You won’t miss the flavor or texture of meat with this vegan taco filling made with pinquito beans and quinoa. Gluten-free and tomato-free as well as fat-free!
In the past, beans were considered a humble food, a source of protein for the common folk before it became affordable to eat meat daily. Today, beans are generally seen as a side dish (barbecued beans)–or the province of vegetarians. People tend to think of them as bland and boring, and cooks often add meat or, at the very least, herbs and spices to give them flavor.
Because of beans’ unpretentious reputation, you may be a little surprised to learn that there are gourmet beans, beans grown in small crops from heirloom seed with price tags befitting luxury legumes. The biggest name in this small crop endeavor is Rancho Gordo, a California company that currently offers over 35 different types of naturally GMO-free beans. (The specific varieties change often due to availability.)
I first tried Rancho Gordo beans about a year ago, when I found Yellow Eye beans in one of the “fancy food” chain grocery stores. I didn’t have high expectations, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that there really was a difference in flavor from “regular” dried beans. Just as noticeable as their delicate flavor was their texture, which was creamy yet firm. I hoped to experiment more with Rancho Gordo beans, but the local store stopped carrying them. After looking for them around town, I finally gave up last month and ordered 10 pounds of beans from the company’s website:
Rancho Gordo has a flat shipping rate, the same whether you buy one pound or ten or twenty. In order to get my money’s worth, I decided to buy their Desert Island Sampler (bottom row), Xoxoc Project Sampler (middle row), and one package of Yellow Indian Woman beans (because I’d heard good things about them). As I was cutting open the box, I accidentally sliced into the bag of Santa Maria Pinquitos and decided that slip of the knife was as good a way as any to decide which legume to cook first.
Pinquitos are tiny beans, some the size of fat lentils and others the size of adzukis, about the same color as pinto beans. They’re so small that you’d think they’d cook quickly, but they take about twice as long as black beans and almost as long as chickpeas to pressure cook. I soaked them for 6 hours, cooked them under high pressure for 12 minutes, and then allowed them to continue cooking in the residual heat of the pressure cooker for 15 minutes.
When I opened my electric pressure cooker, they were perfect, unbroken and intact but soft all the way through. I had cooked them with a little onion and garlic but no extra seasonings just to get a sense of the beans’ true flavor, and they had a light smokiness that I didn’t expect. Steve Sando, the founder of Rancho Gordo, often recommends that the beans be eaten plain or lightly seasoned so that you can really taste their flavor, and even though I’m naturally inclined to add a lot of spice to my food, I could imagine eating pinquitos unadorned.
I thought that the natural smokiness of pinquitos would be perfect in a taco filling, so I cooked some quinoa, seasoning it with chili powder and cumin, and added some of the cooked beans and frozen corn. The bean and quinoa combination was perfect as a filling for tacos and burritos and atop taco salad. But don’t feel like you have to use pinquitos in this recipe; use any pink or red bean you like, and add a little extra chipotle powder or some smoked paprika to replace the smokiness of the pinquitos.
Because the flavor of the filling is dependent on the type of chili powder you use, please try to avoid cheap supermarket brands and go for the good stuff. I ran out of Spice House regular chili powder after making my first batch of taco filling and had to use a can of generic in my second batch. Big mistake. The taste was off and the filling didn’t seem as flavorful no matter how much chili powder I added. Chili powder is a mixture of seasonings and varies from brand to brand, so be sure you use one you like and adjust the amounts to taste.
Pinquito Bean and Quinoa Taco Filling
- 1 medium red onion chopped fine (about 1 cup )
- 1 medium bell pepper any color, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 cup quinoa rinsed well
- 1 cup water
- 2-3 teaspoons high-quality mild chili powder more to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chile powder or to taste
- 2 cups COOKED small beans such as pinquitos, pink beans, pinto beans, black beans, or azuki, well-drained
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels
- hot sauce to taste
- Heat a 3-quart non-stick sauté or sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, and cook until it begins to soften, adding water by the tablespoon if needed to prevent sticking. Add the bell pepper and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute.
- Add the quinoa, water, and seasonings. Stir well, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off heat and allow quinoa to stand until all liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
- Add the beans and corn to the quinoa. If it seems dry, add a little of the bean broth, but not enough to make it soggy. Add hot sauce and additional chili powder, cumin, or chipotle powder to taste. Cook over medium heat until warmed through.
Nutritional info is approximate.
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I have no affiliation with Rancho Gordo or The Spice House. No one pays me to mention their products–I just like them. But this post does contain at least one Amazon affiliate link. When you buy something through my Amazon links, I receive a commission that makes it possible for me to keep sharing my recipes. Thanks for your purchase!
CherylFebruary 11, 2015 at 1:46 pm
I also love Rancho Gordo beans (I’m a member of the bean club). I’m curious about your cooking time. I don’t soak mine at all. I cook in distilled water using a Le Creuset pot and I start checking them at 45 minutes and they are usually done in 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hrs. including garbanzos.
This recipe looks really good.
