Slow Cooker Refried Beans – Fat-Free and Low-Sodium

Slow cooker refried beans are fat free “refried” beans made in the slow cooker. Easy and way better tasting than the stuff in a can!


Every time I eat refried beans out of can, I think about how salty they are. I love them, and I do love salt, but they are really too salty. When I was pregnant I couldn’t even really eat them and now I still don’t really enjoy them for this reason. Is that hormonal?

Hormones are so weird.

Anyways, I’m eating refried beans that slid out of a can, in the shape of a can, thinking…I could totally make these myself. Why have I not done this?

Before you go crazy on me, I know these aren’t traditional refried beans. No bacon fat here, but there is still a ton of flavor and you can eat them without guilt! Or add some more cheese and sour cream to your taco instead. Whatever makes you happy. I added a hearty amount of cumin for flavor, but I also added a touch of smoked paprika to give that smokey bacon flavor. I also threw in some red pepper flakes for heat.

Did I mention I made these in the slow cooker? You don’t even need to soak the beans.


PS: I looked up canned refried beans online…I don’t have any in the house but the stats I found online said that one serving contains 1069mg of sodium. Ummm…yeah…that’s a lot.

Let’s review.

  • Less sodium.
  • Not out of metal can. Let’s be honest, it looks like dog food coming out of that can.
  • Fat-free.
  • Easy to make.
  • Significantly better on the budget.
  • Freezes so that you always have it on hand.

What are you waiting for? I’m never looking back from slow cooker refried beans.



Fat- Free Slow Cooker "Refried" Beans

Slow cooker refried beans. Fat free “refried” beans made in the slow cooker. Easy and way better tasting than the stuff in a can!

5 / 5 (2 Reviews)
Did you make this recipe?   Leave a review »


  • 2 pounds dried pinto beans (approximately 5 cups), rinsed and sorted
  • 1 medium to large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons of salt (more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 9+ cups of water


  1. Add all ingredients to slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on high for 6-8 hours or until beans are soft and mash easily. Add more water if necessary during cooking. I added two cups about 2/3 of the way through cooking because it was looking dry. It doesn’t hurt to have extra water, but you don’t want them to dry up.
  2. Reserving the liquid, strain the beans out into a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher. Add the reserved liquid until you reach the consistency you desire. Serve, or cool completely and freeze in portions appropriate for your family.

These do taste significantly less salty than the canned version. Make sure to check for seasonings and add salt as desired. We are trying to cut down on sodium around here so you might want to add more salt. You can also increase/decrease red pepper flakes based on your love of spicy foods.

All images and text ©Rachel Cooks.

Do you have an Instant Pot? These Instant Pot refried Beans look fab!



Verdict: I love these slow cooker refried beans! The flavor isn’t identical to the canned variety since they have far less sodium, but I think it is even better! Tons of flavor from the spices, you won’t miss the fat or the sodium.
Husband’s take: He hasn’t actually had these yet. I tried a few spoonfuls, but I froze the rest for future taco nights.
Changes I would make: None.
Difficulty: So. Easy.

my helper

My little helper. :)

Slow Cooker Refried Beans - cheaper and better tasting than the can - and nearly as easy! Freezer friendly, too! Get the easy recipe on!
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  1. Super Yummy. My whole family loved it. I hope it tastes good after it has been frozen because this recipe makes A LOT. Thanks for sharing this.

    Rating: 5
  2. I didn’t have time to deal with the slow cooker, so made this in my pressure cooker instead. Took 45 minutes after prep. Instead of water, I used low sodium chicken broth, and added four cups of water (for a total of 12 cups liquid). Drained, blended with the immersion blender, and mixed most of the drained liquid back in. I kept the spices the same as per recipe, so it was slightly saltier than written, but not overly so.

    Rating: 5
  3. Hello, Thank you for your recipes, but

    2 tsp salt is about 4800mg sodium, so that is a lot of salt.
    I’m trying to cut back on salt so I would reduce the salt considerably. Also, I read that adding salt at the beginning of cooking beans toughens them up and lengthens the cooking time. What is your take on that?

    • Hi, this makes a very large batch, so the sodium is still far less than store-bought. However, you’re absolutely welcome to cut back on it, that’s the joy of making your own and not buying store-bought! I haven’t noticed that salt lengthens the cooking time, and the beans are mashed so toughness isn’t too much of an issue here. I hope you enjoy these!

  4. I tossed these in my slow cooker and set them on low for 8 hours. The beans didn’t fully cook! I’m not sure what happened, maybe my slow cooker didn’t get hot enough on low, but trying to mash them was an epic battle and they’re kind of full of mostly-but-not-completely cooked beans. I’m going to put them through my nutri-ninja and see if that can’t make a mess of them. The flavor’s good!

    • Hi Drew,
      I’m sorry they didn’t work out for you! As the recipe indicates, these work best when cooked on HIGH for 6-8 hours, not low. That’s probably why yours didn’t fully cook. You could try putting them back in for a while to see if they soften up a little more…you could even simmer them for a bit on the stovetop, but make sure to stir them frequently because they’ll burn quickly on the stove. I hope you’re able to save them!

