I put on my sensory scientist hat to find the perfect oil for replacing lard in this plant-based version of refried beans! Creamy, flavorful, and so easy to make. They’re made in one pot and come together in less than 20 minutes making them a household staple. Be sure to see our notes on all the different ways they can be served!
Refried beans are something I look forward to at every Mexican restaurant except (plot twist) they are almost always made with lard. If you aren’t familiar with lard, it is the fat from animals and is used to make dishes creamy or to act as the fat in baked goods – it is very much not vegetarian or vegan.
Then coconut oil became popular and I thought, that sure looks and acts a lot like lard! So I did a little experimenting with coconut recipes and food scientist stuff to learn about coconut oil versus lard. Turns out they have very similar properties and overall fat content. Coconut oil is much lower in saturated fat but is higher in monounsaturated fat, but that doesn’t affect the texture or flavor.
So I headed back to my beloved vegan refried beans, research in hand. Long story short, I made them with coconut oil and they were out of this world good. I’m stoked to share how to make them with you!
Why you’ll love it
- Made in one pot like many of my recipes which makes it so easy for busy days with less cleanup required.
- So creamy yet with that classic refried bean texture that you get from your favorite restaurant.
- Versatile since they can be used on tacos, served alongside rice, or eaten with vegan chorizo.
Ingredients for refried beans
The ingredients for this dish are 9 pantry staple items. One of them is just water so don’t be upset that I haven’t listed it below. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Coconut Oil: I use refined coconut oil for the least coconut flavor but any coconut oil will work just fine.
- White Onion: Mince your white onion or a mild sweetness. Yellow onion could be used here too.
- Garlic: Fresh minced garlic is always best but if you use pre-minced garlic I would add a little bit more to make up for the less garlicky flavor.
- Spices: You will need classic Mexican spices cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, salt, and cayenne pepper.
- Pinto Beans: Canned is fine or you can cook your own pinto beans.
- Lime Juice: This adds a much-needed brightness and acidity that I bet you didn’t know you needed in refried beans!
Pinto vs. other beans
While pinto beans are traditional, this recipe also works really well with black beans. Everything else in the recipe is the same, but the black beans just have a little more depth of flavor and a less creamy texture.
How to make Vegan Beans
The process to make vegan refried beans is quick and simple (just how I like my recipes)! Here’s what you’ll do:
- Make the flavor base by sauteing the coconut oil, spices, onion, and garlic together.
- Add the beans to the base with water and cook.
- Mash the beans slightly.
- Serve with a splash of lime juice.
“Had no idea HOW easy it was to make refried beans!” —Kari
If you have leftovers, you can store them in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container. They can be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop with a splash of water to help make them creamy again.
Why this Recipe Works
If you haven’t already started making this recipe, then let me give you a few more reasons to make it.
- Coconut oil is way less odd to deal with than lard. It tastes good, is healthier, and it’s plant-based!
- Lime juice at the end highlights all the other flavors without really adding any extra work.
- Thickens as it cools due to the starches of the beans being released as you mash them.
Can these beans be made without oil?
I haven’t tried but my thought is no because the oil helps to hold them together. Without it, they might get runny.
Can these be frozen?
Yes, you can freeze refried beans for up to 3 months.
Can I make these with other beans?
Yup, you can use any beans you have on hand. Some other types of beans that would work well are navy beans, black beans, kidney beans, or cannellini beans.
how to serve refried beans
I am of the opinion that refried beans are delicious anywhere and anytime. If you need some more concrete examples though, here are my favorite pairing ideas!
- Easy Veggie Fajitas are made even better with some vegan refried beans on the side.
- Homemade Tortilla Chips can be dipped into salsa and refried beans.
- Add a schmear to Huevos Rancheros for breakfast!
“The refried bean recipe was perfect! It was exactly the taste that I’ve been longing for! Rolled the beans up in a warm flour tortilla and WOW!!!” —Krista
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil 28 g
- ½ medium white onion about 1 cup diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp each cumin, oregano, smoked paprika
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 15-oz cans pinto beans drained and rinsed, 425 g each
- 1 cup water 236 mL
- 1 Tbsp lime juice 15 mL
- Flavor Base: Heat 2 Tbsp coconut oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add ½ medium white onion (diced) and cook until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add 4 cloves garlic (minced), 1 tsp each cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper. Continue cooking for a minute, until garlic is fragrant.
- Beans: Add 2 15-oz cans pinto beans and 1 cup water. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
- Mash: Using a potato masher or fork, roughly mash the beans. They will continue to thicken once cooled, but if they're too runny for your preference, continue cooking for a few minutes, uncovered, to thicken.
- Serve: Stir in 1 Tbsp lime juice and serve warm!