Hey! This site is reader-supported and we earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site.

Just because you have started this new adventure of being on a ketogenic diet, does not mean that you should have to miss out on the next taco Tuesday. While there is a lot of Mexican food you can still eat on a keto diet, it is still good to be careful about what dishes you try. Refried beans are a favorite when it comes to Mexican cuisine so let’s see if traditional refried beans are safe to eat, and answer the question “are refried beans keto-friendly?”

Are refried beans keto_alice's kitchen

What Is A Keto Diet?

A keto diet, also known as a ketogenic diet, is where you change your consumption of carbohydrates in order to force your body into a state of ketosis. The lack of carbohydrates is mostly replaced by protein when people start this diet as it is very easy to have healthy meals that are high in protein and low in net carbs. The diet does not restrict all carbs or stop your carb intake entirely. Instead, people set themselves an allowance per day for carbs. The low-carb diet allows for the average person to have roughly 20g of carbs before they are kicked out of ketosis. This can vary depending on your lifestyle, health, weight, and generally how your body functions. The 20g of net carbs is surprisingly enough to have quite a few nice meals a day without the lack of high-carb count foods becoming an inconvenience.

What Is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a state in which your body enters when you are not getting enough carbohydrates. Naturally, your body uses carbohydrates for energy and is fueled on them. When you cut a lot of carbs out of your diet, your body needs to find a new source of energy, which is when it enters a state of ketosis. Carbohydrates contain glucose in them when they are broken down, which is what the body uses for energy. This also means that you have to be cautious of how many grams of sugar and glucose you intake too as this will kick you out of ketosis.

When in a state of ketosis, your body burns your supply of fat and uses that for energy. This is what causes you to lose weight. The fat burnt by your body is taken from your excess, or storage, so it is not an unhealthy thing to do. As long as you eat enough protein and compensate for the carbs you have removed from your diet, it is perfectly healthy.

If you were to exceed your daily allowance of carbs, then your body will kick you out of ketosis. This is because there are enough carbohydrates to make using them as a fuel source more viable, so your body switches to doing that instead. This is not the end of your diet, as continuing like normal afterward will put you back into ketosis, although it might take a day or two.

Are refried beans keto_alice's kitchen

What Are Refried Beans?

Refried beans are a traditional tex-mex dish that is enjoyed in a lot of Latino-American areas and has also become a global dish in Mexican restaurants. There are even kits sold by different retailers to help you make refried beans, similar to how you can buy taco and nacho kits. The most popular brand for this is Old El Paso, which can be found in a plethora of supermarkets globally. All you need to add is the meat and veg, the kit contains all the flavorings and sauces you need.

Refried beans are not actually fried twice but instead are just ‘well-fried’. The name is from the Spanish word for well-fried and roughly translates to refried. The dish consists typically of pinto beans, onions, and fat such as lard or butter. The beans are soaked in water for 8 hours and then cooked in water alongside an onion until the beans are soft. After they are drained, the beans and onion are mashed together until a thick paste is formed, which is then fried with some lard or butter. In this step, extra flavoring can be added and a garnish can be added when they are served.

Refried Beans Nutritional Value

For refried beans to be considered ‘keto-friendly’, they need to fit with the low in carbs dietary information as a lot of other keto-friendly dishes does. Refried beans are typically made from pinto beans and when these beans are looked at, you can see that the dish is not at all low in carbs. The nutritional value of pinto beans is quite impressive and healthy when looked at during a normal diet, but for someone following a keto diet, they are not acceptable at all. In 1/2 cup of pinto beans alone there are 18 grams of carbohydrates. This one dish alone is taking up more than 60% of the average person’s carb allowance on a keto diet. While you can still eat it, you would have to sacrifice having barely any carbs in whatever you eat for the rest of the day.

Are Refried Beans Healthy?

While they may be very high in carbs, does that mean they are unhealthy as a whole? Thankfully, not really. The main issue with this dish aside from the carbs is that lard and bacon grease are the two most popular choices for what to fry the beans in. This adds a high amount of sodium to the dish which can cause some people to worry about eating too much of it. The odd spike in sodium intake is nothing to worry about, but if this was to persist consistently for a while then it could have adverse health effects such as an increased risk of stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease.

Are refried beans keto_alice's kitchen

Is There A Keto-Friendly Alternative To Refried Beans?

