Our fellow home cooks are constantly asking us for ideas and recipes to help them put a healthy-ish meal on the table at lightning speed — for those familiar nights when you just don’t have time for lots of chopping and extensive prep. We can all relate.

So what’s the solution? You can start by packing your shelves and refrigerator with a few staples that are low on effort and big on flavor. In our pantry, canned black beans, limes and a few key condiments and spices are near the top of the list.

This plant-based taco recipe is a lesson in minimalism: You’ll be surprised at the amount of flavor achieved from a few humble ingredients in just 20 minutes.

Our favorite trick for cooking black beans is with a little can liquid, spices and a hint of Dijon mustard for complexity. What takes them over the top is a crunchy, tart two-onion quick pickle. And if you like a little kick, put that hot sauce to use.

Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón) brings a noticeable flair to plant-based dishes and is worth the investment. You can find it in the spice aisle in the grocery store. It is not interchangeable with sweet paprika or Hungarian paprika.

Make Ahead: Refrigerate leftover black bean filling and pickled onions for up to 2 days; reheat the black beans on the stove top.

This recipe is from Week 1 of Voraciously’s Plant Powered newsletter series. For more recipes like this one, and for tips and tricks to help you put more vegetables on your plate, sign up for the newsletter here.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.


  • 2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced crosswise (white and green parts)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (from 2 or 3 limes)
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • One 15.5-ounce can no-salt-added black beans, with the liquid
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón; sweet or hot)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Six 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce (from 1 heart of romaine)
  • Hot sauce, such as Cholula (optional)

Step 1

First, let’s make the two-onion quick pickle: Combine the scallions and half the red onion slices in a medium bowl.

Here’s a trick to give you less onion breath (you’ll thank us later!): Cover the onions and scallions with hot tap water and squeeze them a few times with your hands. Let them stand for about 2 minutes to extract their raw flavor, then drain.

Step 2

Combine the lime juice, the rinsed red onions and scallions, and a pinch of kosher salt in a small jar or liquid measuring cup. Let stand while you make the remainder of the recipe, or for at least 10 minutes.

Step 3

On to the black beans: Heat the oil until shimmering in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining red onion and cook without stirring for about 3 minutes, until lightly browned. Add the black beans with their liquid, the chili powder, cumin, Spanish smoked paprika, Dijon mustard and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt; stir to incorporate. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces to a thick sauce and your kitchen smells heavenly.

Step 4

We like to add a bit of flavor and lovely char marks while warming our tortillas (not required, but highly recommended). Place a tortilla right on the grate above the flame of a gas burner, then cook on medium heat for a few seconds per side, flipping with tongs, until lightly blackened on the edges. Repeat for all tortillas.

If you don’t have a gas range, arrange the tortillas in a single layer on a baking sheet and broil for about 1 minute per side.

Step 5

To assemble the tacos, place some chopped romaine at the center of each tortilla, then add a large spoonful of the black bean mixture. Top with the pickled onions and hot sauce, if using. If desired, you can pour a small splash of the lime juice from the onion pickles onto each taco (but be conservative or you’ll have a watery taco).

From Sonja Overhiser and Alex Overhiser of ACoupleCooks.com.

Tested by Sonja Overhiser and Alex Overhiser; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.

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Calories: 500; Total Fat: 18 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 430 mg; Carbohydrates: 71 g; Dietary Fiber: 16 g; Sugars: 1 g; Protein: 17 g.