14 Ways To Upgrade Canned Refried Beans

refried beans with chips
refried beans with chips - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

While they are convenient and affordable, refried beans often come out of the can gloopy, underseasoned, and underwhelming. Achieving the perfect balance between taste and texture can be difficult to do with this supposedly versatile legume, especially if you are trying to whip up a quick, delicious family meal. Plus, making your own refried beans is way too time-consuming.

But this pantry staple is worth keeping around, despite its less flavorful reputation. The question is: how can you get your canned refried beans to taste exactly like the refried beans from your favorite Mexican restaurant? It's more achievable than you think, even with refried beans straight out of a can.

These 14 ways to upgrade canned refried beans may help save you from another boring bean side or burrito filling. Not only are these solutions easy to achieve with basic ingredients and kitchen accessories, but they are also convenient as well.

Read more: 14 Liquids To Add To Scrambled Eggs (And What They Do)

Add More Fat

bacon and bacon grease
bacon and bacon grease - Jannissimo/Shutterstock

While it may seem redundant to add more fat to your refried beans, this is one of the best ways to get your canned pintos tasting their best. This staple is often lacking in salt and flavor, two things bacon fat will give you in spades. If you've never had to store bacon grease to utilize in other recipes and cooking, now is a good time to start.

Bacon fat infuses canned refried beans with flavor and can even help with texture, crisping up your beans in the pan as you cook them. You may even find that crumbling up your bacon and including it in the finished dish brings your frijoles to the next level. But bacon and other oils aren't the only ways to add more grease to your refried beans.

Cook chorizo, beef, and other fatty meats, then remove them from the pan before adding your can. Extra points if there's plenty of fond left over. Not to worry if you're vegetarian or vegan. Olive oil, coconut oil, or canola oil work just as well as bacon grease. Add your fat of choice to your pan or pot before your beans and let them fry in it until hot.

Mix In Some Dried Spices

spices spread out in piles
spices spread out in piles - ProleR/Shutterstock

Canned bean manufacturers tend to leave their products bland so that they can appeal to the widest variety of customers. The average can of refried beans has an ingredient list that includes a few simple things: like beans, water, some type of fat, and a handful of different seasonings — that's it. When compared to restaurant-style or traditional refried bean recipes that include fresh onions, cumin, chili powder, and possibly more spices, canned beans hardly compare to their culinary counterparts. Thankfully, there are plenty of basic spices you can add to your refried beans so that they can taste their best.

Turmeric, carom seeds, harissa, paprika, cumin, and oregano will help provide an innovative take on your refried beans, while chili, chipotle, onion, and garlic powders will always work wonders on this dish. You can really add any spices you have handy to upgrade this canned classic!

Use Sour Cream Or Greek Yogurt

bowl of yogurt
bowl of yogurt - Alena_Kos/Shutterstock

Sometimes, a dash of creaminess is all you need to take your refried beans to the next level. Going hand in hand with many Mexican dishes, sour cream boosts both the texture and flavor of beans. Whether you add a dollop to the top of your frijoles or mix it in, sour cream helps refried beans taste silky, tangy, and decadent. Just make sure your beans aren't bubbling when you mix in anything dairy-based; it may curdle and split if the pan is too hot.

You can always swap in full or low-fat Greek yogurt for sour cream. There are subtle differences in flavor between sour cream and Greek yogurt, but it's unlikely that you'll notice when these ingredients are mixed alongside your refried beans. While still made of dairy, Greek yogurt has a far lower level of lactose compared to other dairy products. Plus, the higher protein content found in Greek yogurt (compared to sour cream) may even help you achieve a heartier result — a win-win!

Add Cheese

beans served with cheese
beans served with cheese - Marcos Castillo/Shutterstock

Whether you melt cheese over the top of your refried beans or mix it in, this ingredient is a no-brainer when it comes time to upgrade your frijoles. While no one's going to stop you from putting smoked Gouda into your canned beans, certain flavors play better than others. Cheddar, Cotija, and pepper jack are all great cheese choices to pair with your refried beans. Monterey Jack, mozzarella, and Parmesan can also achieve that smooth, melty texture you're likely looking for. However, more subtle cheeses (like mozzarella) may contribute more texturally than flavor-wise.

When it comes to incorporating your cheese into your refried beans, finely shredding it and stirring it in while your beans are hot can help you improve the flavor of every bite. But many people prefer to shred their cheese over the top of their beans and let it melt, adding a layer of textural interest to this mushy side. Bonus points if you broil your cheese to achieve a caramelized finish.

