Happy-Making Vegetarian Tacos with Black/Pinto Beans

These easy vegetarian tacos (vegan without regular cheese and sour cream) have been one of our favorite meals for the better part of a decade. They’re happy-making to the max.


Super-savory, quick, and totally crowd-pleasing, vegan food doesn't get any better than this. ? 

There are two types of people in this world: those who lead with their best material, and those who save the best for last. Let’s not mince words — I kind of hate them both. But that’s totally not the point here. The point is that nobody, anywhere, ever, would bury their best material right smack in the middle. Nobody notices the middle. Let’s not mince words — I kind of hate the middle.

Which totally does not explain how I came to be here, in the middle of World Vegan Month, posting my absolute best material for your non-noticing pleasure. I kind of hate when people don’t notice me. But here I am. Here we are. Hi!


These vegan tacos are a dream

Folks, these are my dearly beloved black (or pinto!) bean tacos. Vegan doesn’t get any better than this. Unlike me, these tacos love everybody and everything (including a little shredded cheese and sour cream, by the way, if you’re so inclined). They can be all open and vulnerable like that, because they know you’ll love them back. They’re a strong female role model in that way, and as a matter of personal growth, I intend to emulate them. Just wanted to let you know that, so if you see me out and about wearing pickled onions on my head, you’ll know that I’m not crazy. Which should be pretty obvious anyway.

Easy Vegetarian Tacos with Black or Pinto Beans

If you make the pickled onions and cilantro sauce ahead of time, these happy-making vegan/vegetarian tacos are quick to put together. They're equally good with black beans and pinto beans, so I make them with whatever we have in the pantry.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Serves Serves 4


For the bean mixture

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium red or green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups cooked black beans (2 15-ounce cans is fine)
  • 1 15-ounce can whole or diced tomatoes with their juices OR 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder (see note)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

To serve


  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, one minute more.
  2. Stir in the beans, tomatoes (if using whole tomatoes, crush in your hands before adding) or broth, chili powder, and cumin, and bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until juices have thickened and flavors have melded, about 15 minutes. Mixture should be quite thick so it won't escape from taco shells, but not bone-dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. To serve, place about 1/3 cup bean mixture in the center of a tortilla, and top with pickled onions, guacamole, olives, and cilantro. I like to put the toppings in small bowls on the table and let everyone help themselves. Kids like these tacos anyway, but it helps their enthusiasm level to have been a part of the process.


By chili powder, I mean the American-style spice blend that contains some fractional percentage of ground hot chili peppers along with other herbs and spices. I learned the hard way from a reader that chili powder means straight-up ground chili peppers in some other English-speaking countries. If you can't find the spice blend, add a generous pinch of ground cayenne or other hot red pepper, plus 1/2 teaspoon each of dried oregano and granulated garlic.

Nutritional information for this recipe does not include tortillas and toppings, since they vary widely.

Nutrition Information

Amount Per Serving:

Calories:: 272 Total Fat:: 8.2g Carbohydrates:: 39.7g Fiber:: 14.5g Protein:: 12.6g