Fat-free Refried Beans {Slow Cooker}

Confession: In my long life of 35 years, I’ve been guilty of dipping a spoon into many a jar to snag a taste of something I’m craving. Nutella. Homemade applesauce. Creme fraiche. Peanut butter. Strawberry jam. Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter. Just to name a few.

But never, and I repeat never, have I ever in a million years double dipped a spoon into a jar/can of refried beans for a solo taste. I mean, have you? Gross. To be perfectly honest refried-beans-in-a-can have always kind of icked me out big time.

All that changed, though, after I made my very own homemade refried beans.

Fat-free Refried Beans {Slow Cooker}

I kid you not, I could not stop eating these. As in, compulsive dipping my spoon into the nutella jar type of not-stop-eating-these. And I realized after I finally made refried beans by my little old self that the stuff called “refried beans” in a can? It’s not refried beans. It cannot be refried beans! Because it tastes nothing like these delicious, amazing real, live refried beans you see before you.

I can never go back. Homemade refried beans forever! Don’t freak out about another thing to DIY. I promise, they are so super simple, they almost make themselves. You can thank your slow cooker. I’ve been making these (a fat-free version, even though I’m sure the version loaded with bacon grease is pretty much divine, too) for a while now – freezing 1-2 cup portions flattened out in freezer ziploc bags. Talk about an easy weeknight meal; pulling out some RB (that’s refried beans for short), defrosting quick-like in the microwave and making the best bean and cheese tortilla-burrito-quesadilla-thingies you’ve ever had. Plus, I feel like a rockstar being able to use up the 97 pounds of dry pinto beans I have sitting underneath my kids’ bunk beds.

Fat-free Refried Beans {Slow Cooker}

One Year Ago: Perfect Lemon Cupcakes
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The Best Refried Beans {Made in the Slow Cooker and Fat-Free}

Yield: Makes about 8 cups of refried beans

The Best Refried Beans {Made in the Slow Cooker and Fat-Free}

This recipe can easily be doubled (but be sure to use a large oval slow cooker because the ingredients won't fit in a 5-quart round slow cooker). After the beans have been pureed and then cooled, I spoon a cup or so into freezer ziploc bags, flatten out the bags, remove as much air as possible, seal and freeze. The jalapeno doesn't make the beans spicy - just adds great flavor. Also, you could eliminate the 1st step of cooking the beans in water for 15 minutes if you plan ahead and soak the beans overnight in cold water, covering by 1-2 inches. Drain the beans and proceed with step 2.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dry pinto beans, rinsed, remove any stones or shriveled beans
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and membranes removed, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar or same amount of liquid from a jar of jalapenos or banana peppers
  • Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Place the rinsed beans in a medium or large saucepan and cover with water by at least an inch. Bring the beans and water to a boil and cover, cooking for 15 minutes (be aware that the beans will expand as they absorb water and cook so make sure your pan isn't overly full to begin with or else you'll have an overflow problem - safest to start with a larger pot).
  2. Remove from the heat and drain the beans. Place the beans in the slow cooker insert and cover them with about 2 inches of water. Add the salt, onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours. I haven't tried it but you could experiment by cooking on low for 8-10 hours.
  3. When the beans are tender, ladle out about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and reserve in a bowl or liquid measuring cup. Drain the beans and veggies in a colander until most of the liquid is gone but there are still a few drips (you don't want the beans bone dry).
  4. Place the beans and veggies and 1 tablespoon white vinegar (or 1 tablespoon liquid from a jar of jalapenos) in a food processor or blender (you may need to do this in batches - if so, only use half the amount of vinegar each time if splitting the beans in two batches).
  5. Depending on how well you drained the beans, add about 1/4 cup liquid (more if needed) and process until the desired texture is reached - I like mine mostly smooth with a little bit of beans for texture. Add more liquid if needed. I have found I don't need to add a whole lot of reserved liquid if I've lightly drained the beans and they are still wet. Most importantly, taste the beans and add additional salt, if needed!
  6. I let the refried beans cool and then spoon them in 1-2 cup amounts into freezer ziploc bags, press them flat, remove as much air as possible and seal.
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/the-best-refried-beans-made-in-the-slow-cooker-and-fat-free/
Recipe Source: adapted from Our Best Bites by way of The Homesick Texan (I eliminated the bacon grease/fat, added salt, changed up the method a bit)

70 Responses to Refried Beans {Made in the Slow Cooker and Fat-Free}

  1. I love that these are made in the slow cooker! Yum!

  2. Kim in MD says:

    Mel- have I ever told you that you are my culinary hero? Not only are your recipes delicious, but you are always finding ways to simplify recipes. I have made refried beans before (I agree the canned stuff is icky), but I cooked them on the stove for hours. I am so excited to try your slow cooker recipe!

