These Vegetarian Refried Beans are great for meal prep or as a side to your favorite Mexican-Inspired dish. They’re both low in sodium and completely oil free – my favorite go-to Instant Pot beans. All you need is 10 ingredients and 10 minutes to prep! Serve with my favorite homemade Cilantro Lime Rice and Tomatillo Green-Chili Salsa.
I’ve been making homemade refried beans for a long time and it’s taken me quite a few tries to get them to taste right. They always just tasted too…healthy, watery and lacking and flavor.
Most traditional refried bean recipes I’ve seen call for either bacon strips or lard which makes creating vegan refried beans slightly challenging.
In the interest of keeping this recipe oil free and low sodium, I skipped trying to replicate the lard and focused on the smokiness and flavor of the bacon.
With just a simple marinade, I believe we’ve achieved all the flavor of traditional beans in just one hour and 10 ingredients!
Why This Recipe Works
- Pressure cooking beans in the Instant Pot helps cook them quickly and yields creamy beans in just one hour.
- Cooking dried beans as opposed to buying canned beans allows you to control how much salt is added! Both healthier and cheaper.
- The vegan and vegetarian “bacon marinade” used in this recipe gives all the flavor of traditional beans without the excess oil and lard.
Vegetarian Refried Beans Ingredients
These beans are made with 10 simple ingredients that you might already have in your pantry!
- Dried Pinto Beans – No soaking or thinking ahead required. Just give them a quick rinse and discard any bad beans as needed.
- Maple Syrup – Gives these beans a tiny hint of sweetness you’d otherwise get from using bacon.
- Liquid Smoke – Creates that smokiness you’d also get from bacon. Highly recommend adding this! It adds such depth and flavor.
- Spices – A combination of cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and paprika. Makes all the difference!
- Jalapeños – I like to add jalapeños to give these beans a little kick. If you don’t love spice, feel free to skip.
- Tamari – For saltiness! Although these beans are far lower in sodium than the store bought variety, we still need a little salt to make these flavorful!
- Shallots (or onion) – I’ve used both and don’t prefer one over the other. Shallots are slightly less strong tasting than onion so if you don’t love onion, try shallot!
Step By Step Instructions
- Sauté the shallots (or onion) and diced jalapeño if using. I usually use 1-2 jalapeños, depending on how spicy they are. I recommend tasting your jalapeño before using. The spice level between one and another varies greatly!
- Add in the spices and vegan “bacon marinade” and stir to combine. These ingredients are what give this recipe all the flavor so don’t skip!
- Add in your rinsed beans. Be sure to use dried, un-soaked beans. Using soaked or even canned beans will be very different result and far too watery.
- Finally, top the beans with the water, give it a good stir and then cook on manual high pressure for 40 minutes.
- Once the beans have cooked, allow the Instant Pot to naturally de-pressurize for 10 minutes and then release the rest of the pressure manually. After cooking the beans should still be in liquid.
- Blend the beans with an immersion blender directly in pot until you have reached your desired consistency. I like to leave a few beans still in tact but mostly smooth.
FAQs and Expert Tips
Are store-bought refried beans vegetarian and vegan friendly?
This recipe is completely vegan but most store-bought and traditional refried beans served in restaurant are not vegan or vegetarian.
Traditional refried beans contain lard or animal fat. I prefer this recipe far more than store-bought vegan refried beans, but if you are buying store-bought, check the label!
Can I make these refried beans on the stovetop?
No, sorry. This recipe is specifically written for pressure cooking. Cooking beans from dry on the stovetop takes several hours and will require far more water.
If you love cooking beans from dry, I highly recommend investing in a pressure cooker!
Can I use soaked pinto beans?
No. This recipe is written for dry beans that have not been soaked. If you soak the beans, you will need to reduce the water this recipe calls for and drastically reduce the cook time. I have not tested this so I cannot recommend soaked cook times.
What is good to eat with refried beans?
I love eating refried beans with tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and even plain with chips! Refried beans are very versatile.
- Don’t skip the “bacon marinade.” It really elevates the flavor of these beans and makes them so much better than store-bought.
- Use onion instead of shallots if you love the flavor of onion. Shallots are a more subtle flavor profile than onion, but both are fantastic.
- If you prefer super smooth beans, blend these beans in a blender.
Can You Freeze Refried Beans?
Yes, absolutely. Freezing beans is very simple and a great trick for make ahead meals and meal prep!
To freeze these refried beans, allow the beans to cool completely, then fill a mason jar or similar freezer safe container to the freezer line. Freezer safe for about 6 months.
To thaw, simply transfer from the freezer to the refrigerator and allow 24 hours to defrost.
What to Enjoy These Beans With
- Beer Braised Jackfruit Enchiladas
- Crispy Vegan Potato Tacos
- 5 Minute Tomatillo Green-Chili Salsa (Chipotle Copycat)
- Slow Cooker Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos with Mango Salsa
Vegetarian Refried Beans (oil free, low sodium)
What You'll Need
- 2 cups dried pinto beans - uncooked and non-soaked
- 4 cups water
- 2 shallots - diced (can substitute 1 diced onion for stronger flavor)
- 1-2 jalapeño - diced and deseeded (adjust to spice preference)
- 2 tablespoons tamari - substitute soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon liquid smoke -
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt - adjust to taste
- Using the sauté function on your Instant Pot, sauté the shallot and jalapeno in a splash of water for 5 minutes or until fragrant and translucent.
- Next, turn off the Instant Pot to stop the sauté and add in the marinade ingredients, pinto beans and water. Stir to combine and add the lid. Make sure the valve is set to SEAL. Cook for 40 minutes on high pressure.
- After 40 minutes, allow the Instant Pot to depressurize naturally for at least 10 minutes. Manually release the remaining pressure as needed.
- After cooking, there should be some liquid remaining. Blend the beans with your immersion blender directly in pot with remaining liquid until you have reached your preferred texture. I like to leave a few beans whole. Alternatively, if you prefer extra smooth beans you can blend them in a blender.
- Storage: Store in the refridgerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days or freeze for several months.
- These beans will be runny at first, but they firm up quite a bit after cooling and refrigeration.
- If you don't have an immersion blender, you could blend together in a blender or food processor. You may need to do this in batches and be careful not to overfill - heat expands!
- This recipe is written for unsoaked beans. If you soak your beans ahead of time you will have different results.
- Freezing instructions: Freeze in mason jar or similar freezer safe vessel for up to 6 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight or if limited on time, in a warm bowl of water.
Disclaimer: The Nutritional Information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.
These were a huge hit in my house. We ended up making some plant based bean, potato, and cashew cheese taco bell knockoff burritos. I’m making them again today to satisfy that taco bell itch again. Thanks for the wonderful recipe!
Ahhh, so glad to hear! That sounds phenomenal. I’ll have to try your copycat burritos!
I have made these twice and they taste awesome. The second time I used less Jalapeños (for my hubby) and less liquid smoke (for me)! I made extra to freeze! Highly recommend trying these!
I am so glad you guys loved the beans! Thank you!
These beans are delicious! After changing to a plant-based diet I can’t tolerate my favorite vegan refried beans because the oil bothers my stomach. These are the perfect replacement for my old favorite. Here is a direct quote after my family tried these beans, “Yum, these are good, REALLY GOOD!”. This recipe is a keeper!
Yay! Love hearing this, thank you for sharing!
If you soak your beans for 1 hour (after bringing cold water w/beans to a boil and cooking for 2 minutes), cook in Instant Pot for 10 minutes! With ingredients from recipe and a natural release. My favorite way of cooking beans.
So good to know, thank you!