Blend Canned Refried Beans With Broth

chicken stock in bowl
chicken stock in bowl - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

More often than not, restaurants utilize broth or stock to enhance the flavor of refried beans. If you happen to have any on hand, adding a few tablespoons to your can as it reheats on your stovetop may help spruce up this bland side. Any type of broth will do, though pork stock or veggie broth tends to align well with the natural flavor of refried beans. You may even try your hand at making your own stock — it's easier than you think to achieve a versatile option with plenty of flavor.

For a smoother, wetter refried bean option, blend your can with broth or bouillon and water. The silky texture that comes from this process is delicious and creamy without the addition of any dairy. Plus, the more flavorful the stock, the more flavorful the beans once you're through blending them up. Canned refried beans tend to dry out as you reheat them, which is yet another reason why broth comes in handy.

Add Cooked Onions And Garlic

onions sautéing in pan
onions sautéing in pan - BAZA Production/Shutterstock

Fond makes any food better. If you didn't know already, the browned bits of delicious food left behind on your frying pan or skillet are called fond — and this culinary process should never be ignored. If you're looking to add more flavor to your canned beans, fond may be the ticket. One of the easiest ways to achieve fond? Sauté some onions and garlic in a pan with a bit of oil and then add your beans to scrape up every last bit of caramelized goodness.

You can either remove the onions and garlic from your pan and add them to the top of your refried beans, or simply stir everything together as you reheat them. The moisture from your beans should help loosen the fond from your pan but adding a tablespoon of water won't hurt either. Onions and garlic are a great addition to any refried bean recipe and may get them tasting the way you want quicker than expected.

Use The Vinegar From Anything Pickled

pickled veggies in jar
pickled veggies in jar - Liudmila Chernetska/Getty Images

Even if you're not the biggest pickle fan, utilizing the vinegar or pickling liquid from common pantry items may bring unique flavors out of your canned refried beans. The tang and taste of pickling liquid will vary depending on what was pickled in it. If you're looking for an ideal match for your beans, opt for pickled jalapeños, red onions, carrots, or other types of peppers. Apple cider vinegar or balsamic may also add a pleasant note to this side.

While unconventional, pickle juice and vinegar also help achieve a smoother, thinner texture compared to how beans are when they come out of the can. Adding pickled jalapeño juice is always a favorite, as this spicy side goes hand in hand with refried beans. The hot and sour flavor pickled jalapeño juice contributes may make this pantry staple a standout at your next party or taco night. Or opt for the juice found in your jar of olives. The depth of flavor found in this liquid is often underutilized!

Make Canned Refried Bean Cakes

bean burger served on plate
bean burger served on plate - Zeljkosantrac/Getty Images

The best thing about upgrading canned refried beans is the ability to use your imagination. If you're seeking a recipe that reinvents the typically boring statement that refried beans make, try making some black bean cakes with mango-lime crema. While it originally calls for black beans, you can swap refried beans into this recipe without thinking twice.

Easily combined into countless flavor combinations while still maintaining a delicious texture, refried bean cakes may be your ticket to upgraded canned bean heaven. When molded into cakes or patties for burgers, beans maintain a silky soft interior while crisping up on the outside. From there, you can top your bean cakes and use them however you like, from main course status to easy weekday snacks.

The trickiest aspect of any bean cake is forming it so that it stays together without falling apart when flipped in the pan. It may take some experimenting to get your ratios right, but with a few tries, you should be able to get where you need to go.

Turn Your Refried Beans Into A Pizza

mexican pizza served with toppings
mexican pizza served with toppings - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Speaking of easy weekday snacks, a Mexican bean pizza recipe may become a go-to for anyone hoping to upgrade their canned refried beans. While this recipe is oh-so-simple for a reason, you may immediately leap to the most important part of any pizza: the toppings. Cheese is a must when it comes to creating a tasty refried bean pizza. You may also want to add bell peppers, onions, or ground beef to your pizza (and you're of course welcome to try pineapple in this recipe).

Refried bean pizzas can be made with tortillas or another type of dough that's more similar to a pizza crust. No matter what you opt for, all you need to do is bake everything together. A nice melting cheese, like Colby jack, cheddar, or mozzarella works well in this dish, baking into the beans and bringing everything together. This is a great recipe for families hoping to add some excitement to their pizza nights, Mexican food nights, or both!

Introduce A Splash Of Lemon Or Lime Juice

squeezing lime juice into bowl
squeezing lime juice into bowl - 4kodiak/Getty Images

Just like vinegar, citrus juices are refreshing additions to any can of beans. You can use premade juice or fresh-squeeze on your own, as anything fresh will help combat the tinny taste that often accompanies canned beans.