  3. Sheila says:

    I “dislike” confessions. But here goes: marshmallow cream. I have to taste it to make sure its sweet enough and then I don’t want to be wasteful when every recipe I have never uses the whole jar. I’m making your applesauce oat muffins on Thursday and am mourning that it will be at least a couple weekends because of my too busy schedule before I can try this wonderful fat free refried bean recipe. The American diet is full of way too much processed foods and extremely lacking in protein and fiber. It is pretty pathetic when you long for the weekend simply because you are excitedly anticipating making a Mel recipe!!

  4. Audrey Mueller says:

    Do you think this would work with black beans? I hope so!

  5. Pete says:

    Could I use an immersion blender and process them right in the slow cooker?

    • Mel says:

      Pete – yes, you could definitely use an immersion blender, just make sure to still drain the beans before blending because you don’t want to leave all that liquid in the slow cooker.

      Sarah – these are divine with pork, just as you suggested! I recently threw together some enchiladas with these, leftover sweet pork from the recipe I shared last week and a bit of Monterey Jack cheese and green enchilada sauce. They were great!

      • Marlen says:

        Mel, you have been blessed. I have been following you for a little bit now and you always amaze me with you’re creativity and amazing recipes. I do have a question, is there any where in your site a section for the nutritional value of each meal. I started counting my calories and not knowing the value of your meals/amazing recipes some times keeps me from making the dish. Thank you for sharing your great ideas with the world.

        • Mel says:

          Marlen – Thank you for her nice comment. Currently I don’t provide nutritional info based on the time it would take to implement that across my site but it might be a possibility in the future; sorry it makes it more inconvenient to try the recipes. There are several free nutritional calculators online that might help.

        • kristen says:

          I was countingcalories for awhile, and completely recommend using the my fitness pal app if you have a smart phone (it’s free). You can input the ingredients for recipes and it spits out the calorie count per serving/nutritional info. Hope that helps!

    • Mel says:

      Audrey – I haven’t tried this recipe with black beans but I love the idea and think it would most likely work. Good luck if you try it!

  6. I have made refried beans in the slow cooker and it was so easy. I also froze them and just pulled them out whenever needed. Great time saver.

  7. I love that these are made in the slow cooker. Definitely going to try these on our next Mexican night!

  8. You had me at refried — it only gets better with “beans” and “slow cooker” and “fat-free.” This is the best reason I have ever found to buy a slow cooker.

  9. Liz K. says:

    Love homemade refried beans! They are seriously one of my favorite foods. The best way to eat them is in burritos topped with homemade green enchilada sauce. (Maybe I will send you that recipe. It’s so easy, fast and super delicious!) I think I just changed my dinner plans for the night. Bean burritos are now on the menu!

  10. Sarah S says:

    In addition to yummy Mexican meals, I am betting this would serve well with many pork dishes, too! Excited to try this one soon, what a fantastic time saver to pop some in the freezer :)

  11. Army of 7 says:

    I love making retried beans. I know it seems silly but having them in the freezers makes quick meals like nachos or burritos. I really liked Lisa’s recipe on Homesick Texan. My fav so far was from Cooks Illustrated Best New Recipe cookbook. I couldn’t keep my spoon out of there! I’d also like to try the recipe I saw on budget bytes. And now yours too! Good thing beans are cheap.

  12. Patrick says:

    Sounds great, but it got me wondering why we call something that isn’t fried once, let alone twice, “refried beans.” So if anybody is curious, I’ve just learned this from the infallible Wikipedia:
    “The name is based on a mistranslation: in Mexican Spanish, the prefix re is an informal form of emphasis meaning “very” or “well”, which has been confused with the English re, which more often indicates repetition. Thus, frijoles refritos really means “well-fried beans”, not “refried beans”. In this dish, the beans are often fried, but may also be baked, thus making the term “refried” a misnomer on two counts.”

