This healthy refried beans recipe is hands-down my favorite Instant Pot recipe!
Pressure cooking beans in an Instant Pot makes them easier to digest by greatly reducing the lectins and other "anti-nutrients" that leave on the bean's outer surface. If you've ever had a hard time digesting beans, then try pressure cooking them for easier digestion.
Additionally, pressure-cooking beans yields a wonderful evenly-cooked texture, and it's even much quicker than cooking them on the stove.
Instant Pot Refried Beans Are Healthy & Easy
First, I have to admit, I wasn't the biggest fan of the Instant Pot when it arrived. And to be honest, I still prefer to use a slow cooker or good 'ol Dutch oven on the stove for most recipes.
For me, the layering flavors in traditional cooking just makes more sense. Plus, pressure cookers can be finicky. I have VIVID memories of not being allowed in the kitchen when I was a small child when my grandmother had her old-school pressure cooker on the stove. But, new electric pressure cookers have changed the game and made pressure cooking much safer (please refer to your Instant Pot manual for usage and safety instructions).
Even though I prefer classic cooking methods, where the Instant Pot really comes in handy is pressure cooking beans. You can go from dry, unsoaked beans to smooth, creamy, delicious, fully-cooked beans in about an hour. Now that is a kitchen Godsend.
If you don't have an Instant Pot, you can grab one on Amazon or another retailer—most places are offering great deals and free shipping in these stay-at-home times. (I have this basic 6-quart Instant Pot.) This recipe is specifically written for an Instant Pot; it will not work in a slow-cooker as pressure cooking is what cooks the beans so fast.
Beans made from scratch have loads more flavor than beans in a can.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of whole beans in a can, too, but there's just something about beans from scratch that taste so delicious. When beans are soaked, a lot of flavor is thrown out with the soaking liquid. Since pressure cooked beans do not need to be soaked, they are FULL of flavor (and easier to digest for most people).
The Best Instant Pot Refried Beans Recipe Tips
Normally, I'm all for substitutions in recipes—I usually encourage you to make them your own! However, the one thing about the Instant Pot is that substitutions can be finicky. For instance, beans have different cooking times, so don't substitute or soak the beans here. Use this recipe exactly as written for the best results.
How to make them great:
- Do NOT soak the pinto beans for this recipe as soaked beans have different cooking times. You may have heard that soaking beans is necessary for cooking purposes and that it makes them easier to digest. All of that is resolved with pressure cooking. These beans cook perfectly, and most people report that pressure cooked beans are easy to digest.
- Do not substitute for a different kind of bean unless noted (dry black beans can be used, but reduce pressure cooking time to 30 minutes).
- Do not add anything creamy to the liquid. Use only water or broth as creamy things will cause the Instant Pot to give you the "burn" message and stop the cooking process.
- Once the pinto beans are cooked and you open the Instant Pot, you'll have whole cooked beans and a little liquid leftover. Use the extra liquid to puree about one third to half of the beans in a blender, then stir it all back into the pot. Let it sit for another 15 minutes or so for the (un-fried) refried beans to thicken. Boom, magically healthy homemade refried beans.
Are Instant Pot Refried Beans Healthy?
Here's the best part! Yes, they are very healthy.
These beans aren't actually fried at all. We use the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker to make them nice and soft, use traditional flavors like onion, garlic and cumin, then puree (half or all) of the beans to give them the texture of refried beans, making this Instant Pot refried beans recipe a health superstar.
Why Make Instant Post Refried Beans?
- Instant Pot Refried Beans are healthy because they're not actually fried. And, they're super easy to make. The Instant Pot does almost all of the work for you.
- They're full of protein, fiber and good carbs for energy, and naturally gluten-free and dairy-free.
- They taste absolutely delicious.
- You can make them vegan or vegetarian depending on what type of liquid you use (see recipe notes).
- They are crazy cheap—you can make 8 servings for less than $5.
- Everyone loves them—this recipe makes fantastic party food to feed a crowd, or a great make-ahead meal for lunches all week.
How to Use Instant Pot Refried Beans
- Wrap them up in your favorite healthy tortilla
- Make vegetarian nachos with multigrain tortilla chips and veggies
- Try my healthy 7-layer bean dip
- As a great side on Taco Tuesday
- Add them to a taco salad
- Serve with rice and salsa for an easy lunch or snack
Once you get the hang of it, (unfried) Healthy Refried Beans in the Instant Pot will become a new favorite in your house. The hands-on time for this dish is just a few minutes—the Instant Pot does almost all of the work for you. Please note the extra time for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure and release time in addition to the 35 minute pressure cooking time. Total time for this dish is around 1 hour, give or take a few minutes. If you make it, please leave a star-rating in the comments below to help other readers in our community.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ white or yellow onion, finely chopped (about ⅓ cup finely chopped onion)
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin (or substitute chili powder if desired)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups dried pinto beans, rinsed but NOT soaked (14-16 ounces)
- 4 cups water or stock (any combination of 4 cups total filtered water, chicken stock, or veggie stock)
- I used a 6-quart instant pot to make this dish. Turn the Instant Pot to the saute setting. Add the oil and let it heat up for 1 minute. Add the onion and a pinch of sea salt and let cook 3-4 minutes until nice and soft. Add the pressed garlic and cook one more minute until very fragrant (careful not to burn the garlic).
