Bean & Cheese Burritos, Beef Tacos & Homemade Flour Tortillas

Bean and Cheese Burrito

I have a confession. I eat at Taco Bell about once a month. And I love it. More than love it. Look forward to it even. I know, I know. You hypocrite, you say. Well, let me explain.

You see, the reason I eat at Taco Bell is because when I meet a dear friend for lunch every month, our dining options are limited to El Pollo Loco, IHOP, Togo’s and Taco Bell.

And at Taco Bell I can order a bean and cheese burrito, two in fact, and I can pry open the steaming nearly transparent tortilla holding those beans and cheese from oozing out, and I can smother it with hot sauce. What a treat. Seriously, it’s the little things.

All I’m saying is that if you, like me, are picky about what meat you eat, know that at Taco Bell a delectable vegetarian option awaits you. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Incidentally, I was searching cooksillustrated.com for a taco recipe when I stumbled upon the results of a refried bean taste test. Which brand do you suppose prevailed on top? That’s right, Taco Bell Home Originals Refried Beans. Despite these results, however, I like to use Trader Joe’s refried pinto beans “salsa style.” They are tasty and made with just a handful of ingredients (… you may recall Michael Pollan’s eating algorithms.)

So what could be better than a Taco Bell burrito? Why one made in your own home, of course, with homemade flour tortillas. I know, homemade tortillas, “come on” you are saying. “What’s wrong with store-bought flour tortillas?” Indeed, store-bought tortillas are a perfectly fine product, one I undoubtedly will purchase again. That said, if you have the time and the curiosity, I think you’ll find the value in making them from scratch — these homemade tortillas are light and lovely with just a hint of butter taste, and truthfully, not too tricky to make. The dough requires minimal kneading and a short 30-minute rest before being rolled. And while a tortilla press is nice to get the rolling process going, it is an unnecessary tool in this process. A rolling pin does the job.

While nothing makes me happier than a couple of refried bean-and-cheddar burritos for dinner, I am conscious of my husband’s preferences, too, which lean toward meat-based entrees. Fortunately, I always have some of J&J’s grass-fed ground beef in the freezer and thanks to Cook’s Illustrated, I now have a favorite beef taco recipe. The filling, a mixture of sautéed onions, tomato sauce, a little vinegar, a pinch of brown sugar and a homemade spice mix — cumin, coriander, chili powder and oregano — is a snap to make. We’ve been eating tacos once a week here. They are awesome.

And as you can imagine, this beef mix makes a nice burrito filling as well. 

Tortilla Dough. Note: A tortilla press is unnecessary. I mostly use my rolling pin.
tortilla dough

When making homemade tortillas, you don’t really want them to brown too much, especially if you are making burritos. You want them to be cooked, but still pliable, capable of being filled and rolled.
tortilla

 Burritos
See that pan in the lower left corner of the above montage? It’s filled with beef taco filling. We’ve been eating tacos once a week here. I found the recipe (included below) on CooksIllustrated.com. It’s fantastic.

Cut Burrito

Bean and Cheese Burritos

Yield = However many you’d like

refried beans, I like Trader Joe’s brand
cheddar cheese
large flour tortillas, homemade if you are feeling ambitious, recipe below
salsa and sour cream, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread flour tortillas with beans and cheese. Wrap burrito style. Wrap in foil. Place in oven until cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. I’m not totally sure how long these take, but if you have a whole bunch wrapped and heating in the oven, just pull out one to check and adjust time accordingly.

Note: I ended up placing the beans in a small frying pan to heat before I spread them onto a tortilla. This is mostly because it was hard to stir the beans up while they were still in the can. Also, a little beans and cheese go a long way — think “less is more” while assembling.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Yield = 8 to 9 taco-sized tortillas or 4 to 5 burrito-sized tortillas

9 oz. (about 2 scant cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. table salt (not kosher) I used sea salt, fine
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 c. unsalted butter

1. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. With a knife cut little pieces of the butter into the flour. Then with two knives cut the butter into the flour until mealy, smaller little bits of butter than in a pie dough.