Deb SawyerDecember 9, 2019 at 9:13 pm
Hi Susan! Thanks for answering my question about pinquitos in the IP group on FB.. I followed your advice (12 min / 15 NPR) and they were perfect!! Next time I will try them in this recipe 😊
Susan VoisinDecember 9, 2019 at 9:41 pm
I’m so glad they turned out well!
Angela GilmoreFebruary 11, 2015 at 1:48 pm
I have never tried, or heard of, Pinquitos but this recipe looks like the perfect introduction. We have used the store-bought taco filling and all of the ingredients make me cringe. I’m always looking for a great alternative. Saving this!
Dhyan AtkinsonFebruary 11, 2015 at 2:07 pm
Ahhh, Yellow Eye and Yellow Woman Beans… wonderful, wonderful! I found them at my local farmer’s market one year, and for ONLY one year because the beans were so good the entire harvest went the next year(s) to a local restaurant who appreciated them as much as I did. I haven’t seen them again. I will make a note of the online source, thanks! Dhyan
moonwatcherFebruary 11, 2015 at 3:35 pm
Thanks for giving us the skinny on Rancho Gordo beans. I haven’t seen them at the co-op (as far as I know, unless they are purchased in bulk) but will keep an eye out. Good beans make all the difference. And so does good chili powder. I found a “fiesta” chili powder from Frontier in bulk at the market near my house and I love it. Can really taste the difference if I run out and have to use something else. The taco filling looks great–tasty and really filling too. Great photos–the one with the beans in your hand reminds me of fairy tale beans. 🙂
Susan VoisinFebruary 11, 2015 at 4:00 pm
Thanks, Maria! That is actually D’s hand. I was finding it hard to hold the beans and take the photo, so he offered his hand modeling services. 🙂
Speaking of beans, I just bought some Palouse brand chickpeas, organically grown near you, I think, in Washington. I’m looking forward to giving them a try.
moonwatcherFebruary 11, 2015 at 5:21 pm
Great! Let me know how you like them. 🙂 And D has a good “Jack-in-the-Beanstalk kind of hand. 🙂
Susan VoisinFebruary 11, 2015 at 7:12 pm
I’ll let him know you said so. 🙂 By the way, the chickpeas I bought are here.
moonwatcherFebruary 11, 2015 at 7:27 pm
Cool! Sounds very similar in quality to the ones I buy at the Co-op in bulk. I have seen those bags at the co-op, too, from time to time. A little different than the smaller ones I’ve been getting, but great growing standards, and I’m sure they will be delicious. We grow good chickpeas here. :)Palouse is a very very cool little town not far away from here, also on The Palouse, as like Moscow is. 🙂 One of my best friends lives there, the one who helped me find Romeo. 🙂
Howard HarrisFebruary 11, 2015 at 3:44 pm
I have had these beans in my cupboard for the last six months and decided this morning to soak them in water.
Started looking for recipe with using a pressure cooker and did not trust the ones I found. Went to work, came home .. Checked my email – LOL
Susan VoisinFebruary 11, 2015 at 3:56 pm
Wow! What a crazy coincidence!
Vegan JunctionFebruary 11, 2015 at 4:39 pm
Those look delicious, love tacos! I like the mix of quinoa and beans, and what cute little beans too!
JillFebruary 11, 2015 at 8:55 pm
I just made this and it’s delicious and filling! I cut this recipe by 75% (!) and it came together really well and very fast. The only thing that was off in the ingredients was I needed more water and a little more time to cook the quinoa, which is fine, I just kept adding 2 tablespoons of water at a time for about 20 minutes and then let it sit.
No fresh bell peppers but I used a small amount of frozen pepper strips that I diced up with my kitchen shears when they softened in the pan. I also diced some serrano pepper (hot!) and added it after the quinoa was cooked. I used salt free canned black beans. Made enough for dinner tonight, 2 meals tomorrow, and one meal on Friday. It must make a ton in the original amounts. Thanks for such a simple recipe. It’s really filling!
MonminouFebruary 12, 2015 at 1:10 am
Here’s another good place to buy heirloom beans, also located in California;
They have a 5-bean sampler that includes two of my favorites: Good Mother Stallard and Snowcap.
“Our beans are GMO Free, gluten free, and grown in the heart of California. For a limited time our 5 bean sampler comes with FREE SHIPPING!”
I agree, Rancho Gordo beans are special, too. Heirloom beans have wonderful flavor.
I’m not affiliated in any way with either of these companies; just a happy consumer of their beans!
Susan VoisinFebruary 12, 2015 at 7:26 am
Thanks! Rancho Gordo was out of the Good Mother Stallard when I ordered, so I’ll check them out at Elegant Beans.
Howard HarrisFebruary 13, 2015 at 8:01 am
nlh110February 13, 2015 at 2:29 pm
Had some Rancho Gordo ‘Sangre de Toro’ I soaked yesterday so I just put this recipe in the slow cooker, any luck and we will have tasty tacos tonight!
AshleeFebruary 13, 2015 at 2:31 pm
Um, so, tacos are officially happening soon. This sounds delicious!