- Add the ground cumin and sea salt and stir to coat. Then add the dried (rinsed) beans and liquid. Stir one more time. Hit "cancel" to turn off the saute function.
- Put the lid on the Instant Pot and double-check that the valve is set to "sealing." (It MUST be set to seal to work properly.)
- Set to "manual" (high) for 35 minutes—the Instant Pot starts automatically about 10 seconds after you press manual then set the timer. (Refer to your Instant Pot instructions for how to use it; most of them you'll hit Manual then use the + or - buttons to set the time.)
- Then just set it and forget it for about an hour. It will take about 8-10 minutes for it to come up to pressure, then 35 minutes to cook.
- After the 35 minutes cooking time is up, allow for a 10-minute natural release, then (carefully!!) move the valve to "venting."
- Tip: There is a lot of pressure in the pot when cooking beans, so even after a 10-minute natural release, there will be about a minute of venting after you turn the valve. Again, be VERY careful as steam will escape when you move the valve. Always refer to your Instant Pot manual for safety and use instructions.
- Once the valve pin has dropped and all of the pressure is completely released (again, after your 10-minute natural release then about 1 minute or so of venting), hit cancel to turn your Instant Pot off, then open your Instant Pot (carefully, it's hot!) and admire your fully-cooked beans. Now it's time to make them your desired consistency. Here are your options:
- My favorite way: Once the pinto beans are cooked and you open the Instant Pot, you'll have whole cooked beans and a little liquid leftover. Use the extra liquid to puree about one-third to half of the beans in a blender, then stir it all back into the pot. Let it sit for another 15 minutes or so for the (un-fried) refried beans to thicken.
- Leave them whole, they are delicious whole (drain some of the liquid off if needed)
- Use a potato masher to mash just a few time and leave most of them whole
- Use an immersion blender to puree half or all of them (I don't love this as I feel the immersion blender can scratch the pot, and it makes the beans only kind of pureed
- After blended or mashed, let the beans sit another 10-15 minutes in the hot (but turned off) Instant Pot with the lid on (you don' have to lock it, just set the lid on top to trap the heat and steam). The mixture will continue to thicken and absorb the liquid for a few minutes as the blended beans come together.
- Time to eat! Use them in your favorite dish, or garnish with your choice of chopped cilantro, chopped onion or other toppings as desired.
- Enjoy warm, or store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Instant Pot Safety
Please refer to your Instant Pot Manual for safety and operating instructions. The manual also describes the "10-minute natural release" method I use here, which is basically allowing 10 minutes after the cooking time for the pot to naturally release pressure, then moving the valve to "venting" to quickly release any pressure left
- Use chicken stock for extra flavor when cooking beans. I generally use 2 cups chicken stock and 2 cups filtered water when making this dish, but 4 cups chicken stock would give even more flavor. Or, use 4 cups water if you're out of stock.
- Use veggie stock to make this dish vegan if desired.
- OPTIONAL: If you're a bacon lover and happen to have extra bacon fat on hand, substitute the extra virgin olive oil for bacon fat to saute the onions and garlic to give the beans an even more traditional and slightly smokey flavor. I prefer the olive oil, but this is an option if you're into it.
Instant Pot recipes are notorious for being finicky with substitutions. It's best to follow this recipe exactly as written. However, here are a few tips and modifications if you need them:
- Ground cumin gives these beans that classic flavor, but if you're out of it or you prefer, you can substitute an equal amount of chili powder. If you're allergic, leave it out.
- If you love cilantro, throw a handful of washed cilantro stems on top of the beans and liquid before pressure cooking. I prefer to just add cilantro leaves for garnish at the end, but you can do this for extra flavor in the beans if desired.
- Beans: do NOT soak the beans as it changes the way they cook. The beauty of this recipe is taking beans from dried to fully cooked in less than an hour. This recipe is specifically written for dried pinto beans, other types of beans have different cooking times so I suggest not substituting. (Dry black beans can be used, but reduce pressure cooking time to 30 minutes and you may have to drain off excess liquid.)