2. Stir in 2/3 c. warm (not from tap, preferably) water with a fork until a shaggy dough forms.

3. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 3-4 minutes until smooth, soft, and not sticky.

4. Cut the dough into 2-oz. pieces for taco-sized tortillas or 3-oz pieces for burrito-sized tortillas. You will have 8 to 9 small pieces or 4 to 5 larger pieces. Shape pieces into a ball.

5. Cover with a very light kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Be careful that your room isn’t too hot. Let the dough rest 30 minutes and up to two hours.

6. Roll out each ball to about 9 to 10 inches (taco) or 11 to 12 inches (burrito) in diameter, or till you can see the counter start to come through. Note: A tortilla press is nice to flatten the ball into a disk to get things going, but ultimately a rolling pin works best. The tortilla press is unnecessary if you don’t have one.

7. Heat a 12 inch non-stick or cast-iron pan (do not add any oil) on medium-high. Lay the tortilla in the pan and cook until it puffs and little brown spots on the underside appear. Turn with tongs and cook. Each tortilla takes about 45-60 seconds. You don’t really want the tortilla to brown at all. The tortilla in the above picture was actually cooked a little too long.

Notes: When making tortillas for burritos, it’s best if the tortillas are cooked just before you plan on filling them, wrapping them and placing them in the oven. This way they’ll stay pliable. 

Beef Tacos

Source: Cook’s Illustrated, Published May 1, 2002
Yield = 8 tacos, serves 4

Beef Filling:
2 teaspoons vegetable oil or corn oil
1 small onion , chopped small (about 2/3 cup)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin*
1 teaspoon ground coriander*
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt
1 pound 90% lean ground beef, I used J&J grass-fed beef
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons vinegar (preferably cider vinegar)
Ground black pepper

* I like to toast whole cumin and coriander seeds and then grind them in my spice grinder with all of the other spices listed above. Just a thought, if you have the time. 

Shells and Toppings:
8 taco shells or small tortillas
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces), or Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
2 small tomatoes , chopped small
1/2 cup sour cream
1 avocado, diced medium
1 small onion, chopped small
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
Tabasco sauce , or another brand of hot sauce

1. Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook, breaking meat up with wooden spoon and scraping pan bottom to prevent scorching, until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, and vinegar; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently and breaking meat up so that no chunks remain, until liquid has reduced and thickened (mixture should not be completely dry), about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

2. Using wide, shallow spoon, divide filling evenly among taco shells; place two tacos on individual plates. Serve immediately, passing toppings separately.

Bean and Cheese Burrito


29. January 2010 by Alexandra Stafford
Categories: Bread, Eating Locally, Entrees, Grass-fed Meat, Meat, Vegetarian | 46 comments


Comments (46)

  1. I love bean & cheese burritos. Your tortillas look really good. I never can seem to get mine rolled thin enough!

  2. tacos once a week sounds good to me. more frequently would be even better, but that might be overkill. however, there are so many ways to change them up, i think i could get away with it, don’t you?
    lovely tortillas, awesome fillings. taco bell can’t hold a candle to ya, alexandra. :)

  3. Hey Ali,
    The new site looks great. I love reading your posts. I hope you and Ben and that bun in the oven are doing well. Love and miss you guys!

  4. Your tortillas are so perfect! Mmmm once a week tacos.

  5. Yaah! Confession: I actually like a lot of fast food chains, but I HATE taco bell. I’ve only eaten at their Philippine franchise, but their products strike me as overpriced and bland. I’d MUCH rather eat these burritos, they look heavenly! And I believe that is the first time heavenly has been used to describe a burrito!

  6. Once in a while I go to Taco Bell too, usually for a bean/cheese burrito and a seven-layer burrito, another good vegetarian option. Your burrito and taco recipes look scrumptious and I can’t wait to try them! Thanks for all your wonderful recipes and lovely photographs.

