Oil-free “Refried” Kidney Beans for Tacos, Baked Potatoes & More!

Recipe by Katie Mae

Makes about 6 cups | Ready in 40 minutes | Stores 1 week in fridge


1 onion, diced
6 crimini mushrooms, diced
2 hot peppers of your choice (I used 1 jalapeno and 1 serano), minced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
3 cups cooked kidney beans
4 cups water
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon liquid smoke


  1. Add onion, mushrooms, and peppers cooked beans to a large saute pan with high edges. Dry-sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the veggies are caramelized to your liking. Stir occasionally, but not too much, so the veggies have a chance to brown on the bottom of the pan, developing a rich umami flavor.
  2. Add the beans and 2-4 cups of water, depending how much will fit in your pan. In most large sauté pans, it will work well to start with two cups of water. Bring the beans to a simmer and let them cook for 30 minutes, or so. As they cook, they’ll break down and become creamy. Stirring is good here as it helps this process.
  3. Stir in the spices and liquid smoke.
  4. Once a lot of the water evaporates, if the beans are still more intact then you prefer, add the remaining water and continue to simmer the beans, letting them get more and more creamy. Serve when they have your desired consistency.

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This recipe initiated with the intention to make a really tasty oil-free “Refried” bean recipe, and it quickly took on a life of its own.

I actually already have a recipe for non-refried pinto beans, like what’s served in Mexican restaurants, but without the oil. They serve their purpose as an alternative to the oily Mexican staple, but I knew I could create an option with more depth of flavor.

These beans are cooked twice like refried beans are, but the second round here is merely simmering the beans instead of frying them. This creates a wonderful creaminess while leaving the beans partially intact, so you have some serious texture.

This was all part of the plan.

The first turn was during my cooking demo at TrueNorth Health in which I was making Sweet Potato Tacos. I thought I picked up a can of no-salt-added pinto beans, but instead, I grabbed kidney beans!

My first thought was not excitement, but I ended up being thrilled with the outcome! The kidney beans have a rich red color which makes them much more appealing to the eye than the very neutral pinto beans. Plus, it seems these bigger beans offer more creaminess than pintos can provide.

It just so happens that John McMahon from the brand new docu-series, called iThrive: Rising From the Depths of Diabetes & Obesity made it to this cooking demo!

He enjoyed the Sweet Potato Tacos so much that right after class we planned to make this meal again, but at my location: Plantz St. Culinary Gym and get it all on film so we can share it with the iThrive and Plantz St. communities.

This opportunity made my day! I knew that cooking with John would be an unforgettable highlight of my career and very likely a significant stepping stone for Plantz St.

He had just two requests…

First, instead of just making it standard taco bar set up, we dish out all the toppings in Martini glasses! FUN!!!

Second, was to make the beans spicy and chili like, by adding onion, hot peppers, and mushrooms!

I’m a flavor-junkie, so naturally, I was stoked to make these beans John’s liking.

The final and possibly the best turn off the beaten path of standard refried beans, came while filming. As I was adding chili powder and smoked paprika to season the beans on top of the hot peppers, I thought how just a touch of liquid smoke would instantly take these beans to the next level.

From bland, boring non-refried beans to umami-rich, chili-style, creamy and chunky, twice-cooked beans, I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as John and I did!

One more thing, before you check out the recipe and plan for when you’ll make it…

If you haven’t signed up to see the FREE iThrive docu-series yet, then I highly recommend you do so. Click here to sign up now.

Happy Cooking!!!


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