Skip the cheese without skimping on flavor.
Does a quesadilla need to have cheese? I mean, the dish has the Spanish word for cheese (“queso”) in the title, so you would think it’s a required ingredient. But a huge part of adapting our favorite recipes to use plant-based ingredients is thinking outside the box. When we thought about it, a quesadilla is really just a folded, grilled sandwich — similar to a grilled cheese. Since you can make grilled sandwiches without cheese, we figured we’d give these dairy-free, no-cheese, Plant-Based Bean and Avocado Quesadillas a try.
The results were nothing short of phenomenal. This dish contains spiced black beans, the cheese-like flavor of nutritional yeast, and smooth-textured avocado. Basically, it had all the flavors and textures we’ve come to know and love when those quesadilla cravings hit. We didn’t even miss the cheese!
How to Make Refried Beans from Scratch
Part of the reason this Plant-Based Bean and Avocado Quesadillas recipe works is because of the beans. They’re a great source of plant-based protein, and mashing them creates the perfect texture for our cheese-less quesadilla. You could certainly buy store-bought refried beans, but we thought it’d be more fun to make them from scratch.
We’ll start with a cup of cooked, drained, and rinsed black beans. You can use any type of beans (we have a healthy refried bean recipe that uses pinto beans instead), but we chose black beans here for the color contrast. Add them to a pot with the water and spices. Feel free to mix up the spices and create your own flavor profile, but don’t skip the fresh lime juice, cilantro, and nutritional yeast. These three ingredients come together to create a tangy, herbaceous, and cheesy flavor that really makes this quesadilla shine. If you don’t like cilantro (it tastes like soap to some people!), you can use parsley instead.
Once the beans are warm, it’s time to get mashing. If you like, you can toss the seasoned beans in a food processor or blender and give it a few pulses. We found it easier to mash this small amount of beans with a fork or a potato masher, but do whatever is most comfortable for you.
Making a Great Quesadilla
You’ll notice that we recommend cooking these Plant-Based Bean and Avocado Quesadillas on the stove top. Why do you need to heat them up if there’s no cheese to melt? Well, technically, you don’t have to. You could heat the tortillas in the microwave until they’re soft and pliable, fill them with the beans and mashed avocados, and go about your day.
That said, they will taste so much better if you take the extra ten minutes to heat them in a skillet. Remember: There is no melty cheese in this quesadilla, so creating the right texture is crucial for making a satisfying replacement. Heating the filled tortillas in a skillet crisps up the exterior, adding a beautiful crunch to the quesadilla, while also adding a lightly toasted flavor. It’s worth the extra step!
The Perfect Snack or Meal
When the quesadilla is finished, enjoy it alone as a snack or light lunch, or serve it with a salad to create a complete and filling meal. It doesn’t really need any garnishes, but you could add extra chopped tomatoes, green onions, and cilantro to the top if you like. If you find yourself missing the sour cream, whip up a batch of our dairy-free sour cream using cashews (or make it with tofu instead).
Plant-Based Bean and Avocado Quesadillas
- 1 cup black beans drained, rinsed, and cooked
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper ground
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 tablespoons cilantro fresh, chopped
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 ripe avocados
- 2 roma tomatoes diced
- 2 green onions chopped
- 4 small whole grain tortillas (6-inch)
- In a small saucepan, combine the black beans, water, ground cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, kosher salt, and ground black pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the lime juice, cilantro, and nutritional yeast. Use a potato masher or a fork to mash the beans until they resemble refried beans. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mash the avocados with a fork. Mix in the diced tomatoes and chopped green onions.
- Lay a tortilla out on your work surface. Spread the bean mixture on half the tortilla and the mashed avocado mixture on the other. Fold the tortilla over to close it. Continue with the remaining tortillas.
- Preheat a large frying pan or skillet over high heat. Add the folded tortilla to the pan and cook until it’s golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip the quesadilla over and repeat the process on the other side.
- Cut each quesadilla into four pieces and serve hot.
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