  7. Yum! These burritos look great! I used to eat Taco Bell bean burritos all the time in college. Like you, I’d order two and cover them with hot sauce. It has been way too long since I’ve had one!

  8. Hi – I’m a new reader, and have tried a few recipes. My tortillas are resting right now and I can’t wait to taste them! Thanks for sharing your love of good food with us!

  9. These probably blow anything from TB out of the water in taste. Certainly not as convenient but pretty darn tasty.

  10. Georgous, …ooh so tasty & inviting filled taco’s & home made flour tortiulla’s, Alexandra!!!

    Wow!!! You have done an excellent job!!! MMMMMMMMM,…..lovely food!

  11. It’s T Bell and Taco Bueno for me. Either one nips my burrito fix right in the bud.

  12. Um, I can’t say I’m with you on the taco bell stuff. It makes me feel very unwell. But I get your drift, I love fried chicken and I’m paralyzed with fear that one of my readers will see me in there one of these days.
    That said, your delightful photos of homemade tacos makes me crave a nice b and c burrito. Thanks for the inspired work!

  13. I’m going to make these for dinner (the b & c veggie version), yum! I also am a huge lover of the Trader Joes refried beans salsa style. When I go home to Utah (where there are no TJ’s) I always have to smuggle in a few cans for my sister, we can’t go a week without having some of those tasty beans.
    Thanks for a great post!

  14. made your tortillas last night. great recipe. served with refried black beans (black bean recipe from blue eggs and yellow tomatoes we refried) red cabbage slaw with red onion, ciltantro and a blue cheese dressing and sauteed chicken. yum!! thank you!

  15. oh, and we made them little. a little more than 1 oz each.

  16. This looks amazing! I will be visiting your site more often and will try this!

  17. You have definitely got me craving these right about now. I will have to make an impromptu trip to the market tomorrow!

  18. The beef tacos were amazing! I made them last night and really enjoyed them (and so did my husband!). Thanks for another great recipe! This SO beats out those taco seasoning packets that are always so salty!

  19. I must confess that when I saw this post, I headed to the kitchen and made a burrito pronto! Although I didn’t make my own tortillas, they did manage to hit the spot – thanks for the inspiration!

  20. Holy COW!! These look awesome!! I confess, I too, love me some Taco Bell… ;-) These look waaay better than Taco Bell, though – I love that first picture; you had both me and my hubby drooling!

  21. My dad used to always eat the bean and cheese burritos at Taco Bell. Now I’m totally craving them.

  22. I am a new reader. I stumbled over here from Gardenfork.tv.

    I must say the photography is outstanding and I just printed the recipe out to try at home.

    I look forward to pouring through the archives and seeing what you have in store for us.

    Take care.

  23. There is NOTHING better than a good bean burrito and these look amazing – thanks for sharing. (Although I used to eat the Taco bell variety, I haven’t in a long while – they are still good??)

  24. wow those tortillas look incredible! I love your blog!

  25. These tacos look fantastic and I’m sure they’re much healthier than Taco Bell ;) thanks for posting!

  26. I like a wide variety of dstinctive snacks.The more distinctive,the more I like.Ilike this “Bean and Cheese Burritos”.

  27. I confess – Almost everytime I’ve looked at this posting in the last few months, I’ve walked directly to the kitchen and whipped up a batch of these tortillas! Thanks for sharing such an easy and wonderful recipe. My family loves them. I have some resting until dinner right now.

  28. We made the bean and cheese tortillas tonight with some chicken added in to keep everyone happy- these were fabulous! Next time around I will make the homemade tortillas, thanks for sharing…

  29. These are wonderful!
    DH peeled the edges of my tortillas last week, they a bit gummy and tasted raw =-(
    Yesterday, we rolled them as a team, after cooking them on the first side, we flipped them with a spatula and pressed ‘gently’ on any bubble to induce steam, EVERY single tortilla ballooned, cooking them through in seconds! A few light brown spots are optional for flavor! Dark ones will be bitter……
    We used 50/50 milk/water instead of all water, tortillas are still very pliable today.
    Thanks for Sharing!

