These Pinto Bean Tacos are light, healthy, fresh, and crunchy! They start with saucy pinto beans and are loaded with cilantro-lime slaw, crisp fresh corn, and quick pickled red onions. We’re totally hooked on these nutritious and filling tacos!
Pinto Bean Tacos
Pinto Bean Tacos are part of my second mini-series “cook once & enjoy all week long” with these homemade pinto beans. A quick run-down: Prepare some dried pinto beans (I promise, they’re simple!) in the slow cooker or pressure cooker at the beginning of the week. Enjoy those beans as a side dish that day for dinner and then use the leftovers in recipes throughout the week. (Or freeze the leftovers and use them in place of canned pinto beans for future recipes.)
Once you’ve made Pinto Beans, they only get more intensely flavorful as sit overnight. They also thicken up a lot and become even creamier. Plus, they warm up super quick on the stovetop and the total assembly time of these tacos is ridiculously fast. Especially if you’ve made the sauce ahead of time! (You may recognize it from the Pinto Bean Tostadas I shared earlier this week — it’s the same recipe for even more recipe prep overlap.) Make the beans and sauce at the beginning of the week and re-purpose them into quick, easy, and nutritious meals throughout the week: win, win, win!
Beyond these Pinto Bean Tacos, I also share how to use those homemade beans in these Bean and Cheese Burritos and these Pinto Bean Tostadas. Cook once and enjoy some kitchen shortcuts for the remaining meal prep throughout the week!
Don’t want to make Pinto Beans from scratch? No worries!
If you don’t have time or desire to make beans from scratch, no worries! Refried beans work great in place of the from-scratch pinto beans. Of course, I highly recommend the Pinto Beans from scratch, but with all the other delicious components in these tacos, refried beans will still be delicious!
If using refried beans instead, use fresh refried beans in the produce section of your store or a good can of refried beansfor the best possible flavor.
If you are making the pinto beans from scratch and would like to make them vegetarian (so these tacos can be vegetarian), leave out the bacon and sauté the veggies in 2 tablespoons olive oil instead.
We love corn tortillas with beans and slaw. They can be tricky to work with, though, because they break easily and dry out quickly. I recommend charring the tortillas for the best flavor and texture! When charring, I recommend working with one at a time, leaving the rest in the bag so the others don’t dry out too quickly.
We like thin corn tortillas best for these tacos. My family enjoys Mission’s® extra-thin corn tortillas (not sponsored).
Here’s how we char the tortillas:
- Sprayboth sides of the tortillas with cooking spray. I use an olive oil-based spray (canola works as well) and give each side a good spritz.
- Very lightly char each side of the tortilla over an open flame on the stovetop. If you don’t have an open flame, warm for 10-15 seconds in a skillet.
- Immediately remove the tortilla from the heat and fold in half. Place under a towel and repeat until all the tortillas are charred.
- Once all the tortillas have been charred and folded, add the beans and other toppings.
If you don’t love corn tortillas, use flour ones. Even though flour tortillas fold nicely, I still like to spray them with cooking spray and brown them in a skillet or over an open flame; this adds so much flavor! If using flour tortillas, I like to get the unbaked ones (by TortillaLand®; not sponsored) and cook them in a skillet first.
Pinto Bean Taco Toppings
Below is a great break-down of our favorite toppings for these tacos. While you don’t need to add all these toppings, I’d say the saucy cabbage and quick-picked red onions are must-have inclusions.
- Fresh corn on the cob. While you can cook or grill the corn (directions in this Elote post), we like it best raw! It adds a nice crunch to the tacos. No corn on the cob? Frozen corn (thawed) or even canned (drained) will work too.
- Quick-pickled red onions. Making pickled red onions can be a process, so I’ve shared my “cheater” quick version which takes less than 5 minutes, and four ingredients (pantry staples) to throw together. And these red onions seriously pack a flavor punch!
- Saucycabbage. To add some mega crunch (we need to complement the creaminess of the beans), we add in cabbage. But first, toss that cabbage with about half of the cilantro cashew sauce to give it plenty of flavor and zip!
- Avocado. A ripe avocado adds a great creaminess and flavor to these tacos. Guacamole works too!
- Cilantro cashew sauce. More on this magical sauce below!
- Cotijacheese. I love the subtle flavor of cotija and it’s a fairly salty cheese, so it adds the perfect finishing “seasoning” to these pinto bean tacos.
