The Best Vegan Refried Beans

Refried beans are a staple in any Mexican restaurant. Most recipes call for chicken stock and animal fat. No thanks! With this vegan refried bean recipe, ditch the animal products and go for a cheap, easy way to make those creamy beans!

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Confession: I HATED refried beans growing up. I hated most things that had a super creamy, but oddly chunky, texture (applesauce also comes to mind…). It wasn’t until we went vegan back in 2015 that I started to like beans. Then in 2016 when we started camping more, I discovered my love for refried beans.

If you pick up a regular can of that refried goodness, you’ll most likely see that it contains animal lard. Ew, no thanks. There are plenty of health food stores that carry a plant based version but you ALWAYS have to check the labels.

There is a very easy, very inexpensive way to make refried beans in every variety at home! Let’s break down the cost:

  • 2 cups (~1lb) dry pinto beans – $1.25
  • 3 cups water – “free” from the tap
  • 1/2 onion – $0.69
  • Spices – negligible if you buy them in bulk
  • chilies or jalapenos – $1-$2
  • chili paste – $3-$4 per large jar (estimating we use 1/4 jar per recipe)

This recipe makes 16 quarter cup servings. If one can costs $2 with two servings and this batch costs $4, you’re winning with this recipe!

We found this habanero paste at Aldi for a few dollars several shopping trips ago. I CANNOT find it again. We have used almost all of it! I’m hoping they’ll get another shipment of it soon. I also use dried pinto beans (stored in a reused salsa jar) from Sprouts. Beans are significantly cheaper in bulk than they are canned or bagged.

The instructions are for an Instant Pot, but you could also make them in a crock pot (8hrs on low) or on the stove top (medium heat for 1.5 hours). We love our Instant Pot used as both a pressure cooker and a crock pot.

Whenever the beans are done cooking and the pressure has released, it will look much like this. The liquid hides from you below the beans. Do NOT add more water until you have started blending. You can always add more water but it’s awfully hard to take it away.

The Best Vegan Refried Beans

This wonderful south of the border restaurant staple is easy and inexpensive to make at home. Spice up your taco night!

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Pressure Release Time 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 16 1/4 Cup Servings
Author Amanda at


  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or water
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp chili or pepper paste optional
  • 1 whole jalapeno pepper seeds removed for less heat
  • 2 cup dry pinto beans sub black beans if desired
  • 3 cup water use more if a thinner texture desired
  • 1/4 tsp salt to taste


  1. In the Instant Pot (or on the stove top), turn on the saute setting and cook the diced onion with the olive oil until translucent - 5 minutes

  2. Once the onion is fragrant and translucent, stir in the chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and chili paste (if using). and the jalapeno. Cook for another 2 minutes.

  3. Pour in beans and water to the Instant Pot. Turn the Instant Pot to pressure cook. Manually set the timer to 40 minutes. *Make sure the steam valve is closed so you can do a natural release of pressure. 

  4. Once the pressure has full released, take off the lid. Using an immersion blender (stick blender) and blend the beans down to your desired consistency. Add salt.

  5. Store beans in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week if you are not consuming them immediately. Alternatively, you can separate them into servings and freeze them. 

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