Dinner With My Family #4: Bean Burritos

Each week, I’ll present a low-cost meal (or a meal that demonstrates a lot of options for cutting costs) that my family eats for dinner and enjoys. Many of the recipes will be vegan or vegetarian, with options to add other ingredients for non-vegetarians.

Here’s what I’ve had for a lunch and for a supper over the past few days:

Bean burritos

Bean burritos. Very simple. Very inexpensive. Very tasty. Freshly sliced apples on the side are a nice sweet accompaniment.

What You Need
You’ll need cooked beans, roughly two heaping tablespoons worth for each small burrito. You’ll need small tortilla shells. You’ll also need whatever toppings you’re going to want on it – salsa, onions, tomatoes, cheese, lettuce, guacamole, whatever it is that you love.

Prepping the burritos

I like to keep them very simple so I can taste the beans, so I just use lettuce, onion, and a bit of salsa. That’s it – pretty plain jane, in the end.

The Night Before
If you’re using dried beans – which I highly recommend – put them in a tub of cold water the night before and leave them standing until you’re ready to start preparing your food the next day. The exact type of bean isn’t important, but I highly recommend using black beans. I suggest using 1/4 cup dried beans for each person who will be eating.

Often, I’ll make a batch of beans using black beans as a baseline and adding a small amount of a few additional bean types, such as red beans or garbanzo beans (chickpeas).

I also often make a large batch of these beans at once, using them for multiple recipes and storing them in the fridge between meals, as you can see below.

Beans

Next week, I’ll be using these beans as part of another recipe.

Preparing the Meal
Your first step, if you’re using dried beans that have soaked overnight, is to cook them. Drain the beans, then place them in a pot of water that has about an inch and a half of clear water on top of the beans. Boil them for 75 minutes, keeping the boil relatively low the whole time but never letting the boiling stop.

Once you have cooked beans, the process for making these is simple. Take a few spoonfuls of cooked beans and place them on a tortilla, then add whatever additional ingredients you prefer. Salsa, onions, cheese, whatever makes you happy. Wrap it up and enjoy.

Bean burritos

You may want to heat some of the ingredients – particularly the beans – but that’s at your discretion. This type of meal is incredibly flexible.

Optional Ingredients
Obviously, if you don’t wish to use beans for this, substitute cooked ground beef and follow the same instructions. Beans are a much healthier option, though.

The list of potential toppings is long: rice, guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, peppers – I’ve even tried sauerkraut before (seriously). Add stuff you like and you’ll never go wrong with a meal like this.

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  1. Interested Reader says:

    Don’t you season your beans when you cook them? Adding some kind of seasoning I’m sure will make it taste more interesting.

    I used to make something similiar to this but I’d use canned beans as a base and add more veggies. I’d saute onion, garlic, zucchini together – season that with salt and pepper, chili powder, cumin, then add thawed frozen (or fresh in season) corn. Then add the beans and adjust the seasonings, sometimes I’d add salsa or chipoltes in adobo sauce. Then serve it in a burrito, over rice, or cornbread or quinoa.

  2. Cheryl says:

    I add 1/4 c. chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic and 1 teaspoon cumin to 1 1/2 cups dry beans (4 C. water) while they cook in my pressure cooker for 20 min.; no soaking. These are good in enchiladas, too. Just make a chile gravy and some cheese to sprinkle on top.

  3. Jon says:

    Another waste of a post! We can all figure out how to make bean burritos and fill water bottles. The lack of effort shown lately is amazing. This blog must be way down your list of priorities.

  4. Katie says:

    Do you not heat the tortillas or was that step just not shown? While warming them up (oven, skillet, or microwave) on their own works fine, my favorite thing to do is stuff the burritos and then cook each side on a skillet for a minute or two until it gets a bit crispy. It’s especially nice if you have cheese in the burrito, which gets melty this way.

  5. bubba29 says:

    beans and wheat flour cause malabsorption of many nutrients. be careful eating too much of that stuff. you will lose lean body mass and lose bone density. you may save some money on this cheap meal but you will pay for it in the long run.

  6. @Bubba: I’ve never heard of this before, could you point us to a reference? I’d be interesting in reading more (as I’m a vegetarian). I’d say post a link but I know it’d be lost in moderation, so maybe the name of a website or article title would work.

  7. Jacques says:

    Do you see an advantage of white tortilla’s over whole wheat?

  8. zoe says:

    from “the world’s healthiest foods”:

    “Some of the polyphenols are tannins that can bind to some of the protein and iron these beans supply, preventing absorption of these nutrients. But don’t let this concern you if you have a varied diet that provides you with protein and iron from a range of sources; if so, you can easily offset any negative consequences of the nutrient-binding tannins found in black beans. ”

    i.e., beans are fine.

