Total time:25 minutes
Servings:2 to 4 (makes 4 to 8 tacos)
On Monday, I shared a recipe for Carrot, Cumin and Kidney Bean Burgers developed by activist cook and author Jack Monroe. Tuesday’s newsletter featured techniques from the Italian cucina povera canon and a simple pasta recipe with bits of bacon and kale. On Wednesday, we talked about leftovers, how to stretch ingredients, and why frittatas are a great outlet for leftovers, helping to minimize food waste. Today I thought I might write a bit about fast food.
I grew up in fast food. As a young child, KFC’s fried chicken—original, not extra-crispy—was my favorite meal, and I loved ordering Taco Bell’s bean and cheese burrito, which happens to be the inspiration for the recipe tonight. Even in my teens, McDonald’s was a regular stop on the road, and every once in a while a tired parent would drop a bag of Burger King on the dinner table.
It’s not hard to see why fast food is so popular, especially among busy working parents: Big corporations spend millions of dollars designing foods designed to make us salivate. A careful balance of salt, sugar and umami ensures that every 2-92 year old will want bite after bite. Billions of marketing dollars help maintain demand. And economies of scale, both on the purchasing side and on the production side, keep the price of these foods very low. In many ways, if your budget is tight, a fast food dinner is a safe bet**.
But if you have the time, a kitchen, and a little extra cash, almost any home-cooked meal is going to beat the pants of a fast food diner.
So tonight I thought we could recreate some of the flavors of my youth and make creamy refried beans for bean and cheese tacos. It’s an easy formula that only requires one pan and comes together in less than 30 minutes.
You’ll start by making what I think are cheat refried beans: sauté some onions and garlic, add beans, seasoning, and a bit of water, and use a fork to mash them up. (For a smoother texture, puree this mixture in a food processor.) Stir in the juice of a lime to give it some shine and keep it warm enough on the stovetop.
Next, heat some tortillas – I like to heat each one over the flame of my gas burner, but you can also heat them in a pan or steam them in the microwave. Then assemble: Sprinkle cheese on each tortilla and top with warm, creamy beans, letting the heat from the beans melt the cheese. Fold the tortilla over and assemble the rest. Serve as is or with salsa, sour cream or cream and/or hot sauce on the side.
💸 Tonight’s recipe cost me a total of $7.38, or $1.85 per person for 4 people. 💸
*The the majority of Americans buy most of their food at the nearest grocery store. All purchases for this week’s Eat Voraciously recipes were made the week of September 5, 2022 at a Safeway grocery store in downtown Washington, DC Store discounts and coupons were used where applicable and available. Safeway is a subsidiary of Albertsons, which is the second largest grocery chain in North America.
Cooking oil, salt, pepper and optional ingredients have been omitted from the cost of these recipes.
**I’m very lucky that I don’t have to depend on fast food restaurants for a hot meal. These days I try to spend my money on companies that source raw materials with sustainability and nutrition in mind and pay their workers a living wage.
- If you don’t have garlic or onion >> use either, or, if you can’t have either, use 1/2 tsp ground cumin instead of both.
- Want to make burritos instead? >> Fill 2 large flour tortillas with the beans and cheese, fold them up, then toast them in a greased skillet until hot and crispy.
- Out of pinto beans? >> Any pink, red or black bean works well here.
REMARK: You can make a large batch of sazón or, for this recipe: Use 3/4 tsp fine salt, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon hot paprika or ground black pepper.
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- 3 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil
- 1/4 small white or yellow onion (about 1 ounce), coarsely grated
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
- 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, preferably no salt added, drained and rinsed
- 2 teaspoons seasoningmore more to taste (see NOTE for instructions on making your own)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 to 2 limes)
- 4 to 8 tortillas (5 or 6 inches), preferably flour
- 6 ounces cheddar or other melted cheese, grated, plus more if desired (about 1 1/2 cups)
- Sour cream, for serving (optional)
- rooster beak or other salsa, for serving (optional)
- Hot sauce, for serving (optional)
In a small skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring constantly, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add garlic, cook until very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in beans and sazón. Using a fork, mash the beans into a coarse paste. Stir in the lime juice and taste, adding more sazón, if desired. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm. (If the beans start to dry out, add a little water or two to loosen them.)
Wrap the tortillas in a clean, damp kitchen towel and microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until warmed through. Or, heat the tortillas in a dry skillet or individually on a gas burner, until lightly browned on both sides.
To serve, spread a little 1/4 cup shredded cheese (about 1 ounce) down the center of each warm tortilla. Top with a thick layer of hot refried beans. Sprinkle with additional cheese, if desired. Fold tortillas over and serve warm, with sour cream, salsa and hot sauce on the side, if desired.
Per serving (2 tacos, based on 4 servings)
Calories: 549; Total fat: 29 g; Saturated fat: 11 g; Cholesterol: 44mg; Sodium: 795mg; Carbohydrates: 50g; Dietary fiber: 8g; Sugar: 2g; Protein: 22g.
This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.
From personal writer G. Daniela Galarza.
Tested by Kara Elder; questions by e-mail to [email protected].
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Check out this week’s Eat Voraciously recipes:
Monday: Carrot, cumin and kidney bean burgers
Tuesday: Pasta with Gricia (Cheese pasta with bacon and kale)
Wednesday: Vegetable frittata
The Eat Voraciously newsletter recipe archive