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When should I eat refried beans?

Refried beans are a staple in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. They are made by cooking pinto beans until soft, mashing them, then frying them in oil. Refried beans have a smooth, thick texture and earthy, satisfying flavor. They can be eaten at any meal, but are especially popular at breakfast and lunch. Here is a guide to when and how to enjoy refried beans.

For Breakfast

Refried beans are a common breakfast food in Mexico and the American Southwest. Their rich, savory taste provides a hearty start to the day. Refried beans contain fiber and protein to give you lasting energy. They are often served with eggs, ham, bacon, chorizo, or potatoes as part of a traditional breakfast plate. The beans can be served soft and warm, or crisped up and fried into a thicker paste. Top refried beans with cheese, salsa, avocado, cilantro, and other favorite toppings for a satisfying morning meal.

Breakfast Burrito or Taco

For a handheld breakfast, wrap refried beans in a flour tortilla burrito or corn tortilla taco. Fill it with scrambled eggs, shredded cheese, diced ham, bacon crumbles, or sausage. The beans and eggs provide a substantial protein boost to start your day off right. Garnish your breakfast burrito or taco with salsa, guacamole, or sour cream for extra flavor and richness.

Huevos Rancheros

In huevos rancheros, refried beans are partnered with eggs fried sunny side up and served on top of corn tortillas. The ooey, gooey egg yolks mix with the smooth refried beans for a delectable combination. Add on salsa, avocado, cilantro, and queso fresco or Cotija cheese to highlight the Tex-Mex flavors. Serve with crispy tortilla chips on the side to scoop up all the tasty bean and egg mixture.


For chilaquiles, day-old corn tortillas are cut into quarters and fried until crisp. They are simmered in a red or green salsa along with shredded chicken or refried beans. Top the chip and sauce mixture with fried eggs, queso fresco, onion, cilantro, and crema. The refried beans absorb the complex flavors of the sauce and mix with the runny egg yolks to make an indulgent and comforting breakfast dish.

Breakfast Quesadilla

A breakfast quesadilla is an easy on-the-go option for the morning meal. Fill a flour tortilla with refried beans, scrambled eggs, and cheese. Fold it in half and griddle until the cheese is melted. Cut into wedges and top with salsa, guacamole, or sour cream. The refried beans add protein to this handheld breakfast treat.

For Lunch

Refried beans make for a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs lunch. They provide lasting energy to power you through the afternoon. Enjoy refried beans in burritos, tacos, tostadas, nachos, tamales, and more for a tasty midday meal.


Build a satisfying burrito with refried beans, Spanish rice, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, cheese, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream wrapped in a large flour tortilla. The smooth beans pair nicely with the fluffy rice and fresh fillings. Grill or steam the burrito to melt the cheese and warm the interior.


Spoon refried beans into a corn or flour tortilla taco along with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and other favorite taco fillings. Fry the filled taco for a crispy shell. Or leave the tortilla soft for a street taco style lunch. Garnish with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream for extra flavor and texture.


For a tostada, spread refried beans over a crisp, flat corn tortilla. Top with lettuce, tomato, cheese, shredded meat or chicken, and dollops of sour cream and guacamole. The tostada provides abundant textures from the crunchy tortilla, creamy beans, and fresh toppings. Dress it up with salsa for a zesty kick.


Make nachos for a fun lunch or game day snack by layering tortilla chips with refried beans, shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, jalapeños, shredded chicken, and other favorite nacho toppings. Bake or broil to melt the cheese into gooey goodness. The refried beans act as the flavorful base to build tasty nacho creations.


A simple quesadilla of melted cheese and refried beans wrapped in a flour tortilla makes for an easy lunch. Cook on a griddle until the tortilla is lightly browned. Cut into wedges and serve with salsa and guacamole on the side for dipping. Boost the protein by adding shredded chicken, ground beef, or chopped bacon to the quesadilla.


A tamale consists of masa dough stuffed with filling and steamed in a corn husk. Refried beans are a classic tamale filling. Pair them with cheese, chiles, rice, or meat inside the steamed masa package. Unwrap the tamale, top with enchilada sauce, queso fresco, and cilantro for a hearty lunch dish.

