These Tempeh Pinto Bean Skillet Tacos are just what Cinco de Mayo celebrations need. They're simple, yet flavorful, plant-based, yet high in protein, and can ready to enjoy in less than 30 minutes! Top them with your favorite garnishes for a little something extra - you will not regret making these, and your friends and family will thank you for them!
Certain things just happen and bring a gratifying smile to life. This year, the transition from winter to spring didn't take it's normal route - downpours of rain surprised us in mid-March, when we would typically be hanging out in 75-degree sunshine. But I was fine with it because I love rain, especially when I need to study for almost two weeks straight. Transitioning from winter to spring isn't a time of year I look forward to with much excitement - like I said, I love rain, and when spring comes, it almost immediately feels like summer.
This year, though... this year has felt anything but normal. I actually don't really know what that words means and how it applies to real-life (outside of its dictionary definition), so I should probably stop using it, huh? The four-hour drive up back to SLO after spending spring break in SoCal absolutely blew me away - the greens and the yellows of the hills seemed to look up at the bright blue sky and they both just nodded at each other, like they knew how stunningly they each complimented one another. I don't know if keeping my eyes on the actual road has ever been so hard.
Later that afternoon, my legs begged for some movement so I took my bike out for a ride to the beach and I had no idea at the beauty that was to come and amaze me. A symphony of gorgeous greens hills, rainbows of blooming flowers, child-like chirping birds, seemingly sparkling blue skies, and the indescribable aroma of it all could've knocked me over in all its wonder.
And wonder, I did, because I unexpectedly fell in love with spring (a season that used to feel to me like green-ish bananas - just "ehh") in that moment. Since then - a month ago - I've spent as many moments outside as I can, with and without my computer/studying materials. I walk to my 6 PM class with a bigger, heartier smile and sense of joy than I could've imagined possible. I wake up before the sunrises at 6:12-ish (but who's counting?) and anticipate it's appearance, eager for it's colorful arrival.
What all of that had to with these tempeh tacos, I'm not totally sure. I mean, they certainly are a warm-weather friendly meal. Beyond that, though, they too just kind of happened, like how I fell in love with spring, in a way that took me so much by surprise I couldn't help but love them even more. The blog hasn't been the most encouraging thing for me in the past few weeks, so for this recipe to just work as well as it did felt (and tasted) like a million wins all in one skillet.
Some notes on this recipe:
I used tempeh because 1) it's less expensive than meat, 2) it's texture and flavor beat tofu (in my book), 3) it's fermented (read: gut-healthy!), and 4) it's SO easy to cook. If you'd prefer meat or tofu, go for it. The recipe is versatile enough for almost any preference!
You may need to add just a tablespoon or two of water or veggie stock to the pan when you add the tomato paste - it was a bit challenging to mix in because of how thick the paste is. I made it work though, so you can, too.
I read somewhere that lightly rubbing your corn tortillas with just a splash of water before heating them over the stove helps keep them soft and pliable, and that worked well for me!
Oh, and happy (almost) Cinco de Mayo! Perhaps you'll find this recipe delicious and simple enough to bring to your celebration this weekend :)
Makes 3 servings (3-ish tacos)
1 15-oz. can pinto beans
1 8 oz. block tempeh, roughly crumbled into bite-size chunks
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tbsp. oil (I prefer grapeseed or avocado oil for high-heat cooking)
1 tsp. cumin
1-2 tsp. ancho chili powder (I used the Simply Organic brand)*
salt and pepper, to taste
3-6 corn tortillas (3 large or 6 small)
For serving: crumbled feta (omit if vegan), fresh cilantro, avocado, diced red onion
Heat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet** over medium heat and coat with 2 tbsp. oil. Let this heat up for 1-2 minutes, and then add the red onion, bell pepper, and garlic cloves. Cover and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste and spices until incorporated. Add the pinto beans and tempeh crumbles and stir again. Cover and cook 5-7 minutes, or until the tempeh has a light char on the edges. Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat the tortillas by rubbing a light coat of water on each side and laying them in a pan until soft and warm. Serve alongside the tempeh pinto bean skillet and mixed greens, and any additional toppings: crumbled feta, fresh cilantro, and diced red onion.
*If you don't have or can't find ancho chili powder, cayenne or paprika will work. Use 1 tsp. if you're sensitive to spice, 2 tsp. if you like spice.
**I used a 10-inch Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet for this and it worked so well! Be sure to coat it with oil while heating it to prevent any sticking.