Updated on 09.10.14

Dinner With My Family #13: Fajitas Bonitas

Trent Hamm

This is one of those dishes that’s surprisingly quick, but tends to be very impressive when it hits the table. I can easily get this from “glimmer of an idea” to “meal on the table” in forty minutes – even less if I get the vegetables prepped in advance. It makes the whole house smell tremendous, it’s very flexible for guests, and it’s not too expensive, either.

Vegetable Fajitas

Fajitas bonitas

Fajitas. Mmm. Sauteed vegetables, well spiced, in tortilla shells, with some rice on the side.

There are similar fajita recipes all over the internet and in tons of cookbooks. I’ve been making them for so long that I’m not even sure where the original idea came from.

What You Need

Most of the ingredients here are things you’ll already find in your kitchen if you’re appropriately well-stocked.

For fresh vegetables, all you need are two large garlic cloves, one yellow onion, two bell peppers (your choice of color), and two portobello mushrooms. This ran me $4.60 at the grocery store.

You’ll also need a dozen tortillas ($1.89), two tablespoons olive oil, two teaspoons ground cumin, one teaspoon chile powder, sea salt and black pepper to taste, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, some thinly-sliced lettuce ($0.99 for a head, which was more than plenty), and one cup diced tomato ($0.69).

This will make about ten fat fajitas, which is plenty to serve four or five adults. We can serve two adults and two children twice with this batch. Our total cost was about $7, though in our batch we used a few more peppers simply because we split the meal into two batches, one with peppers and one without. This actually left us with a small mountain of leftovers.

The Night Before (or Early That Day)

The big thing you can do in advance for this meal is to simply prep the fresh vegetables. Slice the onion into half circles. Seed the bell peppers and cut them into half-inch strips. Cut the portobello mushrooms into half inch strips.

Cut-up fajita contents

When these are prepped, store them in containers in the fridge until you’re ready to make the meal.

Preparing the Meal

Fire up a large skillet, then add the olive oil, onion, bell peppers, and mushrooms over medium heat for about five minutes. While this is cooking, press the two garlic cloves right into the skillet. If you don’t have a garlic press, you can just mince the garlic.

As mentioned above, we made two batches: one with mushrooms…

Mushroom fajita contents

… and one without:

Non-mushroom fajita contents

Stir the vegetables occasionally during this five minutes, then add the cumin, chile powder, salt, pepper, and soy sauce and cook for an additional seven minutes or until the vegetables are soft, again stirring regularly.

On the side, we served a bit of what we call “poor man’s Spanish rice,” which is essentially cooked rice with some salsa mixed in.

Poor man's spanish rice

Serve the vegetable mix along with the tortillas and shredded lettuce and let everyone assemble their own fajitas bonitas!

Fajitas bonitas

The best part? The aromas of all of this just fills your house.

Optional Ingredients

The easiest option is to simply add some meat to the vegetable mix. You can start by simply putting the olive oil into the skillet with the meat, then thoroughly cooking the meat before adding the vegetables and, eventually, the spices.

This is actually how I used to make fajitas until I changed diets. I mostly just amped up the mushrooms as a replacement.

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  1. Michelle says:

    Another meal that would be good with black beans too…

  2. Katie says:

    I have to say, I’m not usually a big eater next to my friends and co-workers (pretty average), but a couple of tortillas and a few vegetables would not be enough for dinner for me unless I ate a lot of rice with it. I agree with Michelle that I’d add black beans (and/or chicken and cheese since I’m an omnivore).

  3. Sara A. says:

    Yeah I also think you should add black beans or pinto beans… need to get some protein onto that plate. (Coming from 13 years of experience as a vegetarian.)

  4. Anne says:

    This looks like a good recipe and I always love Trent’s sidebar commentary on substitutions etc. I made last week’s Jamaican Red Bean Stew and served it (with brown rice) at a potluck yesterday. Everyone wanted to take some home and all have requested the recipe. I’m a vegetarian so Trent’s frugal, vegan recipes have provided some great additions to my recipe box. Thanks, Trent – I look forward to Friday afternoons!

  5. Kathleen says:

    Adding black beans would be awesome! You can make creamy, spicy black beans for next to nothing as long as you’re willing to start with dried beans. As a 17 year vegetarian, I’ve long found a side of black beans to be an cheap, healthy, and tasty filler.

  6. Sergiogsr says:

    Just to let you know, this are not Fajitas. This is just a vegetables taco (I’m mexican….so I know about this).

    The term “Fajitas” actually refers to the meat on the original recipe (Fajita is how you could call a “tiny girdle” and it makes sense because the meat used is skirt steak of plate steak).

    After some time, variants were created using chicken breast….which doesn’t really is up (or down…) to the name of fajitas. But the characteristics of the breast (Soft and tender) are similar to the skirt.

  7. James says:

    I’m of the opinion that some refried beans (black or pinto) would be excellent on that too. If you want to go all out, you could make your own guacamole and slice a lime to squeeze on the veggies before you put them in the tortilla…

    As for extra protein… The way he made this dinner, the bread and the veggies have PLENTY of protein to satisfy human dietary needs. As a 10-year vegan, I’ve had no protein deficiency. My doctors tell me to keep doing whatever it is I’ve been doing, and it is very similar eating to what this recipe has.

  8. Sergiogsr says:

    Also, if you like beans, I really believe that black beans are not the best and you need some experience to cook them well.

    The best one might be the Peruano Bean (also called Canary or Yellow).

