Drunken Refried Black Beans (Vegan, Gluten-free option, Grain-free option)

A bowl of creamy drunken re-fried black beans with a coriander leave garnish.

I love refried beans. They have such a comforting texture and are really versatile. Whether as a snack or a meal, they are almost unparalleled in their tortilla chip scoopability, are delicious in fajitas or burritos, and would make an delicious taco along with cauliflower roasted with smoked paprika. You can pile them on nachos for the ultimate film-night snack, or spread them on a soft tortilla and top with lime-soaked avocado and tomato salad for a simple lunch, or pair with cumin-roasted butternut squash on a bed of rice with a zingy salsa and loads of fresh coriander. You could just eat them with a spoon. There are so many options.

When refried beans are mentioned I think a lot of people think of that pink-coloured mush you scoop out of a tin. Don’t get me wrong, that mush is pretty tasty, but if you’ve never tried making refried beans yourself I would highly recommend it. Both for taste and texture homemade beats its tinned equivalent hands down.

The name ‘refried’ is actually mistranslated from the Spanish ‘refritos’; ‘well-fried’ or ‘intensely-fried’ would be more accurate, but perhaps less appealing… (props to Wikipedia for this fun fact). Traditional refried beans would be soaked from dry overnight, then boiled, mashed, passed through a sieve, then baked or fried with onion, garlic, fat and a little stock if necessary. This version is far from traditional – it’s made with tinned beans (though you can use dried), has a chunky texture, added spices, and (this is where the drunken part comes in) a can of beer.

As with most of my recipes the ingredients list for these are malleable. The recipes starts with frying some finely chopped onion (red, white, brown, shallots, even the whites of spring onions would be fine) in a few tablespoons of neutral oil (I use vegetable oil, but you could also use light olive oil, sunflower oil, or refined coconut oil). Chopped garlic goes in once the onion is soft to fry for a few minutes, and then spices for some added flavour and aroma. I used ground cumin, smoked paprika and chilli powder but you can use what you have; whole cumin seeds, standard paprika, cayenne pepper, chilli flakes would all work well, or you can leave some or all of them out entirely.

Then we come to the beans. I love black beans, particularly for the colour they give to this dish, but also I find they have a slightly more savoury flavour than other varieties. Pinto beans and red kidney beans are used used in refried bean recipes and would make perfectly good substitutions. If you use dried beans, you’ll need to soak them overnight then boil them for an hour or so before they are really to use – in fact I would probably boil them for a little longer than usual so the beans are really soft. Whichever you use, drain and rinse them then tip them into the pan with the onion, garlic and spices.

The beer is what turns this recipe from a standard side dish to something a bit special. You can use any beer you have going spare – the alcohol is boiled off and the added flavour you get is subtle rather than overpowering. I think pale ale works really well as it’s a bit more aromatic, but lager would also be fine, and there are now some really good gluten-free beers. If you’re grain-free then replace the beer with vegetable stock  – they’ll still be really tasty. I haven’t tried it with dark beer but the more I think about it the more I think it might be really delicious… that might have to be my next experiment! Simply pour the beer in once you’ve added the beans and enjoy the smell.

The black beans and beer, bubbling away in the frying pan.

Add some stock, bring everything to the boil, and let simmer for 15-20 mins until everything is really soft, then it’s time for some mashing. The easiest way is with a potato masher – just press around the pan, carefully so it doesn’t splash, until you have smooshed most of the beans. You could also do this with the back of a wooden spoon but it’ll take much longer. I like a bit more texture in my beans so I have some only partially smooshed and some left whole, but you can mash as much as you like. The beans will still be a little runny, so continue to simmer for another 5 –10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture reduces and the beans are thick and unctuous.

You can mash a little more at this stage if you so choose. Then it’s simply a case of stirring in some chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime, then seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. You can enjoy immediately, or leave them to cool for use as a dip. Or, if you’re like me, you can spoon them carefully into one of your nicer bowls, garnish with fresh coriander leaves, place on an aesthetically pleasing wooden bored and spend ages taking photos. If you choose this last option please tag me on Instagram @clarecooksvegan – I’d love to see your take!

Drunken re-fried beans, creamy but still a little chunky, served in a bowl that is ideal for dipping.

Drunken Refried Black Beans

  • Servings: 4 –6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Creamy and comforting beer-soaked refried black beans

Vegan. Gluten-free option, Grain-free option


  • 2 tbsp oil (vegetable / sunflower / light olive)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika (or standard paprika)
  • ¼ tsp chilli powder
  • 2 x 400g tins black beans* (you could also use pinto or red kidney beans)
  • 330ml can of beer** (I use pale ale but any will do)
  • 150ml strong vegetable stock (about 5g stock powder and 150ml boiling water)
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander (optional)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (about ½ a lime)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place a large frying pan on a medium heat with 2 tbsp oil. Finely chop the onion, add to the pan and fry to 8-10 minutes until soft. Finely chop, grate or crush 2 garlic cloves and add to the onions and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
  2. Stir in 1 tsp ground cumin, ½ tsp smoked paprika and ¼ tsp chilli powder to the onions and fry for 1 minute.
  3. Drain and rinse 2 tins of beans (see notes if using dried) and add to the pan, then pour in 330ml of beer, and 150ml strong stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Using a potato masher, mash the beans until the sauce starts to thicken but there are still plenty of whole beans remaining. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until the beans become thick enough that when you stir them they hold their position, such that you can still see the bottom of the pan. Mash a little more if you prefer smoother refried beans – I like them a bit chunky.
  5. Finally, stir in the 4 tbsp of chopped coriander, 1 tbsp of lime juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.


*If using dried beans, soak 240g dried beans overnight in plenty of water, drain and cover in water again in a large pan. Bring to the boil and then simmer for at least an hour or until the beans are completely soft. You can then use them as you would tinned in the recipe.

**You can use gluten-free beer, or if you are grain-free, replace the beer and strong stock with 450ml regular strength vegetable stock.

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