  13. Tracey says:

    Do you think you have to have a really good blender for this? I don’t have a food processor, and my blender is REALLY old. Maybe you should do another Blendtec giveaway! ;)

    • Mel says:

      Tracey – as long as your blender can still, well, blend, I think you should be fine, especially because you aren’t going for a perfectly smooth consistency on this. I’d say give it a try!

  14. Helen says:

    I make a fat free version of refried beans in the crock pot, I use peppers both hot and mild that I dehydrated from my garden,beans, water, garlic, cumin, salt & black pepper I dump it all in the crock pot (3 cups beans 9 cups water plus the spices) … When the water is all absorbed 5 or 6 hours on high… I mash it with a potato masher right in my crock pot … so no blender or food processor is necessary… Love them !! I may have to try this way too & I definitely need to be freezing them… I’m not sure why I haven’t been!! Thanks as always Mel… my brain doesn’t always think about these things :-)

  15. Nikki says:

    I love making refried beans in the crockpot. After I drain out most of the water, I use an immersion blender on the beans in the crock pot. Super easy! Love your blog and make your recipes often!

  16. tahnycooks says:

    I could easily dip a big O’ fat spatula in these refried beans!! I love beans, I will be making these ASAP! great recipe!

  17. I LOVE refried beans, but the boys in the house won’t eat them (losers). I can definitely handle this easy version and freeze some so I have small portions for myself!! YUMMMM!!!

  18. Sara says:

    I have made

  19. Homemade refried beans are the best! I could probably eat this by the spoonful!

  20. Holly says:

    Do you happen to have a homemade flour tortilla recipe? I’ve tried a few that I haven’t loved and figured you would know how to make some that are excellent!

  21. Amanda says:

    I have been making homemade refried beans similar to this for a few years, (my hubby LOVES them). The ingredients are all the same, except I cook mine with 1/2 chicken broth and 1/2 water, and I haven’t added the vinegar–so I’m definitely going to add that in next time I make them. Your recipes are ALWAYS turn out the best, (I’ve left my other regular recipe sites far behind in favor of yours!), so I know I can count on this one being great, too! (No pressure.) :)

  22. leslie says:

    I can’t have white vinegar due to allergies. Any thing else I could use?

    • Mel says:

      Leslie – the tart acidity of the vinegar really helps both the texture and flavor of the beans. Have you subbed anything for vinegar in the past? You could try lemon juice and see how that works but keep in mind I haven’t tried it so you’ll have to experiment. Good luck!

  23. Jessica L says:

    Made these tonight! SO GOOD! I may never be able to use canned beans again! Thanks for such an easy and yummy recipe!

  24. Allyson says:

    Sounds so delicious! Can’t wait to try these! I’m also wishing I could try Liz K.’s homemade green enchilada sauce, mentioned above! I’ve been wanting to find one … everything I come across at the stores makes me wrinkle my nose at the ingredient list.

  25. Trevortni says:

    Draining the beans and blending them at the end are completely optional. I find that if they’re fully cooked, they thicken the water they’re in naturally and fall apart a little on their own, especially once there’s something with salt in there. Stopping cooking before this happens runs the risk of them not being full cooked enough to taste quite right. I’ve also never used, or heard of using, vinegar in a recipe like this before, but I suppose if it works, go for it.

    For a long time I did this with pinto beans, then I switched over to black beans for a few years. Now I am experimenting with combinations of black, pinto, and white beans, with kidney beans a recent addition. So far, no significant problems, unless I set the temperature too high and burn the bottom by accident (in which case you just need to be careful scooping them into whatever you’re going to freeze them in, not to get the burnt bits).

  26. Heather says:

    I guess I’m weird in that I do like canned refried beans and have on occasion eaten a spoonful of them plain! That must mean that I would really like these and will definitely have to make them… everything is always better homemade.

  27. Lindsay says:

    Yum! And I think I have about 97 pounds or more to use too. And I never know what to do with pinto beans, so they just keep sitting there and sitting there, getting moved from house to house! :) Thanks for the recipe!

  28. I LOVE refried beans when done right. You’re right, those things in cans are NOT refried beans. It’s a salty mushy mess! I usually make them from a single can of beans, but I am going to have to try your way. Sounds perfect!

  29. Jenny says:

    Can I substitute jalapeños in a jar for a fresh jalapeño ? If so, about how many would I do?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Jenny – I haven’t tried subbing in the jarred jalapenos so you’ll have to experiment – maybe start with 4 or 5 little rings and see how it tastes. Good luck!