Lime juice is typically chosen over lemon or orange juice, as it pairs naturally with other Mexican flavors and is commonly used for these dishes. But all options work, depending on what you plan on serving your refried beans with. If you want to get creative, pair lime juice with Cotija cheese and some sea salt. Or pair lemon juice-seasoned refried beans with fresh vegetables like cucumber and tomato. Orange juice may work in your refried beans if you serve them alongside carnitas, as orange juice is often used to cook carnitas.

The other bonus of adding lime or lemon juice to your refried beans is that they will help thin them. Canned beans tend to exit their shelf-stable home gloopy and thick, drying out as they cook. Even if you add your citrus juice at the end of your reheating process, this handy infusion also assists this side texturally.

Add A Dash Of Your Favorite Hot Sauce

hot sauce bottle spilled
hot sauce bottle spilled - Dustypixel/Getty Images

Sometimes, a bit of heat is all your refried beans need to reach the next level. Even if you're shy when it comes to spice, hot sauce and refried beans enhance one another. A couple of dashes of your go-to sauce may bring out the flavor in both your beans and the peppers used in your favorite hot sauce. Plus, this is one of the easiest techniques you can try when it comes to upgrading any canned side dish.

Tapatio or Cholula are fantastic choices if you're new to hot sauce brands. Refried beans pair well with either, especially if you expand into Cholula's line of flavors (the chipotle version is highly recommended). Or, you can use some of your favorite local hot sauce, something smoky and bold. The beans will likely help temper the heat from any bottle, but you can always add hot sauce to the beans on your plate rather than the entire pot. That way, even the most sensitive of mouths can enjoy this side without having to worry about taking the heat!

Try Making Refried Bean Waffles

savory waffles served on plate
savory waffles served on plate - Ahanov Michael/Shutterstock

Did you know that, with a bit of seasoning and a binding agent, you can turn your canned refried beans into waffles? This is a great recipe for anyone who's tired of how mushy or runny beans can be. Much like the process involved in making refried bean cakes, bean waffles take some practice to achieve an ideal balance of texture and flavor. But they're well worth the effort, as refried bean waffles emerge from their iron crispy, warm, and filling.

While they likely won't replace your morning sweet waffles, refried bean waffles work as a quick lunch or a fun take on breakfast for dinner. Serve them with sour cream, a side of bacon, and some over-easy eggs to make a full, hearty meal. You may also choose to top them with fresh ingredients like avocado, tomato, and other crisp veggies. The sky's the limit when it comes to everything you can do with this exciting upgrade to canned beans.

Top Your Canned Refried Beans With Burrito Fillings

burrito toppings in a line
burrito toppings in a line - Alexpro9500/Getty Images

Toppings are everything when it comes to upgrading your refried beans. If you think about your favorite burrito, what fillings stand out to you? These are the things you should add to your canned beans to make them more interesting, flavorful, and exciting, meal after meal.

Rice or meat atop your beans can be filling, hearty additions. This is also a great choice if you're seeking something that avoids gluten or other allergens connected to flour tortillas. Burrito bowls are delicious alternatives, something easily achieved with a can of beans to help.

While you can certainly opt for a deconstructed burrito and top your refried beans with anything and everything, fresh toppings tend to pair best with them. Guacamole, salsa, tomatoes, lettuce, and sour cream work well atop refried beans. Cheese is also a great call, as previously mentioned, it helps tie everything together. Finally, add a fresh squeeze of lime to make your refried beans zesty and worth going back to for seconds.

Add Freshness With Herbs

fresh herbs on white background
fresh herbs on white background - Floortje/Getty Images

Simplicity can go a long way, especially with an ingredient as versatile as refried beans. If you're looking to keep your side of beans refreshing and accessible, topping them with fresh herbs may be your best bet. Not only do fresh herbs infuse your beans with flavor, but they also combat the dried, dusty flavor that so often accompanies potentially out-of-date pantry spices. While old dried spices are always better than nothing, fresh herbs may make more of a difference than you think.

It's a good rule of thumb to combine fresh with canned, as freshly chopped herbs bring out the brightness in any dish. Refried beans pair well with cilantro, parsley, or dill, though you may also find basil and thyme as excellent pairings. To avoid too much wilting or waning of flavor, add your fresh herbs to the top of the dish rather than mixing it in. And remember that freshness always goes with more freshness — a squeeze of lime over your cilantro-covered refried beans may take everything to the next level.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.