For Dinner

Refried beans can be incorporated into a variety of dishes for a delicious dinner. They provide protein, fiber, and nutrients as a vegetarian main course or as part of a meat entree. Refried beans pair well with rice, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, chili, and more at the evening meal.

Rice and Beans

For a simple, satisfying meatless dinner, serve refried beans alongside Spanish rice. Garnish with shredded cheese, salsa, and chopped onions, tomatoes, or chiles. The rice and beans provide a complete protein when served together. Make it a heartier meal by adding warm tortillas on the side.


Make easy weeknight tacos with refried beans as either the filling or a topping along with meat or veggies. Set out tortillas, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheese, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream so everyone can customize their tacos to their tastes. The refried beans add protein, fiber, and texture.


For veggie enchiladas, roll corn tortillas filled with refried beans, cheese, and roasted vegetables in your choice of enchilada sauce. Serve topped with more sauce, cheese, guacamole, and cilantro. The smooth beans pair nicely with the rolled tortillas and savory sauce. Add shredded chicken or beef if you want some meat.


Mix refried beans with roasted or sautéed veggies for vegetarian fajitas. Wrap in warm flour tortillas along with cheese, guacamole, and salsa. Or serve the beans and veggies over rice. Add strips of grilled chicken, steak, or shrimp if you want to incorporate meat. The beans provide plenty of protein and fiber for a hearty dinner.


Add a can of refried beans to your regular beef or turkey chili recipe for extra thickness and nutrients. Or make vegetarian chili by simmering multiple types of beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, chili powder, cumin, and garlic. Top with cheese, onions, cilantro, and tortilla chips or cornbread. The refried beans help create a hearty chili.

Burrito Bowl

Build a burrito bowl by combining refried beans, Spanish rice, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheese, and protein like grilled chicken or steak. Let everyone top their bowl with salsa, guacamole, and other desired toppings. Enjoy all the flavors of a burrito in a bowl without the wrap.


Fill flour tortillas with refried beans, cheese, and sautéed veggies or meat for easy quesadillas. Cook on a griddle, top with guacamole and salsa, then slice into wedges. The creamy beans and melted cheese make a delicious dinner when stuffed in a tortilla.

Nutrition Benefits

Refried beans are highly nutritious, which is one reason to eat them often. Here are some of the top nutrients you’ll get from refried beans:


Refried beans provide plant-based protein to help build muscle and satisfy hunger. One cup contains around 11-15 grams of protein.


A cup of refried beans supplies 11-17 grams of dietary fiber. This fills you up, promotes digestive health, and feeds good gut bacteria.


Refried beans contain around 20-35% of the recommended daily iron intake. Iron carries oxygen throughout the body and supports energy.


With 600-920 mg potassium per cup, refried beans help regulate fluid balance and nerve signaling.


One cup of refried beans has about half the daily folate needs. Folate aids in cell growth and preventing birth defects.

Tips for Enjoying Refried Beans

Here are some tips to get the most out of eating refried beans:

  • Look for low sodium or no salt added canned refried beans to limit excess sodium.
  • Make your own refried beans from dried pinto beans to control the ingredients.
  • Mash black or other bean varieties instead of pinto beans for different flavors.
  • Mix in chopped onions, garlic, chiles, cilantro, cheese, or spices to add your own spin.
  • Thin the consistency with vegetable broth or milk to make bean dip or soup.
  • Blend with Mexican rice and broth for an easy veggie burrito filling.
  • Heat up any leftovers the next day for quick bean tacos or nachos.
  • Pair refried beans with chopped veggies like lettuce, tomato, and avocado for added nutrition.
  • Top with Greek yogurt instead of cheese or sour cream to lighten them up.


Refried beans can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They provide protein, fiber, and other nutrients as part of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. Use them as a side dish, taco filling, dip, or vegetarian main meal. Refried beans taste delicious and provide lasting energy. Keep canned or homemade refried beans on hand for an easy addition to lots of recipes any time of day.