How to Make Canned Refried Beans Better and Like They Came from Your Favorite Mexican Restaurant

How to Make Canned Refried Beans Better

When you go out for Mexican food, that side of refried beans is always one of the best parts. They’re bursting with flavor and have a luscious, creamy texture. You love spooning it atop that Mexican rice or into your tacos. Add toppings to it and simply shovel it into your mouth. It doesn’t get any better.

Naturally, though, when you see a can of refried beans at the supermarket, you get a grand idea that you can make taco night better. Or even burrito night. Whatever you’re making from Mexican cuisine, that refried beans will be the perfect complement!

That is until you open up that can, and a can-shaped blob of goo oozes out. That’s not what it looks like at the restaurant! In fact, the directions on those cans cause even further confusion because it simply tells you to heat on the stovetop (or in the microwave) and serve.

Even when you follow those instructions exactly, they still come out with a way-too-thick texture. And they don’t even remotely resemble the deliciously delightful refried beans you get when you venture out for Mexican cuisine.

So, how do you make canned refried beans better? That can is really just the base for what you’re going to turn into amazing refried beans! Keep reading to learn how to make canned refried beans better, and like they came from your favorite Mexican restaurant


6 Key Secrets for Making Canned Refried Beans Better

can of refried beans

The good news is that not only can you learn how to make canned refried beans better, but you can also do it without spending much time. These 6 simple tricks will show you how to get that exact taste and texture you love at Mexican restaurants from that can of refried beans.

For starters, it helps to know that refried beans, when made from scratch, start with dry pinto beans that are slow-cooked with spices. These then get smashed up to get that lovely texture. But since you have a can of refried beans, you won’t have to spend quite as much time making yours.


Add Liquid to Thin Out the Mixture

jug and glass of milk

No doubt, the first thing you noticed when you opened that can of refried beans was that it was entirely too thick. First-timers may assume that this thick mixture will thin out as it heats up. Oh, but you’ll soon be disappointed, for they’ll stay in that overly thick gloppy state even when they’re piping hot.

Refried beans at restaurants have a thinner, almost runny texture. The number one way to improve your canned refried beans is to thin out the contents of the can.

So, you add liquid to it. Water will work just fine, though other options will add more flavor. For example, if you have any chicken or veggie broth in your fridge, this is the perfect chance to use it.

Another liquid option that will work beautifully…milk! Yes, really! To make them really indulgent, cream or half and half is amazing.

You’ll want to add at least half a cup of liquid to a 16-ounce can. Obviously, if you’re using a larger can, add in more liquid.

Don’t pour it all in at once though! Add a little bit at a time, stirring it in until it’s all fully incorporated.

And if you need more liquid, that’s ok! Add it until you get that perfect consistency you’re looking for.


Give It a Creamy Addition

Now for this next step in making canned refried beans better, it’s important to know that you should always add liquid first. The texture needs to be thinned out, and that’s the way to do it.

But it could use a creamy touch. After all, those refried beans at the restaurant have such a luscious texture. And the way to get yours like that is to try something creamy like sour cream or cream cheese.

However, don’t just add those things and call it a day. It will only thicken up the texture. We need balance here, people! A great way to do it is to add a little liquid, then some cream, and either a little plop of sour cream or creamed cheese.

One word of caution: sour cream may be a better add-on at the end because it can change the authentic flavor. If you want to keep more of a purist approach, a blend of chicken broth and cream will give the balance of liquid, it needs along with creaminess.

Again, add it all in little by little. You can always add more if you need to do so.


Have Fun with Fat

Restaurant refried beans always have the best taste because they use fat. Fat is one of the best secrets for jazzing up those canned refried beans. It adds tons of flavor and helps out the texture.

You can use any source of fat in your kitchen. Most people tend to have butter, olive oil, or vegetable oil. But if you have lard or, even better – bacon grease – you can make the best refried beans from that can.

The fat is best for warming up on the stovetop and then adding seasonings (more on that in a moment). Once you do that, you flavor the fat and disperse those seasonings, making it easier to incorporate into your refried beans.


Warm Up Some Spices

Open spices on the table

You love those restaurant-style refried beans because they’re so full of flavor. They are not chalky and bland like that can. But your canned refried beans can have all that flavor and then some.

This tip is one of the best for making canned refried beans taste like you made them from scratch. All you have to do is take whatever fat you’ve selected – butter, oil, bacon grease – and then warm it on the stove.

Then, you’ll add your spices to it. Warming up the spices for a couple of minutes in your chosen fat, it brings out their flavors. You’ve got to try it!

