How To Thicken Refried Beans With Step-By-Step Recipes

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Last Updated on March 27, 2024 by Share My Kitchen

There are 9 different ways to thicken refried beans. All of these methods are rated to see which one delivers the best consistency, without affecting the flavor.

Eat creamy and thick refried beans. No more soupiness!

Best Way To Thicken Refried Beans

The best way to thicken refried beans is by cooking them longer. The beans should be heated in a saucepan over low heat. Then stir frequently until desired consistency is achieved. You can also thicken refried beans through other methods like frying them, adding cornstarch slurry, or adding more beans.

9 Ways To Thicken Refried Beans

Thicken Refried Beans By Cooking the Beans Longer

Rating: 9/10

Thickening ability: Medium

Taste/texture: The flavors were more concentrated, and there was no texture change.

You can cook the beans longer to make them thicker. This allows the excess liquid to evaporate, leaving you with thick and creamy beans.

How to thicken refried beans by cooking them longer:

  1. Place the beans in a saucepan, and heat them on low heat without a lid.
  2. Then stir the beans every two minutes to avoid them from sticking to the pan or burning.
  3. Continue heating and stirring the mixture until you reach the consistency you want.

Although it can be tempting to increase the heat to speed up the liquid’s evaporation, this greatly increases the likelihood of your beans burning.

You might also find that the moisture evaporates too quickly, which could lead to beans drying out.

Moreover, you will need to heat up your beans according to how watery they are. For a thin mixture, 5 minutes is enough. However, you might need to wait 15 to 20 minutes if the mixture is thicker.


This is the easiest method to thicken your refried beans.

It required no extra ingredients or effort, which is why it received the highest rating.

It is, however, not instantaneous like other methods.

By Frying Beans In a Skillet

Rating: 8/10

Thickening ability: Medium-strong

Taste/texture: The flavors became more concentrated, and it got a slight crunch

Frying the beans in a pan is a quicker alternative to thicken your refried beans.

How to thicken refried beans in a skillet:

  1. Over medium heat, melt some butter or heat some neutral-tasting oil in a skillet.
  2. Then, add the refried beans a few amounts at a time, and fry them in the skillet until you reach the consistency you want.
  3. Stir continuously.

This method is more effective when you have smaller amounts of beans. You want to be able to stir the beans quickly to avoid anything from getting burned.

However, you can fry them in batches if you have a lot of beans to thicken.

You could also choose to fry half the mixture, and reduce it until it’s really thick. Then, add the soupy mixture until it reaches a middle ground.


This technique resulted with the beans giving a ‘just-fried” taste, and added texture with crispy bits of bean.

However, it was inconvenient to use another pan (the skillet).

Using a Cornstarch Slurry To Thicken Beans

Rating: 8/10

Thickening ability: Very strong

Texture/taste: There is no significant taste change, texture change unless there is a lot of addition.

Cornstarch is a commonly known thickener. First, you need to mix it with water, then add it to the hot beans. Keep in mind that it won’t thicken cold mixtures.

If you don’t have any cornstarch, you can substitute with flour or arrowroot powder.

How to thicken refried beans using a cornstarch slurry:

  1. Combine equal amounts of cornstarch with and water (e.g. one tablespoon of each) until you have a smooth paste. Also, one tablespoon each of the ingredients will make enough slurry for you to thicken approximately 1 to 2 cups of liquid.
  2. Then, heat the refried beans until they are simmering.
  3. Slowly stir the cornstarch slurry into the beans. Keep stirring the mixture to avoid lumps.
  4. Allow the slurry to do its job for about 2 minutes before checking the bean thickness.
  5. But if they aren’t thick enough, just add more slurry.

Do not heat the beans for a long period after adding the cornstarch slurry as it will eventually thin out again.

This is also true if you heat the beans beyond boiling point. It reverses the thickening effect caused by cornstarch.

Cornstarch can make beans glossy and give them a more gooey texture.

Moreover, do not use cornstarch if you plan to freeze the refried beans since it can have a strange texture after.

Substitute Cornstarch

You can substitute cornstarch for another starch-based thickener if you don’t have it or want to freeze the mixture:

  • Arrowroot powder has the same thickening properties, so you can substitute it 1:1. It is also a great gluten-free option.
  • Potato starch is also a 1:1 substitute.
  • Flour is a common choice, but you will need to double the amount. Therefore, one tablespoon slurry will thicken up a maximum of one cup of liquid.
  • Tapioca flour and rice flour are both good alternatives. But, again, you’ll need twice the amount.

All these substitutes can be frozen. However, refried beans mixed with the flour alternatives will need to be cooked for an additional few minutes to remove any flour flavor.


