Instant Pot Refried Beans

June 28, 2018 at 10:32 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Beans, Instant Pot, Mexican & S. American, Monthly menu plan: brunch, Monthly menu plan: dinner, Website / blog) ()

I used to make refried beans on the stovetop, but now that I’ve gotten an Instant Pot I wanted to figure out how to make them in the electric pressure cooker instead. I started with this recipe for creamy-dreamy pinto beans from Julie and Kittee, but I changed a few things.

First of all, if I’m going to the trouble of making refries I’m going to want to use more than 2 cups of dry pintos! I figured the maximum that would fit in my 6-quart Instant Pot would be 4 cups, so I doubled the recipe. Also, I wanted to take out some of the beans as whole beans before making refries, so I soaked my beans overnight and reduced the cooking time, so that the beans would come out soft but not falling apart. Then I tweaked the seasoning a bit. Below is my modified recipe.

These days I usually serve my refries with salsa and homemade plantain chips. Alma, at 3.5 years, is a big fan. I’ll try to add a post about how I make the plantain chips next.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (I cut this—doubled would have been 4 Tbs.)
  • 1 onion, finely diced (I used a very large red onion)
  • jalapeños, seeded and minced (I omitted this for Alma)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more as desired (I soaked the beans in brine, and then added only a few pinches of salt to the cooking water)
  • cloves garlic, minced (I think I’d prefer more, maybe 6 to 8 cloves)
  • teaspoon cumin (I’d double this)`
  • teaspoon dried oregano (add more?)
  • teaspoon smoked paprika (maybe also add a bit of chile powder?)
  • teaspoons granulated onion
  • 5.5 cups water (I cut this a tad—doubled would have been 6 cups)
  • cups pinto or borlotti (cranberry) beans, soaked overnight in brine (dry beans weighed about 1 pound 10 oz and soaked they were over 3  pounds, maybe close to 4 pounds)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • sprigs oregano, thyme, or tarragon, optional (I omitted this)
  • teaspoons bouillon, optional
  • tomato paste (not in original recipe, but maybe a nice addition?)
  • 8-10 slices pickled jalapeño with a splash of brine, or a splash of vinegar or lime juice


  1. Soak the beans in brine overnight or for at least 4 hours. Place the beans in a large bowl with about 6 cups of water and 1.5 Tbsp. kosher salt (about 15 grams per liter of water). Add a strip of kombu if you have it. When beans are fully hydrated, drain and rinse them. Discard the kombu.
  2. Press the saute setting on the Instant Pot, and let it get hot while you prep first the garlic, then the onion, and finally the jalapeno.
  3. Add the olive oil to the instant pot, and quickly add the onion, jalapeño and a few pinches of salt. Cook, stirring regularly, until the vegetables soften and begin to brown.
  4. Add the garlic, cumin, dry oregano, paprika and granulated onion, and continue to cook and stir for another minute. Don’t let the garlic brown!
  5. Add the water, beans, liquid smoke and fresh herbs, if using. Stir to combine. Cover, lock the lid of the pressure cooker, close the vent, and cook on high pressure for 25 minutes. You’ll need to temporarily turn the Instant Pot off to change between the saute setting and the high pressure setting. Let the beans sit for about 10 minutes after the time is up, then carefully quick-release the beans. They should be soft. At this point you can remove some of the whole pinto beans and a bit of juice to store them in if you want. I usually take out about 2.5 cups of beans, put them in a glass jar, cover them with bean juice, and freeze them for a quick weeknight dinner.
  6. Bring the beans to a steady, full simmer (use the bean/chili setting or the high saute setting–watch for splashes). Stir often, mashing spoonfuls of beans against the inside wall of the cooker, until the water has reduced, the beans are creamy and the liquid has turned into a thick, gravy. This will take about 10-15 minutes of devoted attention. Don’t let them get too thick. Remember, the beans will continue to thicken as they cool.
  7. Season to taste with salt, pickled jalapeños and brine to taste, or vinegar, if using. Serve immediately.

Warning: Just because this recipe uses a pressure cooker doesn’t mean it’s particularly fast. If you want to make these beans you should plan ahead. First of all, you should soak your beans the night before, or the morning before you want to make them—or both! Last time I put them on to soak around 10pm at night and drained them around 4:30pm, and they turned out well. I don’t think the extra long soaking time had a negative impact.

Also, even though the time under pressure is only 25 minutes, you also have to account for the time to prep and saute the vegetables, the time to come to pressure (15 minutes maybe?), the 10 minute standing time, the time to quick release (around 5 minutes?), and the time to reduce the liquid (maybe 15 minutes?). I didn’t time it, but I’m guessing it around 90 minutes from the time I walked in the door. I’d love to use the instant pot timer to start the beans cooking before I got home from work, but I’m not sure how that would work.

Here’s a rough guess: I’d brine the beans overnight, then saute the onions etc. in the morning, add the seasonings and drained beans and water to the instant pot, and set the timer to start cooking around 45 minutes before I got home from work. I could then quick-release as soon as I got home? I’ll have to try it. Or I could maybe reduce the cooking time a bit and let the pressure come down naturally? The recommended cooking time for soaked pinto beans with natural release is only around 4 to 6 minutes and for cranberry beans only 7 to 10 minutes. So maybe for borlotti I’d try setting the timer 45 minutes ahead of my arrival and cooking under pressure for 10 minutes? I’ll try it and report back.


  1. austingardener said,

    I see the advantage of brining the beans but why throw out the water? It has nutrients. and liquid smoke. you like this? not me. too chemically

  2. Healthy vegetarian breakfast ideas | The captious vegetarian said,

    […] cauliflower, and zucchini). Everyone in my family is happy with this breakfast. I usually use refried pinto beans or black beans that I’ve made in advance. I’ve never tried making a more breakfast taco […]

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