Cumin is one of the best spices to use for Mexican cuisine, especially when it comes to refried beans. The whole seeds or even the ground version will do just fine. Other spices to add would be chili powder (you can adjust it to make it more or less spicy as per your preference), garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, or smoked paprika.

You can also add fresh minced garlic, chopped onions, or sliced jalapenos.

But wait…what if you don’t want to add any fat? You can still add these spices to your canned refried beans. Once you start thinning them out with the liquid, you can stir in your favorite flavors to pep them up.


Go for Garnishes

jalapeno peppers

What do you like to eat with your refried beans? Maybe you just love dipping those tortilla chips in there, and who could blame you? Or maybe you love to take all those fabulous garnishes and top it off, then snarf it down.

Cheese on top is perhaps the ultimate garnish, though don’t forget about salsa, cilantro, jalapenos, sour cream, or even guacamole. The trick is to use more than one to really elevate things.

Making refried beans for a crowd? You may want to create a serving station where your friends and family can help themselves to the toppings they love. Some suggestions:

  • Shredded cheddar
  • Crumbled cotija
  • Sliced jalapenos
  • Chopped onions
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Salsa
  • Pico de gallo
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Fresh lime wedges


How to Serve Your Refried Beans

Two Burrito Wraps

Refried beans are incredibly versatile. Once you follow these tips on how to make canned refried beans better, no one will believe you made them yourself. They’ll think you snuck away to pick up an order from your favorite local Mexican restaurant.

You can serve your refried beans as a side dish to go with any Mexican dish, like tacos, burritos, or enchiladas. They’re great on their own, with toppings, or on top of rice and topped with toppings.

If you have a lot of canned refried beans leftover, you can also use them in a bunch of fun ways:

  • Smear them in tortillas for tacos or burritos
  • Make a Mexican pizza
  • Put them in a quesadilla
  • Make a mountain of nachos
  • Use them to create meatless versions of  your favorite Mexican dishes

Be creative, and you’ll have a wonderful time when you serve your newly-refreshed refried beans from the can!


Stovetop Cooking Tips for Canned Refried Beans

Again, one of the most important tips for making refried beans taste better from the can is to thin out the mixture from that can. Even if you do nothing else, it will instantly improve your refried beans.

If you’re going to use butter, fat, or oil, you should use a large skillet or saucepan to contain everything. Warm it up until it sizzles, and then put in whatever spices you plan to use. You’ll want to lower the heat to medium at this point, too, for no one wants scorched spices.

Stir attentively just for a few minutes. You’ll know it’s been long enough when you can smell the heavenly aroma. If you’re using anything fresh, like minced garlic, onions, or jalapenos, this would be the time to add these items. If not, just add the canned refried beans.

Now you’ll add your liquid to the beans. Do so a little at a time so you can incorporate it well and adjust the consistency to your liking. Once that’s all in there, you can cover it and put it on medium-low for about 5 minutes.

If you added just water or broth, you can then add cream to your beans if you’re using it. Again, do it a little bit at a time. It should stir in a little easier though now that the beans have been warmed up.

Once everything has been cooked in and warmed through, you should notice your canned refried beans look like the ones you get at your favorite Mexican place. They’re now ready to serve with all those garnishes we talked about above. Pick and choose your favorites or use them all!


Microwave Tips for Making Canned Refried Beans

Look, we’re going to be honest…your canned refried beans will be WAY better if you take the time to make them on the stovetop. Really, you’re not even taking that much time to make them.

But what if you’re only making a small can for yourself? Or do you live in a dorm? Then you can still make canned refried beans better in your microwave.

You’ll want to put your canned refried beans into a microwave-safe bowl. Then you’ll put in a half cup of milk. To make this even better, we recommend cream or half and half if you have it.

Make sure you stir this up a bit, which can be tough depending on the size of your bowl. After stirring, microwave on high for a minute and a half. When the microwave beeps, add whatever spices you want to it and stir them through. Then microwave for another minute and a half.

Now the beans should be hot and easy to stir. If not, you can heat them in 30-second increments until they are. Then you can add whatever garnishes you want to your refried beans.



Are refried beans good for weight loss?

Refried beans can help you lose weight loss when consumed in moderation. They are a good source of fiber and protein.


A Final Word About Making Canned Refried Beans Better

canned refried pinto beans

If you were disappointed the last time you bought canned refried beans, now is the time to go get a new can and try these tricks for how to make them better. In short, you need to thin out the consistency, add some seasonings, and top it off with a few extras. Doing this will make your next Mexican-themed meal taste like the real deal!


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Written by Laurie Graves

Laurie is a 50-something wife and boy mom, who loves to share easy recipes, DIY home ideas, and food hacks. She truly believes that with a little inspiration, anyone can make their home and meals feel special.