Refried beans and black beans are both staples in Mexican cuisine. While you may find refried beans and black beans to be interchangeable in some side dishes at Mexican restaurants, they are two distinctly different bean dishes. Both have a place in delicious Mexican meals.
In this blog post, we’ll dive into what makes refried beans refried, how they are different from black beans, and which is the healthiest choice for you.
Key Differences Refried Beans vs Black Beans
The main difference between refried beans vs black beans is that refried beans are a way of preparing beans. Black beans are a type of bean.
Refried beans are mashed or pureed beans that have already been cooked. They are typically mixed with other seasonings and spices and fried in an oil or lard.
What are Black Beans?
Black beans are a type of bean. The most common variety of black beans is the black turtle beans, given their name because of their hard, shiny shell, which somewhat resembles the shell of a turtle.
Black beans are popular in Cajun and Latin American cuisines. Black beans are often used in making soups, stews, dips, and salads. They can also be used in making refried beans.
Black beans can easily be found at most grocery stores and are available as dry beans or canned beans.
What are Refried Beans?
The name “refried beans” comes from the Spanish name frijoles refritos, meaning “well-fried beans.” Refried beans are a way of preparing and cooking beans rather than a type of bean.
Refried beans are typically made with seasoning and spices such as chili powder or chili pepper. Garlic, cumin, and onion are also popular seasonings. The beans are mashed up, mixed with the seasoning, and fried with animal fat such as bacon fat or vegetable oil such as canola oil.
Refried beans are mashed until they have a smooth consistency, although they can also be prepared with whole beans mixed in with the mashed beans to provide texture to the refried beans dish.
You can also find “canned refried beans” in the grocery store, which will be beans with a traditional smooth mashed consistency. It is also simple to make your own refried beans at home to your liking. Homemade refried beans can be made in advance and easily reheated or served as a dip, topping, or side dish.
In the U.S., pinto beans are the most common beans used in making refried beans. However, black beans may also be used in making refried beans.
Nutritional Benefits and Consideration for Refried Beans
Refried beans are a great source of protein and fiber. While they are typically fried, some recipes will use more or less fat than others. The preparation and ingredients do matter when it comes to how healthy or unhealthy refried beans are.
Whether you make refried pinto beans or refried black beans, or another type of refried bean recipe, refried beans can be a healthy dish.
A healthy version of refried beans is made without saturated fat and without a lot of salt. Making homemade refried black beans is a great way to ensure you are eating high-quality ingredients without excess unhealthy fats. Pinto beans and black beans contain only about one gram of fat, however, when mixed with fat or oils to make the refried beans, the grams of fat will increase based on the oil or fat used.
A healthier oil to use is avocado oil is considered a healthy oil and has a high smoke point, making it a great option for high heat and frying.
One cup of black beans contains about 15 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber, 6% of the daily value for vitamin B6, 64% for folate, and 28% of vitamin B1, among several other vitamins and minerals.
One cup of pinto beans contains about 15 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber, 20% of the daily value for vitamin B6, 75% for folate, and 22% of vitamin B1,among several other vitamins and minerals.
Read more about the nutritional values and health benefits of black beans vs pinto beans here.
How to Make Refried Beans
Like what you would find at a Mexican restaurant, traditional Mexican refried beans typically use pinto beans. However, black beans can be used, or cranberry beans will work too.
The main difference between pinto beans and black beans is pinto beans have a sweeter taste and are softer than black beans when cooked. Making them a great option to mash-up for refried beans.
Refried beans are made with a few simple ingredients, beans, oil, water, and spices, and cooked twice. To make homemade refried beans, you have first to cook them in water to soften them. You then fry them in a pot or skillet with fat or oil and seasonings.
Directions for Refried Beans:
Part 1: Cooking the Dried Beans
- First soak beans. While the soaking is optional, beans perform best nutritionally when soaked first for about 8 hours. This also helps to make them cook faster. 2 cups of beans is a good amount to work with in making a refried bean dish.
- Add beans to a large pot. Fill the pot with water to cover the beans, having an additional 2-3 inches of water over the beans.
- Add some onion and salt if desired.
- Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook for about 2 hours and check the softness of the beans. Beans are ready when they are soft, and the outer skin starts to break open.
Part 2: Making Refried Beans from Cooked Beans
- Using oil or fat of your choice, add oil to a frying pan on medium heat. An oil such as avocado oil is a great healthy option as it can handle higher temperatures well and is a healthier oil. Olive oil is another popular option but doesn’t perform well under high heat.
- Add chopped onions and cook until translucent.
- Add strained beans to the pan with the oil and onions. Add an additional 3-4 tablespoons of water to the pan.
- Using a potato masher, mash the beans in the pan while they are cooking/frying. If you don’t have a potato masher, you could also use a food processor to puree them prior to adding the beans into the pan for frying.
- Mash them until they have the consistency of a purée or the texture and consistency you prefer. Add in any desired seasoning, such as chili powder and salt. Additional water may also need to be added for desired texture and creaminess.
Black beans and refried beans can both be a great addition to a healthy diet, particularly when refried beans are prepared with a healthy oil and limited added salt. Adding in healthy spices can make for flavorful refried beans.
Black beans are a type of beans, while refried beans are a prepared bean dish that is made by first cooking dried beans and then mashing and frying them in a pan.
Karla Kueber is a Certified Evidence Based EFT Practioner and Health Coach, with a double Masters Degree in Education. She works with people to overcome emotional eating, curb cravings, and overcome resistance to eating new healthy foods. You can learn more about coaching with her here.