Refried Beans

Cooking beans can be a little overwhelming!  I am hoping today, after reading this tutorial you will walk away knowing how to cook all kinds of beans.  Yes, I will be using the example of pinto beans, but I want you to be willing and able to try and cook kidney, black, garbanzo, or anything else you would like to try.

Beans are so inexpensive when you buy them in a bag and cook them yourself.  Buying beans in a can is very convenient and are a huge time saver.  I buy them all the time, but when I cook my own beans and make refried beans, there is nothing better!

How to Cook Pinto Beans
 and Turn Them into Refried Beans

1.  Cooking beans is all about the timing.  In my mind, beans are like making bread.  If you schedule your time and know how long you have in between things to do, it really does not take that long.  It just kind of takes care of itself.

2. Place a large stock pot of water on the stove, 6-8 quarts of water.  Open the bag of beans  and pour in the water and cover with a lid.  The beans should have half a pan to expand.  Try hard not to fill your pan more than halfway up with beans.  They will expand while they sit in the water.   You do not want beans peeking outside of the water.

At this point, you have two choices.  

a.  Let the pot sit over night or all day with the beans and water.  You do not need to do one thing.  I usually like to do this at night so I can cook the beans the next day.


b.  Start the pot to boil with the lid on and then turn it off.  Let the pot sit for 2 hours with the lid on in the hot water.  

If I forgot to soak the beans the night before, I do step b mentioned above.  Usually, I want beans for dinner and I am trying to plan my day to have fresh, cooked beans.

3.  Once the beans have soaked overnight or you soaked them in hot water for 2 hours, it is time to drain the beans.  Hold the lid on the pot and drain all the water out.  Draining the water after the beans have been soaking makes creates tender, delicious beans.  It is an important step!

4.  Fill the pan up with clean hot water and set the pot on the stove and bring to a boil.  You can do this in a slow cooker, or an Instapot. These methods have not been reliable enough for me to endorse.  Stove top is the best way to cook beans.  Just plan to get them boiling and leave them there all day.

Make sure the lid is on the pot when you are cooking the beans.  Bring the new hot water up to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, it is very important to turn the heat down, but the water needs to stay at a boil.  If you turn the temperature down so far that there are no bubbles popping at the top of your pan, the beans will not cook.

Taste testing the cooked beans is the only way to know if they are done.

5.  Different beans need different times to cook.  The only way to know if the beans are done  is to grab a spoonful of beans and put them in a small bowl.  Let them cool a minute or two and then make a taste test.  The beans should be soft and easy to eat without a crunch.  Old beans take longer than new beans.  Beans from the grocery store, that you just purchased, should only take 2 hours to cook, but then again, you don’t know if they are old or new.  I have purchased a new package of pinto beans from Costco and they were on my stove for 6 hours!

6. After the beans have been boiling for an hour, pour in two tablespoons of salt.  Beans are famously bland.  The salt makes a big difference!  There are many opinions about adding salt to cooking beans.  It is a must!  I am telling you from experience, I have cooked them with and without salt.  My beans without salt never taste nearly as good as the ones I cook with salt.  It helps the beans cook evenly to get an overall amazing flavor.  It also helps the beans not swell up or pop at the seam.

Beans can be hard to cook because sometimes they are,  unpredictable. 

7.  Once you do a taste test and you know the beans are done, they are ready to serve or make into refried beans.  You have eaten enough beans to know if they are done.  Trust yourself!  If you bite into the bean and your teeth feel a crunch, they are not done.  If you bite into the beans and they are easy to chew and melt in your mouth, they are done.  You will not hurt the beans if you cook them longer.  I have never cooked beans too long, but I have under cooked them on more than one occasion.  Make sure you have planned enough time to let the beans cook the time they need.  

Learning how to cook beans can be overwhelming.  Learn how to cook pinto beans and turn them into  creamy refried beans.
Refried Beans

Making beans 1.  Soak over night.  2.  Pour out the water in the morning.  3.  Fill pan with new hot water.  4.  Bring pan to a boil.  5.  Turn the heat down, but keep the water at a low boil.  6.  Cook all day, 6 – 8 hours on stove top.

8.  Sauté chopped onions in butter.  I like a lot of onions in my refried beans so I use 1-2 onions, depending on their size.  You use what you want.  You don’t like onions, not a problem, leave them out!

When chopping onions, I always use my food processor.  I pulse until all the onions are very small.  This makes them barely detectable for my son who doesn’t like the crunch of an onion.  Put them in a skillet with the butter and cook until they are translucent and have started to brown, about five minutes.

9.  Before draining your beans, save four cups of liquid.  You need this when you mash the beans into refried beans.  Then again, you might not need it, but this water is salted and adds so much flavor when mashing the beans and getting the consistency you want.

Homemade refried beans are the best!  Pinto beans that have been cooked to perfection then added to sautéed onions and cheddar cheese make the best side dish to loads of meals.
Refried Beans

10.  Pour the chopped onions in a stand mixer bowl.  Add the grated cheese and then drain the beans in the sink and add them to the mixer bowl.

11.  Mix the beans with the whip attachment.  They should soon turn into refried beans after about one minute of mixing.  I always need to add some of the bean water.  You will need to watch the beans and see how they are mashing.  Each time I cook beans  the amount of water I use differs.  Often I use 1/2 cup to 2 cups.  I want the beans to be the same consistency as mashed potatoes.  If you use more water than I have mentioned, don’t worry, use it and be proud!

Test for taste.  Believe it or not, I often add another teaspoon or two of salt while I am mashing the beans.  The refried beans will be a little runny, but that is how you want them.  As they cool, they will thicken up.  Serve with grated cheese on top.

Homemade refried beans are the best!  Pinto beans that have been cooked to perfection then added to sautéed onions and cheddar cheese make the best side dish to loads of meals.
Refried Beans

Let me know on Instagram or Pinterest if you make this.

  Post a picture and tag me @dinasdiner.  I want to know how it turns out.

If you make these refried beans, please come back and rate this recipe!

Homemade refried beans are the best! Pinto beans that have been cooked to perfection then added to sautéed onions and cheddar cheese make the best side dish to loads of meals.

Refried Beans

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  • 1 – 2 lbs. Dry Pinto Beans
  • 6-8 Quarts Water
  • 2 Tbsp. Salt
  • 1-2 Medium Onions
  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 2 Cups Cheddar Cheese
  • 2 Cups Bean Water
  • 1 tsp. Salt


  • Fill a 6-8 quart stock pot full of water.
  • Empty the beans out of the bag and put into the pan of water.
  • Let soak overnight.
  • Drain the water the next day.
  • Fill the pot with hot water.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, turn the heat down and simmer for the next six hours.
  • Add salt to the water after cooking an hour.
  • Test the beans to see if they are done.
  • Cook longer if needed.
  • Drain pan reserving 4 cups of water.
  • Chop onions and sauté in butter.
  • Grate the cheese  and add to a bowl in a stand mixer.  Add the sautéed onions as well.
  • Add drained beans to the bowl and beat in the mixer with a whip attachment.  
  • Pour in bean water as needed to thin beans to a mashed potato consistency. Add salt if needed and serve with grated cheese on top.
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