Frugal Gourmet: Black Bean Tacos

What is a Frugal Gourmet? Someone who can turn nothing into something. Someone who enjoys the challenge of feeding themselves for way, way less than they spend on take-out. Someone who has committed to packing their lunch each day to save money. Sound like you?


Assuming you have cooking oil, salt & pepper, and basic eating utensils, this will be cheap and easy.

Ingredients: The super basics, if you’re super broke

Image Credit: Laura Carroll

Black beans, dry or canned

Mexican Spice Blend

1 small head of green cabbage

Sour cream or Greek yogurt

Tortillas, flour or corn

Optional Ingredients: The slightly fancier stuff, if you have a few extra bucks to splurge

Image Credit: Laura Carroll

1 fresh Avocado

1 small bunch cilantro

1 package queso fresco or any other cheese


1 small pot

1 large skillet

1 small skillet

1 large spoon

1 spatula

Serves: 2, can easily be scaled, filling freezes well

Let's do this thing.

Make the black beans

Variation 1—Canned beans

If you're using canned beans, just dump them into a small pot with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of spices. Heat until warm. Taste for flavor and add more salt and/or spices until you're happy with them. Ta-da!

Variation 2—Dry Beans on the stove top

If you're using dry beans (which are cheaper), you'll need to plan ahead a little bit. Place 1 cup of beans in a medium pot with 2 cups of water, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of spices. Cook covered for one hour and test for doneness, add time and water if needed. Stove top beans can take anywhere from an hour and 15 minutes to two hours. Once the beans are cooked, adjust the salt and spices to your taste. Yay beans!

Variation 3—Dry Beans in Crock Pot or Rice Cooker

If you're lucky enough to have a rice cooker or slow cooker, you can put 1 cup of beans and your salt and spices in with 2 cups of water , hit start, and wait for things to finish on their own. Timing will depend on individual machines, but a rice cooker on the brown rice cycle should take about an hour and a half, and a crock pot set to low does beans in 6-8 hours. The great advantage of using a machine to make your beans is that you can start them before you go to work, and they'll be done when you get home. It's magic!

Sauté the cabbage

While the beans cook, prepare the cabbage. Wash the cabbage and remove any wilted outer leaves. If you're using a small head of cabbage, you can go ahead and use the whole thing. If the cabbage you bought is larger, slice off 1/3 to 1/2 to use in this recipe, and save the rest for another time. Roughly chop the cabbage.

Heat 2 teaspoons of cooking oil in a large skillet, then add the chopped cabbage, plus salt and pepper to taste. Sauté, stirring frequently, for about 6 minutes or until tender. Cover to keep warm.

Prep any garnishes (optional)

All you really need for this recipe to be successful are the beans, cabbage, tortillas, and sour cream. If you splurged on an avocado, lime, or fresh cilantro, though, wash or prep them now. Slice the avocado, cut the lime into wedges, pick the cilantro leaves off the stems. Grate or crumble the cheese. Again, all of these items are completely optional!

Heat the tortillas

Heat a teaspoon of oil in the small skillet. Once the pan is warm, heat 4 small tortillas individually, cooking for about 30 seconds on each side.


Fill the warmed tortillas with the cooked beans and sautéed cabbage, top with a dollop of sour cream. If you're adding any of the fancy bits, add them now. Enjoy!

We know that prices can vary greatly both across the country and from store to store, which is why we opted not to include dollar amounts. This is one of the cheapest and most delicious meals you can make when you're short on time and/or money. Add it to your weekly repertoire and see for yourself.