This sauce is packed with good ingredients but without the typical inclusions of mayo or sour cream! What do we use instead? Cashews! We’re so hooked on this sauce, we’ve added it to a few recent recipes. And also, as I mentioned earlier, this is intentional so you can prep the sauce early in the week with the beans and use on recipes throughout the week. A few quick sauce notes:
- Use a powerful blender to get an ultra-smooth consistency. Otherwise, there might be unpleasant chunks of cashews.
- Soak the cashews to ensure they’re softened enough. Since I usually forget to soak the cashews overnight, I’ve found a short-cut: Pour boiling water over the cashews and let them stand for 45 minutes to an hour. Soft cashews in a fraction of the time!
- Use roasted and salted cashews. The cashews can make or break this sauce. Be sure to get whole cashews that have been roasted and salted for maximum flavor.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. If you’ve made the sauce ahead of time, give it a good stir before drizzling over these Pinto Bean Tacos.
More taco favorites
- Fish Tacoswith a creamy seasoned cilantro-lime sauce
- Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoeswith black beans
- Ground Beef Naan Tacoswith a quick raita sauce
- Steak Tacoswith a corn-herb topping
- Healthy Tacoswith a cilantro pesto
Pinto Bean Tacos
Pinto Bean Tacos
Quick «Pickled» Onion
- 1/2large red onionthinly sliced (~1 cup, 75g)
- 2tablespoonsred wine vinegar
- 1/2teaspoonfine sea salt
- 1-1/2teaspoonswhite granulated sugar
- 1/3cuproasted and salted whole cashews
- 1cupfresh cilantro (leaves & stems)
- 3tablespoonslime juice + 1/2 teaspoon zest (1-2 limes)
- 2tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil
- 1/2teaspoongarlic powder
- 8thin small corn tortillas(we use Mission’s extra thin)
- 1 and 1/2cupshomemade pinto beans(or 1 can refried beans) Note 1
- 1/2headsmall green cabbage(~2-1/2 cups) finely shredded
- Optionaltoppings: 1 large ripe avocado, 1 large corn on the cob ((~3/4 cup) or use canned or thawed frozen corn), cotija cheese, additional cilantro, and lime wedges
PINTOBEANS: See Note 1.
SAUCE: Place cashews in a heatproof bowl. Pour about 1 cup of boiling water over the cashews. Let stand for 45 minutes to an hour and then thoroughly drain. Add drained cashews, cilantro, lime juice & zest, water, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste (I add 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper) to a small powerful blender. Blend until completely smooth. Refrigerate so flavors intensify and meld. The sauce can be made ahead of time; simply stir again before serving.
QUICK «PICKLED» RED ONION: In a medium-sized bowl, combine the thinly sliced red onion, red wine vinegar, salt and sugar. Toss to coat; leave at room temperature and toss every 5 minutes or so while preparing the rest of the meal. (You’ll likely have some extra pickled red onions, but the recipe works best in this quantity. Add any leftovers to dishes throughout the week; they will stay good for up to 5 days in the fridge.)
CABBAGE AND SAUCE: Add cabbage to a large bowl and drizzle about half the sauce (just eyeball it) over the cabbage. Toss with tongs to combine and place in the fridge.
TORTILLAS: See Note 2 for preparing the tortillas. I typically char them over a gas flame on my stovetop, but any method works.
ASSEMBLY: Load up the heated tortillas! Spread beans down the center of each tortilla (about 3-4 tablespoons). Top with saucy cabbage, pickled red onions (to preference), and optional fresh corn, thinly sliced avocado, and cotija cheese. Drizzle additional cashew-cilantro sauce over tacos and serve immediately, with extra cilantro and lime wedges if desired.
- Don’t have the time to make from-scratch beans? It’s okay! Canned refried beans work too. Gently warm them through in a small pot on the stovetop or microwave before adding to the tacos.
- If you do make the homemadepintobeans (highly recommended!), wait until the next day so the beans are thick enough to use in this recipe (right after being made, they’re a bit thin and thicken a lot overnight). Warm them in a small pot or in the microwave before adding them to the tacos.
- For vegan beans, omit the bacon from the homemade bean recipe.
Note 2: Spray both sides of the tortillas with olive oil cooking spray and char the tortillas directly over the gas flames for a few seconds. Use tongs to flip until tortillas are lightly charred and soft. Immediately fold the tortilla in half (so it will fold into a taco nicely later) and place it under a towel to keep warm. Alternatively, warm tortillas in a large skillet over medium heat (in batches so the skillet isn’t over-filled). Flip to warm each side, remove from heat, fold in half, and place under a towel to keep warm.
Vegan tacos: For vegan tacos, omit bacon from the beans and don’t add cheese with the other toppings.
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