Refried Beans vs Black Beans: What’s The Difference?

Refried Beans vs Black Beans
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Refried Beans vs Black Beans

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Mexican recipes use refried beans and black beans interchangeably across various meals and side dishes.

However, you must keep in mind that black beans and refried beans are two different things and don’t suit the exact same flavor profiles and recipes. Despite being a close match, there are best uses for each.

Just imagine the disappointment of hoping for frijoles refritos or well-fried beans, and you get served frijoles negros instead!

You’d better know what you are planning to eat before stepping into a Mexican restaurant. Most of the beans in use may seem quite similar with remarkable similarities in taste as well.

However, knowing the critical differences between their cooking style, the nature of the beans, and the way that various tastes will make all the difference between getting something tasty and a meal that’s truly irresistible.

Refried Beans Vs. Black Beans Comparison

  Refried Beans Black Beans
Definition Beans Seasoned And Fried In Oil Or Fat Until Soft, Once Soft, Refried Beans Are Smashed To A Half-Broken Puree Dried Or Canned Black Beans Scientifically Termed Phaseolus vulgaris
Bean Type Pinto Beans Or Black Beans Black Beans Also Known As Turtle Beans
Consistency Extremely Soft, Mashed Midway Point Between Mash And Puree Meaty, Tender, Mushy When Mashed
Mashed Or Whole Mashed Until Beans Are Broken Sold And Cooked Whole Before Being Smashed And Mashed For Refried Beans
Varieties Refried Beans Are Typically Cooked With Onions, Garlic And Hot Ingredients Like Chili And Cayenne Black Beans Can Be Served In A Multitude Of Different Ways But Are Spiced For Refried Beans

Refried Beans vs Black Beans

In the most basic definition, refried beans are extremely different from the variety of legumes called black beans.

We’ll be showing you all the differences between refried beans, the bean-based meal, and black beans which are commonly used across all sorts of cuisine. Here’s a complete comparison of refried beans vs. black beans.

Refried Beans

Refried Beans
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There are few recipes that are as popular in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine as refried beans.

This delicious Latin American staple comes in many different forms, with regional differences between recipes resulting in similar spicy flavors and various consistencies.

  • What Are Refried Beans?

Don’t allow the name to confuse you. Refried beans are actually double fried in oil as many are led to believe.

The name is derived from the original Spanish term ‘refritos’ which means ‘well fried’ referring to the mushy well-cooked consistency.

  • Bean Type

Pinto beans are the go-to choice for traditional Mexican refried beans. You can, however, use many other varieties like black beans, cranberry beans, Bayo beans, and kidney beans as well.

Black beans are one of the most commonly used varieties outside of Pinto which is why they’re often confused for refried beans by definition.

  • Consistency

All refried beans come with an extremely soft texture. The soaked, cooked beans are squashed until they’re totally smashed. A paste containing broken beans, whole beans, crushed beans, and bean puree is left.

  • Mashed Or Whole

Mashed Or Whole bean
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Refried beans are mashed until they reach a consistency that’s midway between mash and puree. There’s still partial pieces of beans left but most of the dish is made up of a mealy texture similar to mashed potatoes.

  • Varieties

There are countless ways to prepare refried beans. However, the core methodology involves frying your pinto or black beans in fat.

Traditional Mexican chefs fry their beans in lard, but the majority of restaurants opt for vegetable oil instead. A variety of spices are added to refried beans including but not limited to chili pepper, cayenne, and cumin.

The exact herbs and spices depend on the regional variety of refried beans, and the chef’s unique spin on the basic recipe.

Most refried beans in the US utilize Pinto beans but any type of beans can actually be used. From black beans to kidney beans, they all work well.

Black Beans

Black Beans
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If you’re looking for a meaty, flavorful bean that packs a nutritional punch, black beans should be your go-to option.

They’re so tasty that many chefs prefer preparing refried beans with black beans over other varieties. Let’s see what makes them unique.

  • What Are Black Beans?

Black beans are a legume scientifically termed Phaseolus vulgaris. They’re one of the earliest cultivated staple legumes, with first use arising approximately 7000 years or more ago.

Their meaty, tender texture and wholesome nutrient profile make them a sought-after ingredient in countless meals, and one of the main beans used to make refried beans.

  • Bean Type

You’ll often find black beans referred to as turtle beans because of their hard appearance.

Don’t allow the shell-like look fool you – they’re one of the most flavorful, versatile types of beans available and cook completely soft with little difficulty.

Many cooks fondly call black beans the new pinto beans due to the interchangeable nature of both ingredients, and the similarity of flavor and texture. Black beans are just more substantial.

  • Consistency

Black beans are firm, meaty, and cook tender. They’re one of the meatiest varieties of beans available and work wonderfully in both side dishes and as the main protein.

As is the case with most beans, be careful when adding acidic ingredients as too much acid will lead to chewy beans.

  • Mashed Or Whole

Mashed Or Whole
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Most black beans are served whole or partially mashed. If refried beans are cooked using black beans, the texture will be almost completely mashed and partially pureed just like any other traditional recipe. 

  • Varieties

While one only typically gets to pick when visiting a specialty store, there are several varieties of black beans available.

Domino, Raven, Blackhawk, and Black Magic are all cultivars commonly available.

Try Making Refried Beans in Advance

One of the best things about refried beans is that you can make a large batch in advance and freeze it.

Be sure to dispense your refried beans into portions so that reheating a side-dish or tasty bean topping to add to your main course is made easy.

There are tons of recipes that call for refried beans, and even more innovative ways to include them into all your favorite meals. This is one versatile side dish that you can add to just about anything.

Must-Try Refried Black Beans Recipe

Here’s an easy refried beans recipe using black beans that comes with a spicy kick. Be sure to adjust the recipe based on your own preferences for heat. If you prefer to use dried beans, soak them overnight first.

It’ll also take up to 20 to 30 minutes to prepare refried beans from dried beans instead of the 10 minutes in the pan that canned beans typically take to cook soft.


  • Cooking Oil
  • 3 Cloves Of Garlic
  • 2 Cans Of Black Beans (Or Pinto Beans)
  • 1 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Chopped Cilantro
  • 1 Small Chopped Scallion
  • 2 Small Chopped Chilis
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Stock (Or Chicken Stock)
  • 3 Tablespoons Lime Juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. Saute your scallion and chopped chilli until the onion is translucent in a saucepan with a little oil over a medium heat
  2. Rinse your canned beans and add them to the pan
  3. Mix in your chili powder, cumin, cayenne, chili powder and cilantro and saute for 2 to 3 minutes
  4. Add your cup of stock, mix well and reduce the heat
  5. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes
  6. Use a potato masher or a pork to mash the beans until they reach your desired texture
  7. Mix in the lime juice and serve or freeze

Freezing Tips For Refried Beans And Black Beans

Refried Beans And Black Beans
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If you decide to cook up either black beans or refried beans, keep in mind that you can freeze your portions. It’s easy to cook up a batch of beans in bulk and use it later as toppings for Tacos or nachos.

Just ensure that you proportion your beans into freezer bags, and date each bag using a permanent marker so that you always know its origin and can gauge expiry.

Always work according to your dates, and never consume frozen refried or black beans that have been in your freezer for more than 6 months.

Refried Beans Vs. Black Beans Conclusion

Now that you’ve learned all the exact differences between refried beans vs. black beans you’ll never be confused between the two again.

You should also know exactly how to prepare black beans into refried beans for one of the tastiest varieties of a classic recipe around.

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