Refried beans are commonly made from pinto beans. These have been cooked and mashed together with some water and spices to produce a thick paste. They are common in Tex-Mex cuisine such as nachos and burritos.
Refried beans are also often used as a dip for corn tortilla chips. You can make your own refried beans very easily at home, or buy canned versions from the store. Canned beans can be eaten straight, but if you reheat them ensure they are piping hot before eating.
Refried beans can be stored in the freezer indefinitely, although for best results we recommend consuming them within 12 months.
Store-bought canned beans are at their best after 4 to 6 months of freezer storage, and homemade after 2 to 3.
How to freeze refried beans
If you are using homemade refried beans, allow them to cool completely before considering freezing them. This is because the heat emitted from the beans could raise the internal temperature of your freezer and allow bacteria to grow.
The heat from the beans could also create condensation on the inside of the container. This creates water, which promotes the development of freezer burn on your food.
Portion out the refried beans into individual containers. We suggest using ziplock freezer bags or rigid airtight containers. Whichever you choose to use, ensure you leave a couple of inches of empty space at the top of the container. This is because substances expand when frozen.
Leaving this space for the refried beans to expand into means that the container will not crack and break under the pressure.
If you are using a ziplock bag, press all of the air out of the bag before sealing. Place into a second freezer bag for added protection against freezer burn.
If you are using a rigid container, we suggest covering the surface of the refried beans with a thin layer of oil. On the top of this lay some plastic wrap.
Close the lid and seal on top of this layer, to add an extra protective coat against air. Air is a major factor in the growth of freezer burn, and so these steps are vital.
If you are using canned and store-bought refried beans, do not freeze in the original can. You should never freeze food in metal. We advise transferring to a ziplock freezer bag or container as per the steps above.
We also suggest covering your container in aluminum foil for added freezer burn protection. This is particularly important if you are planning to keep the refried beans in the freezer for an extended period of time.
It is important to label and date the containers clearly. We recommend also labeling the containers with the quantity of beans stored in each.
How to defrost refried beans
The easiest way to thaw refried beans is to remove them from the freezer the night before you wish to use them. Place in the refrigerator overnight and allow them to thaw completely.
A much faster method of thawing your refried beans is to place them in a hot skillet. Heat on a low to medium temperature. Scrape the layer of thawed beans off the surface of the block and continue to move the block around until completely thawed.
Continue to heat until piping hot all the way through.
Your beans may seem a little dry, but this is easily rectified. Simply add a splash of water or oil to loosen up the bean mixture slightly.
You can also thaw frozen refried beans in the microwave. Transfer to a microwave-safe container and add in a splash of water or oil. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap and place it in the microwave.
Heat on high for 3 minutes before removing and stirring. Heat in 1-minute increments, stirring between each. Continue this process until the refried beans are piping hot all the way through.
Once thawed, refried beans will last around 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. This is provided they were thawed in the refrigerator over a longer period of time.
If you defrost refried beans using the microwave or warm water methods they should be consumed on the same day and not reheated again.
Factors to consider before freezing refried beans
We do not advise freezing refried beans in a large container. This is because it will freeze solid and be very difficult to portion out and use once removed from the freezer. For this reason, we suggest freezing them in individual serving portions.
To maximize the amount of air removed from ziplock bags, we have a handy hack. Seal the bag almost completely closed and insert a straw into the small opening. Suck the air out through the straw and seal completely closed.
The texture of refried beans will change slightly once they have been frozen and thawed. Thawed refried beans are often softer and are better suited to cooked dishes such as soups and casseroles.
We also recommend using them on nachos and in burritos, where you will not notice the altered texture much.
Do not refreeze thawed refried beans. It is also important to ensure the beans are not left out on the countertop. This is at a much higher temperature than the refrigerator and can cause harmful bacterial growth.
This bacteria could cause you to get food poisoning or become unwell. If you have left the beans on the side for longer than 6 to 8 hours, do not consume.
Refried beans are a cheap and easy source of protein. They are versatile and can be used in many different dishes.
They are not much hassle to make, but incredibly easy to make in large batches. You can freeze refried beans and keep them indefinitely if you store them correctly, as per our instructions.
For best texture and taste, we recommend consuming within 2 to 4 months.
Freeze in individual portions to make your life even easier and to prevent unnecessary food waste.