Cornstarch works well for thickening refried beans.

The slurry is quick to prepare, and the beans thicken quickly. Cornstarch also doesn’t carry a lot of taste, so it didn’t alter the flavor of beans.

Using a Beurre Manié To Thicken Refried Beans

Rating: 7/10

Thickening ability: Strong

Texture/taste: The butter makes the taste slightly richer, but there is no texture change.

The beurre manié is a 1:1 combination of butter and flour. This is similar to a butter roux, but it doesn’t have to be cooked before you add it to your mix.

How to thicken refried beans with a beurre manié:

  1. Start by measuring equal parts flour and softened butter by volume (e.g. one tablespoon of each, which is just enough for thickening 1 cup of liquid). But do not microwave the butter. Soften them with your hands, if necessary.
  2. Combine the butter and flour until you get a smooth paste. This is now your beurre manie.
  3. Then, heat the beans until they are simmering.
  4. Mix a few tablespoons of the refried bean mixture into the beurre manie. Also, make sure there are no lumps.
  5. Take this mixture and mix it slowly back into the main pot with the rest of the refried beans.
  6. Allow the thickener to work for 2 to 3 minutes before deciding to add more.
  7. Let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes after adding the last of the beurre manie. This cooks off any raw flour flavor (or you may do this through taste).

Using a smaller amount of the refried beans, and mixed with the beurre manie ensures that the final product doesn’t have any lumps of flour.

Furthermore, always taste the mixture before it’s done cooking. This is to ensure that there are no taste of raw flour. If you can, keep heating the mixture until you cook off the flavor.

Perhaps you are wondering what is the difference between a beurre manie and a flour-water slurry?

These are the two main differences:

  1. Beurre manie has a lower chance of clumping than a flour-water slurry. This is because the butter coats the flour particles, helping to incorporate them into the dish.
  2. Butter in beurre manie also gives it a richer taste.


The method thickens the mixture well. The extra butter also adds a beautiful richness to the beans that everyone will definitely enjoy.

However, adding too much flour to your recipe can dull the other flavors a little.

By Adding Extra Beans

Rating: 7/10

Thickening ability: Weak – Medium-

Taste/texture: This dilutes the flavors, but there are no texture changes.

You can use your spare can of beans to thicken your refried beans.

How to thicken refried beans with extra beans:

  1. First, drain the beans from a can (or cook some and drain them).
  2. Puree or mash the beans with some olive oil to achieve a smooth texture if necessary. However, do not add too much liquid.
  3. Combine the dry mashed beans with your refried beans.
  4. Then, taste the mixture, and add more seasonings.

You may use any type of beans at this point as they won’t make up the majority of the dish. Just grab the one you have in the cupboard, whether they’re black beans, kidney beans, butterbeans, chickpeas, etc.

This solution, however, has a downside. It’s only practical if you have canned beans. But if you only have dried beans, you will need to wait an additional hour or two for them to cook.

Adding more unseasoned beans can also dilute the flavors, and make the dish duller. Therefore, after adding the beans, taste the dish to determine if it needs more flavor.


This method has one major upside: more refried beans!

It was a lot of work because you have to mash the extra beans manually.

It’s also not very effective, as it takes a lot of beans for a large effect. This method is best for beans that only require a little thickening.

Using Xanthan Gum

Rating: 8/10

Thickening ability: Extremely strong

Texture/taste: There is no flavor change, no texture change (unless you add too much).

Xanthan gum, a keto-friendly thickener, is very popular and highly effective.

However, due to its power, the main danger is over-thickening your sauce. Excessive amounts of xanthan gum can make your refried beans taste horrible and gummy.

Xanthan gum, if used correctly, is the most efficient and fastest way to thicken your refried beans.

How to thicken refried beans with xanthan gum:

  1. Begin by weighing your refried beans and take note of the results.
  2. Use 0.5% of the total weight of the beans in xanthan gum for light thickening. While, you can use as much as 1% of the total weight of the beans for heavy thickening.
  3. Then, make a vortex with a whisk in your refried beans, and add the xanthan gum into it while still whisking. You can also use a blender to do this.
  4. Continue to whisk for 20 to 30 seconds, then the sauce should have thickened. You can add more xanthan gum to make it thicker, as per your preference.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to weigh the ingredients. You can just do it pinch by pinch. However, generally, 1/8th of a teaspoon of xanthan is enough to moderately thicken 1 cup sauce. While 1/4th of a teaspoon will result in a heavier sauce.

The notable advantage of using xanthan gum is that it can be used with both hot and cold liquids. Therefore, you don’t need to heat the refried beans first before adding it.