    It’s more soft and doesn’t not change a lot the flavor of things you eat it with, the Peruano just complement it while the black beans have a more strong flavor.

  9. Lauren says:

    #2 Katie — I agree. There is no way this is enough food for 4 or 5 adults as Trent suggests. My husband and I ate four bell peppers last night at dinner (we had stuffed peppers) and we are not obese people. I also don’t understand why Trent used soy sauce in the vegetables. I think soy sauce would not taste that great with the cumin and chili powder.

  10. valleycat1 says:

    That looks like one of our tangerines on your plate (we grow them commercially)!

  11. valleycat1 says:

    I agree with Trent on the servings – this may be less than what many people would actually eat, but if you check actual nutritional guideline single-portion or serving amounts he’s pretty much spot-on. If you’ve eaten adequately for breakfast & lunch, this is plenty for dinner.

  12. Katie says:

    Valleycat1, an “adequate” amount for me to eat is an amount that leaves me (a) not ravenous, and (b) with enough energy to go about my evening and morning pre-breakfast activities. I know from experience this wouldn’t do it for me. People are different.

  13. Gretchen says:

    ” a small mountain of leftovers”?

    I totally agree with katie, 12.
    Especially with no protein/only the protein in the grains.

  14. Nick says:

    Looks good, but needs guacamole.

    If you’re doing the no dairy thing then skipping the cheese and sour cream is fine.

    But skipping guacamole is just unnecessary! ;)

  15. Brittany says:

    I’d have the black beans/refried beans on the side, with the rice. No way I’m ruining delicious fajita texture with beans. (I love beans, but the texture not be as delightfully squishy/crunchy as perfectly cooked peppers.)

  16. Sheri says:

    Yes, definitely beans on the side + avocado or guacamole. I would also add cheese. What’s with the soy sauce (especially if you’re already using sea salt)??

  17. Steven says:

    The plate looks bare and the tangerine out of place. I’d made some guac and refried beans for the side. Toss in some pico de gallo and call it a meal. That just looks skimpy to me, and I’d be raiding the fridge an hour later.

  18. con says:

    You know, usually when I have posted on here, it has not been very positive. But I do have to stand up for Trent here. How he chooses to make his meals should be his choice. He is simply throwing out a recipe for you guys. Not enough protein? The tangerine is out of place? Black beans or whatever Spanish beans? So what? Eat your food however you want and let him eat his how he wants. And to those who say that would not be enough food to carry them through, drink water. That is very filling and probably better for you than what are possibly very enormous portions of food for you at one setting.

  19. con says:

    And about the person who didn’t think soy sauce would taste that great with the cumin and chili powder. Have you tried it? If not, why are you knocking it? I guess I am venting here, but come on. If you have tried it and it doesn’t work, tell us why. That would be more interesting.

  20. leslie says:

    I have a recipe that we make all the time for Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos. It has the oddest combination of ingredients in it…including soy sauce and mustard. The first time I read the recipe I thought for sure they were going to taste terrible but people kept recommending it. So…I tried them and now they are a regular dinner in our house. So…don’t necessarily knock the soy sauce…

  21. Alice says:

    What I like best about the food series is that it shows an actual recipe, the actual steps to prepare it, and the end result. It’s sometimes fun to read the comments suggesting modifications (although folks often seem unnecessarily harsh, saying “I would add X” is much more polite than “where’s X? this meal is not complete without X”).

    I hope this series is an inspiration to people who have never cooked anything from scratch, and who might try something because it’s easy to see exactly what’s involved in preparing whatever’s on the plate. Even if someone ends up not being wildly enthusiastic about the end result, the recipes are inexpensive and get people into their kitchens.

  22. Kari says:

    I just googled sweet potato & black bean burritos & I might have to give those a try. They sound terrific!

  23. Rebecca says:

    I often add a splash of dark soy sauce to items where I want a “meaty” flavor, but am not adding meat, or very little meat. It ups the complex flavor, and is a trick many veggie recipes use.

  24. Tally says:

    Trent, out of curiosity, how come you no longer respond to comments? Is it too time consuming? Just wondering.

  25. Vickie says:

    That sounds so good. Thanks for sharing the meal ideas. ☺

  26. kk says:

    Another great family recipe. Thanks for sharing. For those that think this recipe does not have enough protein, there are multigrain tortillas available, which add a bit more protein to the meal. Portion wise, when you add the lettuce and diced tomato that Trent spoke of and that looks to be about a half cup of rice and the tangarine, this is exactly the amount that an adult should be eating. If you feel full afterwards, then you’ve eaten too much.

  27. Kate says:

    Thanks so much for the soy sauce suggestion for a “meaty” flavor, Rebecca. I have to admit when I read it in Trent’s recipe I had questions about it, too, because I think Chinese and soy sauce. But I just had a quick lunch of brown rice, beans, and salsa and added some soy sauce. Yum!

  28. Scotty says:

    Great recipe suggestion, one of my all time favorites. But one thing I learned recently – Tortilla’s are very, VERY high in sodium (salt). They range from 300-500mg per tortilla shell. Some of the better (small) ones are around 100-200mg. Apparently you can get corn ones that are very low in sodium. If you’re like me, and like a couple of these, that more than blows your daily recommended intake of salt.

    Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love tortillas, but unless you get the corn ones or the really healthy ones, they’re a surprisingly unhealthy food (from the sodium perspective).

  29. AshleyR says:

    I was very surprised when I didn’t see how to make tortillas! So cheap, easy and good!! Anyone who can make pizza crust (not me!) at home should find making tortillas a breeze!!

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