  5. Hi Rachel, I just made your terrific recipe for Baked Taquitos. My DH went crazy for them. I was wondering if you ever made your slow cooker recipe with black beans. Do you think the seasoning would be the same? Thanks so much. You are a genius!

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  18. About how many servings do you typically have with this recipe?

    • Oh man — I’m not sure exactly but it fills up my 6qt slow cooker nearly to the top. I always freeze it in quart-size bags so I have it ready at all times. If we’re talking side servings, I’d say at least twenty. Probably more.

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  24. Found this recipe on Pinterest a few months ago. I have made these twice now, adjusting the seasoning a bit to my tastes as I went and they turned out beautifully both times! So easy and such a healthier option than canned. I freeze 1 cup portions and thaw out in the fridge overnight before I plan to use them. Thanks for writing it up!

  25. These sound YUM! I want to make these to accompany my egg whites in the morning. Can you give me calorie stats for 1/2 cup?

    • Thanks! I love this recipe too. Unfortunately I do not do nutritional analyses on my recipes, but pinto beans themselves are quite low in calories and high in protein and fiber. Enjoy!

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  27. Wow made these and they were so good and my husband said they were seasoned just right. Thanks for the recipe. By the way I am thrifty veggie mama’s mama:)

  28. Mexican food has got to be my favorite type of ethnic food to eat out! Fresh tortilla chips and salsa, tableside guacamole, and refried beans always make me giddy. I know – refried beans?? Most people pass on them…even turn their noses up at the blob of brown goop on their plates but I love, love, love refried beans! I’m not sure I can explain why but they are definitely a side dish I’ve been wanting to make at home for a long time, especially since I love making bean and cheese burritos on high fiber tortillas for my work lunches with the leftovers from the canned refried beans we buy from time to time. I guess I never really knew how incredibly easy they are to make at home until I tried them out recently.

  29. I would make one suggestion…soak the beans overnight or do a quick soak (cover beans with water 1 inch higher than beans, boil 2 minutes, turn heat off, cover with a lid and let sit 1 hour, rinse in cold water). This will remove any unpleasant intestinal side effects you may have. I have cooked these beans both ways and trust met taking an hour to de-gas the beans was well worth it!

  30. I’m thinking you wouldn’t even have to mince the garlic. It would cook into mush with the beans. Did I say “mush”? That’s not a very appetizing word, is it?
    Thanks for the great idea. As you know, I’m a fan of refried beans. I usually get the fat free vegetarian kind but didn’t realize that they had tons of sodium. They sneak that into everything…
    I like that you don’t have to presoak the beans.

  31. ooooo…I love refried beans and slow cooker. .love that you can freeze these to use on future mexi nights!

  32. Like I said on Facebook, I’m seriously impressed with how you were able to make refried beans look appetizing! Great food styling & photography!
    A few friends have raved about how great homemade refried beans are. Doing it in the slow cooker? I’m all over it! Can’t wait to try them!

  33. I think the exact same thing when I’m eating them out of the can! And also way grossed out by their can shape. Cannot wait to make these…they look WAY better than anything you could buy from the store.

  34. I am so making these! I love refried beans and the ones that are in the can scare me. I love your idea of freezing them!

  35. Mmmmm! I am a big fan of anything that can go in the slow cooker these days… And, of course, anything healthy is also a good option since my pre-pregnancy clothes are still a bit tight. Adding these to the Super Bowl menu at my house. :)

  36. Love it! Thanks!
    Just curious if you thought about doing humus this way using chickpeas? Do you think it could work?

  37. these look awesome! i’ve tried making refried beans on the stove and wasn’t a fan. gotta try the crockpot version :)

  38. wow i never thought about making these ever! I know the canned ones are so high in sodium, will have to make these soon and i loved how these dont need to be soaked either! your little helper is too cute :)

  39. GIMME! Dude, I love refried beans. I hate the fact that the canned version has mega sodium…BUT! This dip looks epic! Can’t wait to try!

  40. These look seriously amazing! For some reason I didn’t think I “liked” refried beans for the first 20 years of my life. Now I’m obsessed! The fat-free version sounds even better!!

  41. I am not a fan of refried beans, but my husband is. These would be great to make for him, and freeze in small portions. Great idea!

  42. I’ve always wanted to make my own refried beans… These look so fabulous!

  43. i never considered making my own refried beans. ever. as much as we eat them, i just popped open my can from the pantry and we were all set. thanks so much for this. substantially more healthy, i know every ingredient going in AND cooked in a slow cooker? you rock.

  44. oh my gosh Rachel I love you for this. forever thankful. i LOVE refried beans. love love. And this light version? I MUST MAKE! I didn’t know they were so easy!

  45. Okay seriously. All over it. In it. Under it. And between it.

  46. I love this idea of throwing the beans in the slow cooker. Awesome recipe!

  47. Ok – I just love this post – I was cracking up when I saw your facebook post about being supermom! You’re adorable! I had no idea these were so easy to make HEALTHIER! Must.Tell.Hubby.

  48. Very cool. I can honestly say I’ve never bothered to think to make these from scratch. Love this!!!

  49. Wow, who knew it was so easy! This is my kind of low maintenance side dish :)

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