Nearly everyone on earth is at least somewhat concerned with improving their health, but there is a big difference between wanting to and having the knowledge and ability to make healthier choices.
We all want to love our food. We all crave comfort from what we eat. And the vast majority of us want our food to be easy and quick to make whenever possible.
Giving up on a traditional favorite like refried beans isn’t the way to better health, but knowing how to choose refried beans that are not only delicious but free from some of the worst health offenders is a great start.
What are the healthiest refried beans? The healthiest refried beans are beans that have been fried in healthy fats such as avocado oil, have a low sodium content, and are low in calories and additives. Choosing an organic option is usually a good route as well.
In this article, you’ll learn what to avoid when you’re shopping and be introduced to the top 5 healthiest refried beans options.
This list includes recipes made with heart-healthy avocado oil, low sodium, little to no fat, and minimal, easy-to-pronounce ingredients that you can trust.
Refried beans are a staple Latin American dish made using either pinto beans or black beans as the main ingredient.
The beans are first boiled, then mashed together with spices and fat to be fried in a skillet.
The type of fat and spices used can vary widely, making them a delicious, versatile, and nutritious addition to multiple meals.
Are Refried Beans Healthy?
Refried beans can be a healthy addition to an otherwise well-balanced diet, regardless of the type of refried beans you make or buy because of their natural nutrition content.
However, there are a few ingredients that have been shown to potentially create adverse health effects when consumed frequently or in large quantities. Let’s start with the good news, though.
Refried beans are a great source of the following important nutrients:
Most importantly, for many, refried beans are an excellent source of comforting, satiating, satisfying flavor! If nothing else, that combination can have a positive impact on your mental and emotional well-being.
Depending on the type you choose or make for yourself, there may be some less healthy nutritional components as well.
How to Choose the Healthiest Refried Beans
Choosing the healthiest refried beans generally means looking at the ingredients list and knowing what to avoid, when possible.
You can find refried beans either canned or dehydrated (“instant”). Either way, the nutritional content doesn’t change much, if at all.
Here are a few of the ingredients that we made sure were not included on our list of the healthiest refried beans:
- Lard or bacon fat
- Excess sodium content:
- High trans or saturated fats
None of these ingredients are extremely concerning when consumed in moderation within a well-balanced diet, especially if you’re otherwise healthy.
Animal fat is considered a saturated fat, which can have certain health benefits in moderate quantities.
Evidence shows that small amounts of saturated fat can actually help level your cholesterol and potentially reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, consuming too much animal fat can have the opposite effect.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) tends to be abnormally rich in saturated fats, so if you can choose refried beans made with unsaturated fats instead, that is ideal. There are also some tasty low-fat options to consider.
The next criteria to look for is sodium content. Again, the majority of Americans are consuming significantly more than the recommended daily intake of salt, creating health consequences from an otherwise essential component to our diet.
Choosing low-sodium refried beans is a great way to reduce your overall daily intake.
The 5 Healthiest Refried Beans
Now that we’ve discussed the traditional nutritional content of refried beans and what to look for when it comes to healthier alternatives, we’ve gathered a list of the best options on the market for your consideration.
|A Dozen Cousins Refried Pinto Beans
|Avocado oil, low-calorie
|Amy's Organic Refried Black Beans
|365 Whole Foods Organic Refried Beans
|Rosarita Low-Fat Refried Black Beans
|Santa Fe Beans Company Refried Beans
We’re sure you’ll be able to find something to suit your tastes, preferences, and needs below.
1. A Dozen Cousins Refried Pinto Beans
This brand offers a low-fat, low-calorie refried beans option that is packed with flavor.
These beans are surprisingly satiating, thanks to their high protein and fiber content.
By using avocado oil instead of animal fat, the health potential is not only improved, but it’s also vegan-friendly!
- Made with avocado oil for plant-based, heart-healthy nutrition
- Just microwave for 60 seconds and they’re ready to eat
- Seasoned with traditional ingredients including garlic, chile pepper, onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes
While this option is a healthy choice in terms of fat, it is on the higher end of the scale for sodium.
It’s not excessive, by any means, but if you’re being very cautious about sodium, it is important to make note of it.
2. Amy’s Organic Low-Sodium Refried Black Beans
Amy’s Kitchen is dedicated to offering full-flavored food choices with nutritious ingredients that are easy to prepare.
These refried black beans certainly fit the profile.
They’re light in sodium, if that’s your primary concern, but they’re also made with plant-based oils instead of animal fat.
- Reduced sodium content, only 9% RDI per serving
- Made with high-protein, high-fiber black beans
- Organic, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly
This particular style of refried beans is designed to be lightly flavored.
If you’re expecting traditional Mexican-style refried beans, you may be disappointed, but the silver lining is that you have the opportunity to add your own preferred spices to taste.
3. Whole Foods 365 Organic Fat-Free Refried Beans
Whole Foods’ brand of refried beans is not just low in fat, they’re completely fat-free. If you’re following a keto diet, this is not ideal.
But if you’re looking to lower your fat intake, these refried beans will give you the flavor you’re craving without the added heart-health concerns.
- Fat-free and no added sugar
- Smooth, creamy texture perfect for burritos and more
- Organic, vegan, and packaged in a BPA-free can
Perhaps to compensate for the lack of flavor normally brought by the fat in refried beans, this brand is higher in sodium than some of the others.
It is also more heavily spiced, so before buying, make sure you enjoy the flavor of each ingredient as they do shine through.
4. Rosarita Low-Fat Refried Black Beans
These low-fat, low-calorie refried beans provide the most traditional Mexican flavor on our list.
- Low-fat, low-calorie, and high in fiber and protein
- Traditionally flavored with jalapenos and chile peppers, though not overly spicy
- Available in a very convenient pack of 12
The ingredients list does not contain any specific animal products, but the manufacturer explicitly states that the refried beans are vegetarian, not vegan. We assume this distinction is related to the “natural flavor” listed.
5. Santa Fe Bean Company Fat-Free Refried Beans
For the purists, these refried beans contain nothing but pinto beans and a small amount of salt.
It is an instant package, meaning you have to add water to the dried powder to reconstitute the beans.
From there, you can add your own healthy choices to dress up the beans in any way that works for your recipe and family taste preferences.
- Fat-free, no added sugars or salt, and light in sodium
- Unspiced so you can add your own signature touch to your beans
- Ready in 5 minutes
If you’re expecting traditional, restaurant-style refried beans, you will not be impressed with this option.
The beauty of these instant refried beans is that you get to make your own choices on what to add to enhance the flavor, but if you’re not prepared with your own spices, this may not be the best choice for you.
Are Refried Beans Fried?
“Refried” is actually a poor translation of the original Spanish name for the dish, “frijoles refritos.” A better translation would be “well-fried.” The dish is meant to be fried only once, in a skillet rather than a deep-fryer.
Canned or packaged refried beans are pre-cooked, so you can eat them in a variety of ways, but traditionally they should be fried in a skillet before serving.
Are Refried Beans Keto?
Most refried beans are not keto-friendly, no. Beans are a rich source of carbohydrates, which is something to be avoided when following the keto diet.
Adding to that, many of the options on our healthiest refried beans list are either low fat or fat-free, making them even less appealing to the world of keto.
If refried beans are one of your favorite comfort foods and you’re trying to follow a keto diet, some recipe developers have had success using cheese and chorizo sausage, flavored with traditional Latin American spices, to curb their cravings.
Up Next: The Best Black Bean Substitutes