    I’m surprised at the lack of seasoning though. Throw in some garlic, onion, cumin etc and they’ll be tasty instead of just edible.

  9. Teresa says:

    A crockpot works as well when cooking beans and no soaking required. Just put them in the crock in the morning, cover with water and they are done by evening.

  10. Katie says:

    Do you see an advantage of white tortilla’s over whole wheat?

    I see a taste advantage. I know some people like whole wheat tortillas, but I think they’re awful.

  11. bubba29 says:

    white tortillas have less gluten

  12. KC says:

    I like this recipe – has lots of ways to add variety. As others have said you could season the beans to your preference. I’d probably chop up some cooked/grilled chicken and add it to the black beans. I’m not big on salsa in my food, but I’d have it as a side with some chips. My husband would eat it in the shell with the beans. So it’s quite versatile.

    Also at the very least I think I’d steam the tortillas in the microwave (place between 2 wet paper towels and heat for a few seconds.)

    More mexican please!! I’m still enjoying the crock-pot chicken enchiladas.

  13. Angie says:

    I feel like there’s been a bit of piling on lately, but you’ve done a burrito post before, and there are so. many. ways. to make what you you posted so much better. You have the right to post whatever you want, but I’m starting to stick around primarily for the comments/community.

  14. Gretchen says:

    4 Tablespoons of beans and 2 tortillas for the lunch of an adult?

  15. chuck says:

    beans can be a little “musical” after you eat them. how to eliminate the gas? i would eat them more if they weren’t so “talkative” after the meal.

  16. SwingCheese says:

    Chuck – I’ve heard a couple of different theories. The first says that simply eating more beans will decrease the amount of gas. Proponents of this theory believe that the musical effect is beans is due to the fact that we are unused to eating them in the USA. I don’t know about that. The second is to rinse all canned beans before using them. And the third is to take a Beano (or something similar) before enjoying them. :)

  17. Liane says:

    A great idea! I’ve been looking for some new, easy, few ingredient recipes that are different from our usual menu and I’m so glad you posted this. I know that all members of my family will enjoy them and maybe have fun building their own burritos.
    Thanks!

  18. valleycat1 says:

    #14 Gretchen – 4T is 1/4 cup of beans, which is a on the skimpy side (1/2 cup is a standard veg. serving), but if you add other food to the 2 tortilla wraps and have the apple, that’s actually a legitimate amount of food for an adult meal.

  19. Aryn says:

    Chuck – if you cook your own beans, skim off the foam that develops during the boiling portion. Some people think it cuts down on the gas.

  20. krantcents says:

    Personally, I do not care for beans, but we added pasta as a weekly vegetarian dish in various forms. Some Sunday nights, we have big salads or hearty soups (mushroom/barley) or frittata (mushroom/spinach).

  21. Johanna says:

    @chuck: This won’t solve it entirely, but you can avoid the worst of the problem by making sure the beans are thoroughly cooked. The insides should be soft and creamy, not crunchy or chalky at all (if they are, then they’re undercooked).

    Also, if you’re using dried beans, make sure you cook them and eat them within six months or so of getting them – despite their rock-solid appearance, dried beans do not actually stay good forever. When beans are too old, their skins remain tough no matter how long you soak them and cook them, and that can contribute to gas problems too.

  22. Patty says:

    I prefer the taste/texture/price of white tortillas but whole wheat & corn are both other tortilla options. Also homemade tortillas are fantastic (I havn’t done it yet myself but I live in Texas).

  23. kristine says:

    Beano works for me. But does anyone know a generic alternative? Beano is VERY expensive. I have also found that Culturelle has been an invaluable addition to my already very controlled and healthy diet, preventing IBS symptoms. But between the two, it’s almost a dollar a day! Worth every dime, and more, to live without pain, but man, oh man, there’s got to be cheaper versions out there somewhere! Anybody?

  24. lurker carl says:

    The gasous effect is mostly due to the high volume of soluble fiber in beans without the optimal amounts of various bacteria in the gut to deal with it. This results a higher than normal volume of gas produced as a byproduct of inefficient digestion. Moving to a diet higher in soluble fiber will reduce those bean toots.

  25. deRuiter says:

    This post IS thin. The problem is that after a person has written on a certain topic a number of times, for years, they run out of ideas. That’s the reason Amy (rhymes with “decision” and no, I can’t spell her last name!) finally published all her newsletters in that neat three volume set of books and retired on her amazing profits, she’d done it ALL! There was no more which interested her to write, she had taught everyone who read her newsletters / 3 books how to do the cost analysis, how to live a thrity life, the philosophy of thrift, the environmental benefits of saving vs spending, what could be accomplished (nice chunk of money in bank, paid off farm in Maine, paid off cars, retirement, husband with public sector job providing lifetime insurance (Navy).) I don’t know if Trent has run out of ideas, but he has to publish SOMETHING in order to keep his income. As long as the column gets hits, whether positive or negative comments, he cranks out the money. He gets paid whether the column is thin, whether he writes well or badly, whether or not he edits and runs spell check. People produce something if they get paid to produce it. This is why welfare mothers continue to crank out inferior children whom they ingore, they get paid for their product with no bonus for good quality, they get paid for the quantity of welfare babies they crank out.

