Frugal in the Kitchen: Crock Pot "No-fry" Refried Beans

by Jess on April 6, 2010

One of the ways I’m trying to slim down my grocery budget this month is by attempting to make a few of the main staples I purchase from scratch. I know many of you already do this, so it’s nothing new to you. For me however, this has proven to be somewhat of a struggle because, well, I am cooking-challenged. I can bake a mean cake, but give me something to cook and I end up a frazzled mess. In addition to that, I am single so whatever I make produces a ton of leftovers.

I decided it was probably best that I start out slow and not overwhelm myself, so I decided to pick an item that I frequently purchase: refried beans. I am obsessed with bean & cheese burritos! They are packed with protein and you can make them for super cheap. Typically I can pick up a can of refried beans on sale for about $1.00 a can. Being single I’m able to stretch that can over a few days. That’s already a bargain but  I was sure I could whip up a huge batch for pennies on the dollar – and I was right!

For whatever reason, my cooking skills are best maximized when I utilize my crock pot. It’s pretty hard to mess something up in there (although, I have had mishaps) so when I came across this recipe for Refried Beans without the Refry I was intrigued, but also very nervous. No-fry? How do they make regular fried beans? Help! I’m clueless! Where’s my can?!?! Someone give me my can!!!

This recipe is soooo easy even my spazzy self was able to make it without burning my kitchen down. The taste is just like the beans you get at some of the best mexican food joints here in Southern CA, which is saying a lot. It’s also a whole lot healthier. I’m never purchasing a can of refried beans again!

Refried Beans without the Refry

You can find the original recipe here, however this is my version
with a few tweaks. It came out perfectly divine!


  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped in half
  • 3 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
  • 1 can diced green chilis (you can also use fresh chilis or jalapeno if you have a garden!)
  • 1 tsp. taco seasoning
  • 1/8 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tbsp. hot sauce (I like Tapatio)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves minced (you want about 2 tbsp.)
  • 2 tsp. salt (you can add more later if you think you need it)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 8 cups water


  1. Pull out your crock pot and in it throw the rinsed pinto beans, onion, diced green chili, minced garlic, taco seasoning, cumin, salt & pepper. Pour 8 cups of water on top & make sure the beans are completely covered. Mix everything up a bit to combine the seasonings.

    Cook on high for 8 hours (mine took only about 5) or until the beans are soft. If you notice that about a cup of the water has evaporated in the first hour of cooking then the heat is too high. Switch it over to low.

  2. Once the beans have cooked, strain the beans but reserve the liquid. Using a potato masher get out all your stress by mashing the beans to smithereens. Pour in the reserved liquid slowly until you get a consistency you like. The reason I prefer to use a potato masher is that it leaves a few of the pinto beans whole, which I love. You can always throw it in a food processor if you like it smooth.

    I like my beans on the spicy side, so while I’m mashing away I also add in the hot sauce. At this point you can really add any other seasonings you think it might need.

My Results

I have a 5.5 qt. crock pot that I use and this made enough to fill it three quarters of the way. Lots o’ beans! I put some aside to use for this week and the rest of them I split up into small 1 cup servings and put into individual freezer storage bags.

Most of the ingredients I already had on hand so my out of pocket cost on this first batch was just the dry pinto beans which I picked up at Big Lots for 99 cents. I’m sure I’ll be able to find an even bigger bag at Smart & Final to make them even cheaper. I’m just guessing, but it looks like it made at least 5-6 cans worth of refried beans. Not bad for only 99 cents!  Plus they are amazing & homemade.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Whitney @ Coupon Wonder Mom April 7, 2010 at 12:08 am

Mmmmm yum! I'm going to try this! A new thing I'm doing is getting dehydrated refried beans… I know it sounds weird but they're delicious and very quick to make.


Sara April 7, 2010 at 3:15 am

Yummy!! Definitly gonna try them!!


Lindsay April 7, 2010 at 6:14 am

yum- i've been trying to perfect a recipe for these – going to give yours a try! did you soak your beans overnight the night before and then start with new water in the crockpot? i heard that makes them easier on your tummy….


Jess @ This Frugal Life April 7, 2010 at 6:44 am

Whitney- I've seen those dehydrated bags before but wasn't sure how they would turn out. Good to know they are yummy!

Sara – Yay! Let me know what you think!

Lindsay – I did not soak them overnight, which is nice because you get to skip a step with this recipe. Mine were soft at about the 5 hour mark. I hope these turn out yummy for you as well :)


Dana @ The Coupon Challenge April 7, 2010 at 6:04 pm

I'll try this recipe soon! I made Brown Bag Burritos that call for refried beans and my husband thought they were great-you'll have a freezer full for just you :)

How do you make all those post images? It's driving me crazy trying to do mine. Your email doesn't like me, so I'm adding this to my comment.


Your Frugal Friend, Niki April 10, 2010 at 3:34 am

I love you!

Seriously, hubby and I are on a diet and trying to cut back on fats and we used to really love refried beans. But they make them with lard. Not healthy, and frankly its gross to imagine.

This is so much healthier and frugal to boot.


Harry Martin March 29, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Just came across this post. My Mexican partner always scoffs at me when I make pinto beans in the slow cooker. I just throw ‘em in with a lot of water and put on low overnight. Super easy.

Love the recipe!

Three tips:

* Shop at the Hispanic markets and you can get pinto beans in bulk on sale for 25-33 cents a pound.

* Art’s secret ingredient is Pato tomato sauce (it’s spicy). You can find in all markets.

* Finally, I used to love Tapatio, but our staple now is the Pato hot sauce. Much better.

And I LOL at “spaz”



MamaBenedikt January 5, 2012 at 12:09 am

NB: To be even more FRUGAL…soak the pinto beans at least overnight, if not a full 24 hours. Why? SAVE on electricity bill and “wear and tear” on the crock pot.


Jolene January 20, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Made a double batch of these today in my 7 qt. crock pot. Yummy!! I will never buy canned again! I didn’t have diced green chiles, but they were still super awesome. Thanks for the recipe!


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