Refried beans, or frijoles refritos in Spanish, are a traditional Mexican side dish made from pinto beans. They are a staple in Mexican cuisine and are commonly served with tacos, burritos, enchiladas, tostadas, chimichangas, chilaquiles, and many other dishes. Some of the most common foods that Mexicans eat refried beans with include:
Corn or flour tortillas are by far the most popular accompaniment for refried beans in Mexico. Refried beans are often spread over the surface of a warm tortilla and then rolled up into a taco or layered between tortillas to make tacos, burritos, flautas, quesadillas, sincronizadas, and more. Corn tortillas are especially ubiquitous with refried beans as they have been eaten together in Mexico for centuries.
In burritos, bowls, and plates, Mexicans will often add a scoop of rice along with refried beans. Long grain white rice complements the creamy, earthy beans nicely. The rice and beans combination is a simple one that provides balanced nutrition.
Huevos rancheros, one of Mexico’s most popular breakfast dishes, is composed of fried eggs served over lightly fried corn tortillas topped with refried beans and salsa. The runny egg yolks pair wonderfully with the smooth bean purée. Eggs cooked any style can make an excellent topping for refried beans.
Whether it’s crumbled queso fresco, shredded Oaxaca, or melted mozzarella, adding cheese on top of refried beans is always a good idea. The cheese adds another layer of flavor and texture. Some great cheesy bean dishes are quesadillas, sopes, and chilaquiles with refried beans.
Ground beef, shredded chicken, chorizo sausage, carnitas, lengua, and other meats are often sautéed, grilled, or cooked into the refried bean mixture. Meat adds protein and heartiness. Tacos, burritos, and tortas with refried beans usually contain meat fillings.
A spoonful of salsa adds brightness, spice, and freshness to refried beans. Tomato-based salsas as well as avocado-based salsas like salsa verde pair exceptionally well with the earthy beans. Salsa can be ladled on top of the beans or served alongside as a dip.
Onions and Cilantro
Raw white onion and cilantro leaves are typical garnishes for refried beans. Their crunchy texture and sharp, aromatic flavors cut through the beans’ richness. Onions and cilantro are often added to tacos, tostadas, sopes, and bowls containing refried beans.
Crema and Queso
For extra creaminess, Mexicans will top their refried beans with crema, a thick sour cream, or queso fresco, a fresh white cheese. The dairy perfectly complements the smooth bean purée. Crema and queso fresco are common in burritos, chilaquiles, and tacos with beans.
Sliced or mashed avocado is stellar on refried beans, adding creaminess and fresh flavor. Avocado slices on tostadas with bean spread provide delicious texture contrast. Guacamole also pairs wonderfully with warm refried beans.
Chips and Tostadas
Crunchy tostada shells and corn tortilla chips are phenomenal scooping vehicles for refried beans, whether at restaurants or home. Beans and chips are an all-time great combination. Add some cheese, lettuce, salsa, and crema on top and you have nachos!
Soups and Stews
Refried beans can be incorporated into hearty Mexican soups and stews like pozole, menudo, and caldo de res. The beans provide protein and thickness to balance out soups. Menudo and pozole especially rely on beans being added to the rich broth.
In Mexican restaurants, refried beans are often an ingredient in taco salads. They get spread over lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and other toppings to add protein. At homes, Mexicans may simply top mixed greens or spinach with a scoop of refried beans for an easy salad.
In enchiladas, refried beans often make up one of the fillings along with meat and/or cheese. They get rolled up into corn tortillas, drenched in red or green enchilada sauce, and baked. Refried beans pair very well with the seasoned and spicy enchilada sauces.
Chilaquiles are made from fried corn tortilla pieces bathed in salsa. Refried beans are a standard topping, getting spooned over the crisp tortillas. The beans add creaminess to balance the textures. Fried egg, cheese, crema, and avocado are also common chilaquiles toppings.
Pupusas are stuffed corn tortillas from El Salvador that are very popular in Mexico. Fillings often consist of refried beans, cheese, and shredded pork. The beans make the pupusas extra hearty and filling. Curtido, a pickled cabbage slaw, is served alongside them.
Refried beans can be used as fillings for tamales – savory masa cakes that are steamed in corn husks or banana leaves. Bean tamales make for a very satisfying meatless meal. They can also be combined with cheese or meat fillings.
Crispy fried corn tortillas are loaded up with refried beans, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, crema, and cheese to make delicious open-faced tostadas. Sometimes the beans are spread onto the tostadas, while other times they are served in a scoop on top.
No nacho plate would be complete without a heaping pile of melted cheese-covered refried beans. The beans serve as the perfect rich, hearty base for the mountain of toppings. They get layered with salsa, jalapeños, guacamole, crema, and any other nacho toppings.
In addition to tacos and tamales, another popular handheld Mexican snack are empanadas. Refried beans, cheese, meat and vegetable fillings get stuffed into masa dough pockets which are then baked or fried. Refried bean empanadas make for an easy on-the-go meal.
Quesadillas are essentially cheese-filled grilled tortillas. However, refried beans are also commonly added to quesadillas along with the melted cheese to add more flavor and nutrition. Quesadillas with beans cut into wedges make an easy, tasty snack.
Chimichangas are related to burritos, but the flour tortillas get deep fried after being filled and rolled up. Typical fillings are refried beans, rice, meat, and/or cheese. The crisp exterior contrasts amazingly with the tender beans and other fillings.
Sopes are small fried masa cakes that get topped with refried beans, lettuce, cheese, salsa, crema, and meat. Refried beans atop sopes create a hearty appetizer or snack. The beans also help balance the crisp corn masa base.
Huaraches are oval fried masa patties that are topped with refried beans, meat, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and salsa verde. The beans spread over the crispy huarache make for a wonderful contrast of flavors and textures.
Totopos simply refers to the fried corn tortilla strips or chips that are perfect for scooping up refried beans. Sprinkle some grated cheese and salsa on top, and you have classic bean totopos that make for an easy snack any time.
Gorditas are thicker masa cakes that get split open and stuffed with refried beans, shredded lettuce, cheese, salsa, crema, and meat. Beans piled into the pocket of a warm gordita satisfy cravings for a hearty snack.
Tlayudas are huge crispy tortillas from Oaxaca that function similarly to pizza crusts. They get spread with refried beans, sliced meat, Oaxaca cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and asiento (pork lard). The beans make for a rich, savory tlayuda topping.
Molotes are soft, thick masa pockets filled with refried beans, shredded chicken or beef, and Oaxaca cheese. Beans are nearly always included in the molote fillings along with meat and/or cheese. They can be fried or baked.
Memelas are thick oval masa cakes that are topped with savory toppings like refried beans, cheese, and shredded meat. The soft refried beans contrast the crispy fried masa beautifully in each bite. Salsa, onion, and crema are also standard memela toppings.
As discussed, refried beans are an extremely versatile Mexican food staple. They make for a tasty, protein and fiber-rich accompaniment to all different types of dishes from breakfast through dinner, in snacks, appetizers, entrees, and sides. Whether wrapped in tortillas, spread over tostadas, or served with rice, eggs, or chips, refried beans are a cherished and delicious part of cuisine throughout Mexico. Their creamy, earthy flavor and smooth texture pair wonderfully with so many ingredients. Refried beans will continue to be a beloved staple that brings complete nutrition and satisfaction to meals in Mexican homes and restaurants everywhere.