It is also important to mix in the xanthan gum while stirring the beans. Otherwise, the powder will stick to the liquid and clump together. Moreover, the xanthan gum will not disperse well if you only sprinkle it over and stir slowly. This will result in having gummy lumps in your beans.


Xanthan gum is a magical ingredient. It instantly thickened the beans and didn’t alter the taste.

If you have used xanthan gum before, you would know not to add too much. However, if you do, it will ruin your refried beans. The excessive xanthan gum creates irreversible damage to your beans.

Now if you have never used it before, you might first want to try it out on a small amount of beans. This will help you get a feel for how much to use to achieve the desired effect.

Using Potato Flakes

Rating: 6/10

Thickening ability: Strong

Texture/taste: This can dull the flavor slightly; add too much and the texture can become grainy.

It is best to keep a pack of instant potatoes in your pantry for emergency thickening. Even if instant mashed potatoes are not something you usually eat.

You may add potato flakes to a liquid, so they can absorb it and expand. This process thickens the sauce.

How to reheat refried beans with potato flakes:

  1. First, heat your beans until they are simmering.
  2. Mix in a little bit of potato flakes, and stir until combined. Keep in mind that one tablespoon of potato flakes is enough to thicken one cup of sauce.
  3. Allow the potato flakes to work for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Then, check the thickness of the beans. You may add more potato flakes if necessary.
  5. Taste the food in your pot and season.

Adding some potato flakes into your refried beans can make the taste bland, but you can add more seasonings and spices to compensate.

The texture of potato flakes, however, can’t be changed. So, adding too much potato flakes can make your refried beans taste grainy.


This method is great for light thickening, but it is not recommended for heavy thickening.

Also, too much potato flakes can alter the texture and dull the taste of your beans.

By Leaving Them In the Fridge

Rating: 2/10

Thickening ability: Thickening

Texture/taste: There is no change in texture or taste. It also takes too long.

As they cool, refried beans naturally dry and thicken. The effect is more obvious when there is more fat in the beans because fat hardens as the beans cool.

It has been recommended to leave the beans in the refrigerator for a bit to thicken them. However, from experience, nothing really happened after leaving it sit inside the fridge for approximately an hour. Another trial tested to see what happens if it is left in the freezer for a blast of cold air.

After 20 minutes, the beans were slightly thicker. But it is not very significant.


Leaving your beans in the fridge may work if you have no intentions to consume them until the next morning. Also, if you only need light thickening.

Otherwise, this method won’t work as it takes a lot of time.

By Straining Them

Rating: 1/10

Thickening ability: Weak

Texture/taste: There is no change in taste, but it leaves a lot of onion and bean skins behind.

An ideal start to fix your very watery beans is to put them into a sieve or cheesecloth to drain the excess water out.

This method, however, works only if the beans haven’t been fully mashed. It is not recommended if you have already mashed or puréed the beans.


This particular method is not effective.

It did thicken the bean mixture, but a lot of bean skins and onions were left. There also would be nothing left if the beans were puréed.

How to Avoid Soupy Refried Beans

Adding too much liquid is the main reason why people end up with ‘soupy’ refried beans. So, here’s a tip:

Begin by draining all the cooking water into a separate bowl to control the thickness of your beans. Then, add the water slowly to the beans while you mash or purée them.

This makes it difficult to add too much water, as you can watch the consistency change over time.

If you need the liquid and beans ready to go at once, it is a good idea to keep the water level only slightly higher than the beans.

The beans should be easy to move around, but not drowning.

How to Fix Refried Beans That are Too Thick

On the other hand, if you have thick refried beans, you can thin them out with additional water. The bean cooking water works best as it has the most flavor. However, plain water also does the job well if you used canned beans or do not have enough cooking water. Stock can also be used to add extra flavor to the beans.



Method Thickening Ability Verdict Rating
By Cooking Longer Medium Simple but relatively slow 9/10
By Frying the Beans Medium – Strong Gives the beans crunchiness 8/10
By Using Cornstarch Slurry Very strong Works well; flour and arrowroot powder as substitutes 8/10
By Using Beurre Manié (flour and butter) Strong Works well; flour flavor needs to be cooked off 7/10
By Adding Extra Beans Weak – Medium Any beans can be used; there must be a decent amount 7/10
By Using Xanthan Gum Extremely strong Effective and quick; potential to go wrong is high 8/10
By Using Potato Flakes (Instant Mash) Strong Works best for light thickening; can dull the flavors 6/10
By Leaving the Beans in the Fridge Weak Extremely slow; not effective 2/10
By Straining the Beans Weak Difficult if the beans are already mashed 1/10


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