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A cast-iron skillet filled with refried beans and topped with crumbled Cojita cheese and several jalapeno slices.

Authentic Refried Beans

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican / TexMex
Keyword: authentic refried beans recipe, how to make pork lard, how to make refried beans
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 25 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 328kcal
Is there any side dish more quintessential TexMex or Mexican than refried beans? Seek out a Mexican food market and pick up some pork lard. It's what puts these over the top and makes them truly restaurant-quality. If you don't have access to a Mexican/Latin market, see NOTES on how to make your own. We don't recommend using packaged lard from a supermarket.
Print Recipe


  • Large pot plus a skillet, such as cast-iron


  • 1 lb pinto beans dried, about 2 cups
  • 2 cups onion chopped
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin ground
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt plus more, if needed
  • 1 tsp black pepper freshly ground
  • ½ cup lard Pork lard: See NOTES
  • 1 cup Cojita cheese crumbled, for garnish


  • Place the beans in a large pot and cover them with water by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil and then immediately lower the heat. Add the onions and simmer gently for 3 hours, adding about ½ cup of water every 30 minutes, and stirring occasionally to prevent burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and use a ladle or a large spoon to skim off liquid from the top of the beans and place in a small bowl. The liquid level should be just under the top layer of the beans. Hold onto the skimmed liquid as you may need to add it to the puréed beans to reach the right consistency.
  • Stir in the chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Continue stirring until fully incorporated. Transfer the beans to a large skillet.
  • Use an immersion blender, or potato masher, to purée the beans until they are smooth and creamy. Transfer the beans to a large skillet over a burner on your stove.
  • Meanwhile, melt the lard in a small skillet. Transfer the melted lard to the beans and bring to a slight simmer. Continue to gently whisk the lard into the beans until fully incorporated, usually about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt, if needed. Serve at once.
  • Taste and add more salt, if needed. Serve at once.



As the pinto beans cook, they may turn a brown, even dark brown, color.  This can happen if the beans have had a long shelf life.  They naturally turn a darker color but lose absolutely no nutritional value of taste. 
Pork lard is essential to making these beans taste authentic.  It can found in Mexican/Hispanic food markets.  We don't recommend using packaged lard (often in tubs) that can be found in many supermarkets.  It doesn't have the right taste and also contains processed chemicals.   See below for how to make pork lard yourself (it's really easy!).
The beans can be made 24 hours in advance.  Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge.  Reheat over medium heat, adding a little water or broth to them if they are too tight. 
The beans will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week and can be frozen for up to 2 months.
Homemade Pork Lard:
Preheat your oven to 250°F.  In an ovenproof vessel, preferably a Dutch oven, add cubed pork fat trimmings (ask your butcher to help you on this) and place in the oven for 3 hours, stirring every now and then.  Strain the lard into an air-tight container.  The lard will last for up to 1 year in the fridge or up to 3 years in the freezer.  


Calories: 328kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 601mg | Potassium: 338mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 415IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 48mg | Iron: 2mg