  30. Janet says:

    I’m Mexican and the best way to make refried beans, or beans in general is to add nothing but onion and maybe a little garlic. If you wait to add the salt until after they’re cooked, they won’t be tough, so you don’t need the vinegar if that’s what it’s being used for. Don’t throw away the broth. I usually separate an amount to mash up, and leave the rest whole with the broth. You can freeze both, and this way you have alot more ways to use your pot of beans, like as frijoles borrachos or just in a bowl with mexican rice! mmmm Then you can add whatever you want to the refried beans, like jalapeno, or chorizo, scramble an egg with a bit of beans and stuff in a flour tortilla, spread on a bolillo (french bread), top with white cheese and bake until melty… the possibilities are endless.

  31. Army of 7 says:

    I just finished making these today. I followed the recipe to a “T”, except I used a stick blender. I only needed to add 1/4 cup of the reserve liquid back in plus 1 teaspoon of salt at the end. I do like this recipe and as far as fat free refried beans its delicious but my “best” would have to be Cooks Illustrated -not fat free, I remember it called for about 3 oz olive oil. These beans will still be great in freezers bean burritos for school lunches!

  32. Barbara says:

    I recently cooked 4 pounds of pintos in two batches, no seasonings at all, then dried them in the dehydrator until they were totally crisp. I vacuum sealed them in jars in order to have “instant” refried beans on the shelf. When I want to prepare them, I simply simmer them in a little hot water until they are soft and then puree them on the pulse setting in the blender with enough of the bean broth to make them silky, but still have a few bean pieces. Meanwhile, I sauté some chopped onions in a generous amount of good extra virgin olive oil, add some finely minced garlic near the end of the sauté, then stir it all into the softened beans and add salt to taste along with a small amount of Chipotle Tabasco. They are the absolute best beans we’ve ever had, anywhere, and I am a Tex-Mex foodie from the southwest!

  33. afrolems says:

    reminds me of a west african dish called agonyin beans. Nigerians call it ewa agonyin except the beans is served with a particular sauce.

  34. I cannot wait to make these fresh slow cooked pinto beans, we’re big refried beans fan in our house! YUM!

  35. Ashley Drew says:

    Has any one tired cooking it on low for 8-10 hours!? I’m having my baby shower tomorrow mexican theme and these would be prefect!!! But, wanted to make them tonight so I can have them ready by lunch tomorrow!?

  36. Sheila says:

    Welcome home, Mel! I made these crockpot refried beans and all I can say is, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I made the full recipe and there is none over to freeze. :-(

  37. Kristy says:

    These are beyond awesome, and I will never have to buy canned refried beans again! Thank you so much!!!

  38. Elizabeth says:

    I really enjoyed these; thanks so much for the recipe! I’ve been trying to cut sodium and this recipe really allowed me to manage how much went in! I didn’t have a jalapeno so I just used a heaping spoonful of some diced chilis I had on hand and it turned out quite good! Really looking forward to swapping out my cans of refried beans for these in the future!

  39. Jamie says:

    This really is the best refried bean recipe!! I love your blog and it’s my new go to for recipes. Thanks for what you do. In the last week I’ve made quite a few things from your blog and everything has been awesome. My whole family thanks you:)!!

  40. Melissa says:

    I cooked them on low for about 10 hours and they were just fine!

  41. Tricia says:

    Made this in the pressure cooker! :) boil water, soak beans for 30 minutes, strain and rinse. put in pressure cooker along with beans, salt, onions, garlic and vinegar. My kids don’t like spicy…at all…. so I opted out of jalapenos. But cooked for the 8 minutes once boiling then proceeded as normal! SO SO SO SO so, good! never buying another can of re-fried beans! Thank you!

  42. Emily F says:

    I made these a while ago with jarred jalapenos and they turned out great! And it makes them even more economical – win win!

  43. Kari says:

    Can’t find any pinto beans – would this work on red kidney beans as well?

  44. Amy says:

    These totally flopped for me today. They were a sickly gray/brown color and the flavor was off. What did I do wrong? The color was nothing like yours. So sad.

    • Mel says:

      Amy – it’s nearly impossible for me to know what went wrong especially with so few details. Did you cook them on low or high? Was liquid covering the beans the entire time? Did you use dry beans? Pinto or a different variety? I’m sorry they didn’t work out for you.

