Vegan refried beans are too easy to make and always taste amazing despite the short ingredient list. You just need onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, and pinto beans. The bean type is key, more on that below.
No cheese is needed for a great flavour and creamy texture here. This is total comfort food that’s nutritious and can be used in any number of ways. Think with chips, in a burrito or taco, over potatoes, any way you like.
There are a few meals that Graham makes on rotation, and this is one of them – so this is actually his recipe that he wrote out for me and prepped for this post. It’s my favourite sad-day dinner and is just so comforting when you need a cosy Mexican-inspired meal!
Why You Should Try This Recipe
This is a super speedy recipe and one that we’ll often make for lunch on the weekend, too. It’s so flexible and quick to make, with really staple ingredients.
- It’s ready in a few minutes: less than 10 minutes of cooking time, and you can have dinner on the table.
- You can use cooked or canned beans: either way, rinse well, but it won’t impact the end result. If you’re cooking them from scratch make sure the beans are quite soft.
- It only needs nine ingredients: even with the spices, you’re still coming in under ten total ingredients for the base recipe. Toppings are extra.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Beans: pinto beans are the only good bean for refried beans, really, but kidney beans will work in a pinch. Black beans have too much skin and they’re not nearly as nice in the vegan version.
- Spices: alter the hot pepper level to your personal preference. This is a little on the spicy side if you’re not used to using any spice in your food.
- Tomatoes: canned diced tomatoes are ideal. You can sub an equal amount of fresh tomatoes when they’re in season. I don’t recommend crushed tomatoes.
- Toppings: I always have refried beans with a side of pickled red onions, but salsa might be enough for you. Something fresh like avocado is a good idea.
Step by Step
1. Cook the onions: for a couple minutes. They should be translucent and can be lightly browned.
2. Add the garlic and spices: cook for another minute or two to wake up the spices.
3. Add the beans: stir to coat in the spices.
4. Mash: use the back of a wooden spoon to mash the beans very well.
5. Add tomatoes: stir in the tomatoes and mash again if needed.
6. Cook to thicken: cook for about five minutes more to thicken, then serve.
If you can’t see the recipe video, please watch it here on YouTube instead.
While it seems like an extra step to cook the beans more after mashing them, it’s always a good idea to cook canned tomatoes, and you do want to thicken the mixture. It’s a key step in the recipe and makes it taste so much better.
If you’re noting the numbers on the stovetop in the above images, this is a portable cooktop and runs much hotter than full-sized stoves do. Low heat on this is equivalent to medium on a typical stove.
Be sure to chop the onions very finely. You don’t want to notice them in the final dish.
How to Store
Storage: keep leftovers in the refrigerator in a sealed container for a couple days. This reheats very well.
Freezing: refried beans freeze surprisingly well. Simply transfer to an airtight container and freeze for up to three months, thawing in the refrigerator before reheating and serving.
- Clean the pan right away: this is one of those things that sticks like glue to the frying pan if it’s left on it. It’s much easier to clean before it dries out – trust me!
- Season to taste: the salt amount given in the recipe card is a guideline, and you should taste and add more if needed before serving.
- Thoroughly mash: use the back of a wooden spoon or something similar to really mash the beans. Graham says, ‘for the best refried beans, they all have to be smushed.’
More Spicy Bean Recipes
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Quick Vegan Refried Beans
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ¼ medium onion very finely diced (about 30 grams)
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes to taste
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 300 grams cooked or canned pinto beans drained and rinsed
- 150 grams diced canned tomatoes
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the olive oil.2 teaspoons olive oil
- Once the pan is hot, add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until translucent, stirring frequently.1/4 medium onion
- Add the garlic, salt, pepper, pepper flakes, and cumin, and cook for another minute.1 clove garlic, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- Stir in the beans. Use the back of a wooden spoon to mash well.300 grams cooked or canned pinto beans
- Add the tomatoes and stir to combine, mashing if needed. Cook for about 5 minutes longer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and slightly browned.150 grams diced canned tomatoes
- Season if needed and serve hot with desired toppings.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.