  26. Kate says:

    deRuiter…I could agree with so much of what you wrote but I’m saddened by your bitterness.

  27. kristine says:

    Kate- I agree on all counts. I posted this on the water bottle entry, but so late I am sure no one saw it- last post.

    Many people have poo-pooed those how have complained of late, but the truth is, this site has a reciprocal relationship. The blogger is asking people for their time, or at least hoping to get it, and this readership provides his main source of income. He provides content in exchange.

    In this kind of self-employment, there is no other performance review other than the commenters. And from my background in publishing/advertising, I can tell you that you want the squeaky wheels. Your worst luck is customers/readers who say nothing, then quietly just go away when they lose interest. This affords no notice to be aware of a shortcoming or its effect, and no opportunity to change it. Winning back almost never works, and it is almost never cost-effective.

    It is 10X easier to keep a client/ customer/reader than it is to recruit a new one. Calling out complacency may seem rude or ungrateful, but instead, it is valuable feedback- a call to action, and it can keep a business from slowly eroding.

  28. Leah says:

    I’m wondering why Trent is recommending black beans — as in, is there a reason, or is it just a personal preference?

    I’m not a big fan of beans, but I appreciate the health benefits. I’ve found that both red beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans are all much more mild and more palatable. I do add some rice when we make burritos so that I don’t taste the beans as much. And I’d definitely add seasoning and way more veggies — just doesn’t seem like he’s getting enough veg in there. Roasted red peppers (you can roast them at home easily), bell peppers, onions, and garlic all feature prominently when we make fajitas or burritos.

  29. Janis says:

    Leah (#28), Trent said he enjoys the bean taste. My husband also has a strong preference for black beans and is disappointed if I use any other kind of beans in burritos. It doesn’t sound as though you share this preference, so to each their own.

    Kristine (#27), you make an excellent point! I stopped in earlier, was going to make a comment about how I make and freeze my own version of black bean burritos, but ultimately left without commenting. The reason? I was saddened to find myself agreeing with those who thought this post was a skimpy treatment, but thought it would be rude to pile on. I thought “why put the effort into a comment when Trent didn’t put the effort into his post?”

  30. Julia says:

    The burritos, while they sound tasty could do with a bit larger quantity of beans and more seasonings (as noted previously). And also, how about a nice leafy green salad to go with, and a small side of Spanish/Mexican rice? This would be a more complete and healthful meal (along with whole wheat tortillas substituted for the white flour variety, as also previously mentioned). Skip the apples, or save them for dessert. Showing a more complete meal would go along way in these posts to entice more people. We eat with our eyes first, after all.

  31. Interested Reader says:

    Leah -it’s probably just personal preference. You might want to also try pink beans – if your grocery store has an ethnic section they can be found with the Mexican/Latino section. Usually you can find them canned by Goya but sometimes dried. They have a nice texture and a very mild flavor.

  32. Anne says:

    Thanks for the post. I seem to disagree with many commenters but I like when old ideas are revisited. I find the reminders helpful. It’s probably just how I learn.

    I would like to hear more about how coping with new dietary restrictions has impacted Trent’s meal planning and grocery shopping.

  33. littlepitcher says:

    Since the Cherokee used over 100 varieties of beans, many now lost, the use of beans, especially heirloom items, makes this an interesting post for those just beginning the practice of culinary frugality. We eat beans directly from the pot, over cornbread, and then use the leftovers for burritos. For a single person, though, a can of marked down refrieds and cheap jalapeno cheddar melted over the top tastes far better than the multinational’s offering.

  34. AH says:

    I just discovered this websit & I love it! I have been a thrifty creative cook for decades but have not tried this particular dish before. I use a lot of black beans & other dried beans, but didn’t know you could cook them in the crockpot overnight. I DO know not to season dried beans before they are tender or they will NEVER get done. Someone above spoke for all of humanity & wrote, “EVERYBODY knows. . .” Hmmmm Anybody can recommend a tasty healthy cookie recipe that travels well & keeps?

  35. Anni says:

    Personally, I like Trent’s meal posts, and I do go back and reread, as evidenced by this comment. I have all the aforementioned books, and I still learn from Trent and from other blogs I read, as well as life experience. The shock of Uncle Sam’s take after all my children moved out and I changed my withholding has caused me to re-evaluate my finances and the old posts have been very helpful.

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