  45. Amy says:

    Of course you need more info. Cooked on High, water covering the whole time. I was on the shorter side of the cooking time. Dry beans, I soaked them overnight beforehand and followed the recipe the next morning. Are there different kinds of pinto beans? I’ll just have to give them another go. :) Your website ROCKS, Mel! I always know it’s good when my husband asks, “Mels?” Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Amy – sounds like the overnight soak might be the culprit. Good to know since I haven’t tried it that way. Good luck if you try them again (and I hope you do!).

  46. kari says:

    Amy – I did the same thing. Soaking the beans overnight definitely gives different results as opposed to 15 minutes’ precooking. I had no access to pinto beans so I went with red kidneys. Result was more or less tasteless and I ended up with a tex-mex meal with blood sausage. Not bad, but also not what Mel was telling us.

  47. Charlotta says:

    Just wanted to say hello – I’m a food blogger from Sweden who found your blog while searching for recipes. Your blog is awesome! :=) / Charlotta in Gothenburg, Sweden

  48. Holly W. says:

    Hi Mel –

    Great recipe. I just made these for dinner. And for those readers that have asked, yes, this is perfect for black beans. I also didn’t have fresh jalapeno on hand but did have organic jarred. I just threw in a few rings and called it good. I didn’t add any salt as the full flavor of the jarred peppers was plenty.

    On another note – I did make these in about an hour and half on the stove (I was super impatient and mad that I didn’t plan ahead and decided what the heck – I was just going to go for it :) I had already pre-soaked my beans, so anyone can quick-soak their beans and then start from there. After soaking, I just boiled beans for about 45 min in half water, half low-sodium veggie broth then started at step 2, adding veggies and removing all but 2-inches of liquid and boiled another 30 minutes and continued as your instructed through the end. We like a lot of texture in our food, so I knew my family would be fine with a less smooth consistency – if your family is picky about refried beans having to be smooth, this wouldn’t be for them. But the flavor was AMAZING and I loved how it was all with simple, CLEAN ingredients. I never needed to add salt – that’s how amazing the flavor was… even my picky 18 year old daughter stole a bite after all of us were raving and she loved them – she HATES beans (except these now).

    Thanks again,

    Holly W.
    Portland

  49. Erin Walker says:

    I love your intro – you seriously make me laugh! About snitching a taste of refried beans from the can: “Gross!” haha! I am totally making these. I’ve been meaning to for years!

  50. Carrie H. says:

    I made these yesterday along with pork carnitas. They were so easy! Mine were a little “loose” but I will get it right next time. I’d like to try it with black beans.
    Thanks for all of the great recipes!

  51. Gary says:

    Be sure to cook the beans at or near the bioling point for atleast one hour. Uncooked beans, and similar seeds, have a toxin that the plant uses to protect its seeds from predation. This toxin degrades near the boiling point but fairly slowly. After this is done the slow cooker can be turned to a lower temperature.

  52. Kelly says:

    I love this recipe. I just found it a few weeks ago and have made it several times! Thanks for sharing!

  53. Wendy says:

    Ach!!! I was panicking because I made this the other day, absolutely loved it, but only had it saved on Pinterest, and the original pin for it that was all over Pinterest was no longer valid! Finally found it through google, and am pinning again, because I am SO making this again today. My hubby took most of it to work to keep there so I was unable to stock some in our freezer!

  54. chris says:

    Try adding a little chipotle in adobo sauce. Gives it a smoky flavor like bacon, but without the fat!

  55. My beans are in the slow cooker right now. Can’t wait! Thanks for the recipe.

  56. Margaret says:

    Made this yesterday and they are awesome! My days of canned beans and 7-11 bean and cheese burritos are over! Plan to keep some of these in the fridge at all times.

  57. Just put these into my slow cooker for tonight’s dinner. EXCITED!

  58. Sandy says:

    I would strongly discourage cooking dried beans at anything less than the highest setting on a slow cooker unless the beans have been preboiled. Beans contain serious toxins that are degraded rather slowly by heat.The US Food and Drug Adminisrtation recommends that dry beans be well soaked and cooked atleast 30 minutes at the boiling point to densture the toxins. Soaking and changing the water once or twice is a good idea. Longer soaking improve nutrition by activating the embryos in the beans so they begin synthesis of vitamins as well as modifying stored nutrients in the seeds.

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