Crispy Black Bean Pan Tacos

Crispy Black Bean Pan Tacos

You know the feeling.  You get home late from work, a meeting, or kids’ sporting events. Everyone is hungry, no food has been prepared, and you just want to eat…five minutes ago.

As much as I plan ahead, there are definitely times when I’m caught empty-handed.  The following recipe is one that I turn to during these moments because it relies on pantry and refrigerator staples, it’s fast, and will chase away hunger in a way that feels almost decadent–but it’s healthy and inexpensive.

Pan-seared tacos can be prepared in minutes and are a happy marriage of filling protein and comfort food.  They satisfy in a fast food sort of way–but they’re real food.  My younger son who dislikes beans adores these tacos. (Such a score!) My older son and husband love them, too.  The beans provide wholesome staying power but the crunchy exterior combined with the creamy, slightly gooey filling makes healthy eating a pleasure.

So when Stonyfield and Bob’s Red Mill challenged me to provide a recipe combining Orca beans and yogurt, this recipe was a natural. With their unique white and black color combination, Orca beans do, in fact, look like miniature whales.  They taste a lot like black beans though–the variety I’d previously used for this recipe. Greek yogurt, in turn, offers a protein and calcium-rich swap for the customary sour cream.

I often mash up the bean mixture and store it in the fridge for easy lunches throughout the week, although the tacos are equally delicious as a savory breakfast. To ensure a crispy shell, I keep the filling on the dry side–not mixing in salsa, for example.  The finished taco can be enjoyed unadorned or with any number of taco-like toppings. Use your hands or a fork and knife, as desired.

Crispy Black Bean Pan Tacos
If you stuff your tacos with a bit more than 1/4 cup of the filling, that's fine.  You will simply end up with five tacos instead of six.

Yields 6 tacos.
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  1. 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (or substitute Bob's Red Mills cooked orca beans)
  2. 3 tablespoons minced onion
  3. 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin (level, not rounded)
  4. 3/4 teaspoon chili powder*
  5. 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  6. 3/4 cup shredded cheese, divided use (pepper jack, sharp cheddar, or a Mexican blend are good options)
  7. 6 teaspoons olive oil, divided use for cooking (avocado oil works well, too)
  8. 6 (6-inch) corn tortillas (may substitute a 6-inch flour tortilla if preferred, although it will not be gluten-free)
  9. Optional toppings: chopped avocado, salsa, hot sauce, chopped cilantro, Stonyfield plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  1. In a small bowl, combine the beans, onion, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Mash the ingredients together with a fork.  (If you are a fan of cilantro, you can mix in 2 tablespoons, chopped.)  Set aside along with the cheese.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a small (7-inch diameter works well), nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tortilla and allow it to cook for about 30 seconds to start the crisping process.  Remove from the heat long enough to spread 1/4 cup of the bean mixture over one half of the tortilla.  Then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the cheese evenly over the beans, and return to the heat.
  3. Using a spatula, carefully fold the unfilled half of the tortilla over the bean-filled half to form a taco-like shell.  Press down lightly on the tortilla, and don't worry if some of the filling oozes out.  Just let it sear in the pan and eat alongside your taco or tuck it back in later.  Let the taco cook until it is nicely browned and crispy, approximately 3 minutes per side. (As a precaution, peek underneath before 3 minutes is up to avoid burning.) Remove to a plate and serve with toppings of choice.
  4. The cooked tacos may be placed on a baking sheet in a 200 degree F oven or toaster oven to keep warm while preparing the remaining tacos. The filling may also be stored in the refrigerator and used, one or two tacos at a time.
  1. Beyond the crunchy exterior, the key to a delicious pan taco is a well-seasoned filling. Taste the bean mixture before cooking and add more salt or spice to taste.
  2. The bean filling can be prepared in advance and refrigerated for use all at once or to provide several easy meals over 4 to 5 days.  The mixture may also be frozen.
  3. I have also made these tacos without the chili powder, using a combination of 1/2 teaspoon each smoked paprika and cumin instead.  The next time I might use this combination plus 1/4-1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Feel free to play around with the combination...there are endless ways to enjoy.
The Fountain Avenue Kitchen
For added ease and flexibility, the specified amount of beans is the equivalent of one can, rinsed and drained.  I have always used black beans or, more recently, orca beans, although I think pinto beans would work well, too.  As an added bonus, the recipe can be easily adjusted to make use of the remaining beans when, for example, a recipe calls for just one cup of beans.  I have often used those leftovers to make a speedy lunch for one or a tasty side for soup.  Even half of a taco adds a little something extra to the plate and is a good way to reinvent a few extra beans.

Orca Beans, Stonyfield yogurt

Orca beans, also known as calypso beans, are a small and tasty heirloom bean.  They’re dappled in black and white, giving them the appearance of a miniature Orca whale.  High in protein, fiber, and iron, orca beans are terrific in salads, soups and side dishes.  I have used them interchangeably with black beans — the taste is quite similar. Bob’s Red Mill’s orca beans are grown in Moses Lake, Washington, which has been called some of the best bean growing country in the United States. : )

Crispy Black Bean Pan Tacos

Possibly the most kid-friendly way to serve beans…and adults love them, too!

Cooked Orca Beans -- can be used interchangeably with black beans

Make a big pot of beans and freeze in 1-1/2 cup portions for a convenient, economical option to 15-ounce cans.  For an easy how-to on cooking and freezing dried beans, click here.

Easy Yogurt Cream Cheese

For a thicker option to Greek yogurt, this easy recipe for yogurt cheese is delicious and can be used as a condiment in lieu of sour cream or cream cheese.

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  1. Jenna

    I’ve been eating these for breakfast or lunch every day for about a week now and thought I should let you know. They’re easy, full of flavor, and taste great any time of day. Thanks for the unique recipe. It’s almost too easy and healthy to be true!

  2. Mary Lou Keller

    Hi Ann, made these for dinner tonight. So easy and so good! Thought I’d let you know. Hope your summer is going well.

    1. Ann Post author

      So glad you liked, Mary Lou! I make these often and enjoy the taste as much as the easy convenience. Summer is off to a great start. Hope all is well down your way!