  30. Awesome recipe ideas. I too am a freak for Taco Bell bean burritos. I eat pretty healthy other than those once a month. On my 12th birthday my mom said I could go to any restaurant for lunch. I chose TB. It’s the red sauce (not their hot sauce packets) that makes their burritos so good. Do you have any idea how to make a similar sauce?

    • Oh man, Matt, I wish I could help you out. I haven’t been to TB in ages, so I have no recollection of what the red sauce tastes like. If you discover a recipe, please report back! I would love to know how to make such a sauce. Thanks!

  31. This is a fabulous recipe! The BEST flour tortilla recipe I’ve found. Thank you!

  32. if you see a huge uptick in your traffic for this post – it’s ME! I’m making your tortillas for carnitas and I keep closing the page for some reason. Cannot wait to try them – the balls are resting on the counter now.

    • haha, you are funny. Oh Talley, I hope they come out well for you! I haven’t made them in ages, but now I’m feeling inspired. Also, my mother just made a lamb shoulder for dinner — totally amazing — and there is so much left over…the texture is braised, not dissimilar from carnitas, and I think with some sort of mint salsa, the leftover meat might taste pretty nice in a homemade flour tortilla. Hugs to you and Baby Alice. Wish I could meet her.

  33. I am thinking about using your taco seasoning as a dry rub for sirloin and grilling it for steak tacos. Have you tried this? Any ideas one how to make the steak taco idea work?

    • That sounds delicious! I have never tried it, but I have used similar seasonings for a different rub. For steak tacos, I think you can keep it really simple: grill your meat, let it rest, slice it up; serve it with some shredded lettuce, some grated cheese, some sort of salsa, maybe a dollop of sour cream? So fun!

  34. This is a great taco recipe. I made it tonight with ground turkey, which was excellent. Thank you for the winning recipe. Judging by the other comments, it looks like I’m going to have to try making homemade tortillas next time. I’m wondering about the vinegar in the taco recipe. Do you know it’s purpose? The tomato is already acidic, but Cooks Illustrated knows what they’re doing and usually has their reasons. Best, Dana

    • Dana, that’s a really good question. I’ve wondered the same thing myself — I mean, it’s such a small quantity, does it really make a difference? The only thing I’m thinking is that it offers a teensy bit of bite, something to counter all of the spice and other heavy flavors. I know the tomato adds acidity already, but perhaps a different kind of acidity — the same way crushed red pepper flakes and fresh cracked black pepper are both hot but offer different flavors — makes a difference? Just a though. So glad you liked the recipe!

  35. I just made the tortillas tonight, and they were so tasty! Do you think the dough would freeze well after being cut into the smaller pieces? And then thawed out completely before rolling/cooking? Thanks! Diana

  36. I love these more and more each time I make them!

    Do you have any recipes you can share for:

    Yellow cake
    Sloppy Joes
    Baked Beans

    Spring and summer are coming, eventually, and I’m craving some good ol’ classics!

  37. Ali,
    My older daughter Maddie and I made these for lunch today and they were delicious!! John is a huge Taco Bell fan and he loved them too. I wish I could post a pic because Maddie was on flour duty while we were making the tortillas and she was pretty diligent about flouring everything aggressively, herself included. Anyhow it made for a fun morning activity on a cold day and also an amazing lunch. Thanks!!
    Hope all is well with you and your fam!
    Xo,
    Emily

    • That is so fun, Emily! I wish you could post a picture! Ella (my oldest) has been really enjoying any sort of cooking activity that requires a rolling pin and flour. So happy you liked these and that it made for a fun activity with Maddie. Love that name. Also, side note, I have been thinking of you because Ella and Graham watched Toy Story for the first time about a month ago, and I told them how I had seen this movie in the theater when it first came out (at which point they looked at me the way they will look at me when they are teenagers), and I kind of can’t believe that I am showing my children a movie that we went to see in the theater and that is still awesome today. Anywho, I think there will be many more Toy Story viewings in my future. Hope you are well, too! xoxo

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