story, in my recipes, in the hundreds of wellness articles, and in our amazing community. Welcome!

Interested in Healthy Eating? Grab our 7-Day Vegan Meal Plan!

With a week’s worth of simple and healthy meals, Eat Clean will help you see just how easy living a life full of whole foods can be. Recipe are 100% gluten-free and vegan!

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