Thankfully, there are a lot of substitutes and alternatives that can help you make a low-carb refried beans dish without losing any of the flavor or texture from the original recipe. The beans used in the traditional recipe, pinto beans, are very high in carbs which can kick you out of ketosis. Instead of using mashed pinto beans, you could choose a low-carb alternative such as green beans and black soybeans.

While it may be tempting to look at kidney beans as an option, they are even higher in total carbohydrates than pinto beans. Black soybeans are easily the best alternative as they only have 5g of carbs per 1/2 cup. This makes the dish a lot more appealing to anyone on a targeted ketogenic diet. Another alternative you may consider would be black beans but these have similar levels of carbs when compared to pinto beans.

The best alternatives for the perfect low-carb refried beans are either soybeans, black soybeans, or green beans. Other than these options, the other contenders are all surprisingly high in carbohydrates which makes them unusable in this dish.

Making Keto Refried Beans

Now that the perfect replacement has been found, you can finally start to think about cooking your own keto refried beans. While not all Mexican food is keto-friendly, there are a number of dishes in most Mexican restaurants that are good for a keto diet without having to change any of the ingredients.

As for the ingredients needed for the keto refried beans, nothing is too complicated to find. Any general store or supermarket should have everything you need to make this dish without shopping around for too long. The ingredients and flavorings you need are as follows;

  • Black Soy Beans
  • Chili Powder
  • Lime Juice
  • Sea Salt
  • Cumin
  • Oil
  • Garlic
  • Jalapeno

This dish is incredibly easy to make and can be done by anyone regardless of their experience in the kitchen. For the majority of this dish, we will be working in a single pan, so the cleanup is also relatively easy. Which is always nice as no one wants to spend more time cleaning than they did cooking.

The Flavorings

To prepare all of the flavors you are about to introduce, you will want to mince a few cloves of garlic and dice a jalapeno or two. Depending on your spice tolerance, and how much you like spice, you can choose to either leave all the seeds in the dish or remove some of them. The more seeds you keep will add more flavor but also more spice.

Once your chili and garlic have been prepared, you can add them to a pot big enough to accommodate all of your black soybeans, just don’t add them yet. Over medium-high heat, heat up a couple of tablespoons of oil. The oil can be of your choosing but be careful not to choose an oil that is particularly powerful in flavors such as peanut or sesame oil. Once the oil is heated, add in your minced garlic, diced jalapeno, and a teaspoon of both cumin and chili powder. On top of this, a few cracks of sea salt should also be added. How much you add is up to you, so flavor it to your liking. Cook this until the spices are fragrant and have started creating a much stronger aroma. This will be after about a minute or two has passed.

Once all the ingredients have been cooked together, it is time to add in your black soybeans. They must have been soaked for a few hours, between 5 and 8 hours, so that they are soft and can be squished in between your thumb and fingers. Once the beans have been added, pour a few cups of water into the pot until the beans are just covered. Give everything a stir so that the spices don’t just sit at the bottom. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to a medium so that everything can simmer for 45 minutes. You will need to add a bit more water throughout the process to keep the right consistency, so make sure you check every 15 minutes to see if you need to add more water. To know when this is, see if the beans are still covered. If the beans are not covered, add more water until they are just covered again.

Now that the dish has been cooked, remove the pot from the stovetop and grab an immersion blender. If you do not have a handheld blender, you can wait until the dish has fully cooled and pour it into a normal blender. Blend the dish into a puree and allow it to cool a bit. When the dish is cool, you can serve your keto refried beans in a bowl.

To add to this, you can choose to serve your refried beans with some nacho chips and garnish with sliced jalapenos, sea salt, and parsley.

Refried Beans, The Keto Dream

Despite being on a ketogenic diet, who doesn’t dream of hearty beany goodness? While the dish itself is incredibly high in carbs, with a small edit to the recipe you can make it a viable dish for your diet without taking away any of the flavors that the traditional dish holds.

FAQs On Refried Beans

Are refried beans high in carbs?

Yes. The traditional recipe for refried beans uses pinto beans which are very high in carbohydrates. So much so that the dish would use up the majority of your carb allowance when you are on a keto diet.

How many net carbs are in refried beans?

In refried beans, there are normally around 26 grams of net carbs which is incredibly high. This is a lot of carbs for a single dish to have, especially when you are on a keto diet.

Is there a low-carb substitute for refried beans?

The pinto beans in refried beans are very high in carbs which can deter people from eating the dish. The best low-carb substitute for this meal is black soybeans.