SofieFebruary 13, 2015 at 2:39 pm
OMG those looks so so delicious! I’m a huge fan of your recipe as a half vegan and this is just amazing!
DinaFebruary 14, 2015 at 8:41 pm
Hi Susan, please forgive this terrible delay in replying to you, to thank you & to tell you how happy, grateful & relieved i am, to see the FFV news letter back again, have been very ill. Back to health now & so grateful for it, great health & sun shine to you & to all, thank you again & God Bless …
CaitlinFebruary 18, 2015 at 3:44 pm
Long-time reader here, so thrilled to see you doing well.
Love this filling idea! I’ll have to make a batch of this this weekend–I’m always looking for new combos for my giant lunchtime salad bowls. 🙂
Jacqueline MeldrumFebruary 19, 2015 at 7:47 am
That looks amazing Susan. Pinning this one asap!
KarenFebruary 21, 2015 at 11:04 pm
Made this yesterday and they turned out great! I live in the San Francusco Bay Area, so no excuse for not trying Rancho Gordos until now. I’ve seen them at my local store but just never gave them a second thought. The tacos are great and the bean flavor is wonderful! Thanks for introducing me yo them!
mamadogFebruary 22, 2015 at 5:51 pm
Oh yum yum yummy yum. I couldn’t stop yumming at dinner tonight. The only changes were, didn’t seem to be enough water and the quinoa was hard so I added at least another cup, and added some heavily cilantro. Blissful healthy flavorful.
franFebruary 28, 2015 at 3:30 pm
Susan, I can’t wait to try your recipes but was extremely disappointed, however, to find you don’t have a cookbook to buy! That’s a first for me, actually wanting to purchase someone’s cookbook without having a clue what else is in it! There is a Fat Free Vegan cookbook by another Susan. Everybody copies recipes online and tries to make a fortune off the hard work of others.
KatiMarch 3, 2015 at 2:12 pm
Wow, this recipe looks so delicious. I just found your site and I’m loving the beautiful photos and recipes.
Maureen @ Orgasmic ChefMarch 24, 2015 at 3:01 am
This is amazing. Tacos are big yes. The Pinquito bean and quinoa made it even better. Definitely looks delicious. A good alternative filling for tacos. Should try this soon.
SusanApril 8, 2015 at 10:49 am
Hi!! First , just want to say I love your recipes!! thank you! secondly, I know “spicy” is a relative term, but I’m very interested in getting the chili powder that you recommend and was wondering if you could try to describe the level of “heat” in them? I see you have the regular in your link? Is that what you use?
JillJune 27, 2015 at 3:58 pm
I’ve made this recipe in the past but last night I used Rancho Gordo Ayocote Morado beans. This is a large dark bean with a bit of a smoky flavor – delicious in salads and on their own as a side dish with peppers and hot sauce. However, I’m not sure it worked well in this recipe. A smaller “less obtrusive” bean would have been a better choice. Morados are even larger than kidney beans and have a black-brown-dark red appearance after being cooked. You can use them in place of meat if you have meat-eating guests because of their flavor and size.
The recipe itself is delicious! But next time I’ll drop down to a smaller sized bean. I might order the pinquitos off the RG website and give those a go.
This recipe is in my rotation, I’ve probably made it half a dozen times using black or pinto beans. It’s a great recipes for friends coming over, it’s a hit every time, and it makes a lot.
PaulJuly 24, 2015 at 7:24 am
I always have this trouble with bean recipes – perhaps there’s a standard Cooking Term I’m missing?
Does the recipe mean that I should cook 2 cups of dried beans and use the result, or cook some quantity of dried beans, and use 2 cups of cooked beans?
Either way, tacos are for dinner tonight! Thanks for the recipe and the introduction to Rancho Gordo.
Susan VoisinJuly 24, 2015 at 2:28 pm
In this case, it was my fault because I should have specified “cooked” before “beans.” That’s usually how you can tell. For example, “2 cups cooked pinto beans” means you measure the beans after they are cooked. “2 cups pinto beans, cooked” would mean you measure the uncooked beans and then cook them. I’ve updated this recipe to make it clearer.
LizlFebruary 4, 2016 at 8:37 pm
Thank you for the nice recipe.
ShannonDecember 13, 2018 at 12:25 pm
I have made this several times!!. HUSBAND APPROVED I used a can of 6 bean mix instead and chopped them up. I also added a cup of salsa at the end and heated it through. The salsa gave it a little moister. I made homemade tortilla’s and and topped them with fresh cilantro and plain coconut yogurt for sour cream. Thank you so much for all the great recipes!!!
Melanie O DowdJuly 31, 2022 at 10:29 am
Hi Susan, I’m Melanie and i live in the UK, although iv’e made lots of your recipes i have never left a comment, you are my favourite cook and i love so many of your recipes, i don’t know how you manage to come up with so many great meals all the time, i am going to make these for our tea, thank you for making my life so much easier, i don’t know what i would do without you. X
From a big fan. x
Susan VoisinJuly 31, 2022 at 12:00 pm
Than you so much for commenting, Melanie! I hope your family enjoys the tacos.