Damn Good Tacos

As promised: tacos!

Now that you’ve made a fleet of corn tortillas, it’s time to put something in them, fold them up halfway-ish, and shove them into your face.

This is a pretty basic recipe, nothing special, but it’s satisfying, dammit.  I’ll get to the fancy fillings and sauces and shit later on.  For now, we’re gonna just have simple tacos.

What goes in a simple taco?

  • Beans
  • Avocado
  • Cheese

Let’s do it.

For the beans, you’ll need:

  • 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 yellow onion
  • A few cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • A can of vegetable broth (or water, if you’re bland)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Spices (I use cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne, and chili powder)

For the avocado topping (I wouldn’t call it guacamole), you’ll need:

  • 4 avocados, ready for mashing
  • 1 lime
  • A clove of garlic
  • A few scallions
  • Salt and pepper and a dash of cayenne

For the cheese, you’ll need:

  • A bag of shredded cheese.  What, did you think I make my own cheese?  I like to think I’m an ambitious home cook, but I’m not about to store sour milk in sheep intestines or whatever the fuck you have to do to make cheese.

These amounts will make enough fixings for 16-20 tacos, depending on how hefty you like your tacos.

First, the beans:

  1. Mince your garlic and slice your onion (for the onion, I just leave it in long thin strips, rather than dicing or mincing).
  2. Set a pan to medium-high heat and put in a couple tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. When the oil’s hot, throw in the garlic and onion.  Season with salt and pepper and let them cook until translucent and starting to soften, about 5 minutes.
  4. Throw in the beans and season again with salt and pepper.  Stir it all around, and don’t be gentle with the beans.  Ideally you’ll want to smash them as you stir, but don’t worry about being too thorough.
  5. Pour in some of the vegetable broth and stir everything around.  At this point you may want to turn the heat down to medium.
  6. Stir the beans periodically, smashing them with your spoon as you stir (again, don’t worry about being thorough; it’s nice if it doesn’t have a completely uniform texture).  Keep an eye out for the broth — as the liquid evaporates and runs low, pour in some more broth.  Keep doing that until the can of broth is gone.
  7. Towards the end, the broth may start puddling due to saturation and/or spite; if need be, skim the excess liquid as it continues cooking (this is what culinary school students call depouillage, and it is fancy as fuck).
  8. The beans are done when you’re out of broth and the mixture is neither wet nor dry.  If you’re worried that putting a scoop of the beans onto a tortilla will make the tortilla soggy, then let them keep cooking until a little more moisture has evaporated.

Next, the avocado topping:

  1. Cut all your avocados in half, scooping their innards into a bowl.  Include the pits.
  2. Add the juice of one lime.
  3. Chop up a few scallions and add.
  4. Mince the garlic and add.  I like to grate my garlic through a microplane zester for this, since it pretty much liquefies the garlic, but a garlic press or fancy knifework will suffice.
  5. Throw in as much salt and pepper as you want, and throw in a dash of cayenne.
  6. Using a fork or spoon, mash everything up until it’s mixed and the avocado is broken up into a chunky spreadable goop.

Now the cheese:

  1. Open the bag of cheese.

Now, the assembly!  Beans first, then avocado, then cheese.  If you deviate at all from this order, a man in a black suit and a fedora will come to your house to deliver the bad news you’ve been dreading this whole time.  You know exactly the news I’m talking about.  About Martha.

But you forgot the sour cream!  And what about lettuce!  And what about tomatoes!

Sure, add them if you want, I don’t care.  Do you need a recipe to tell you to do that?

Well, no, but… I mean, you included storebought shredded cheese in your recipe…

Shut up.  Eat your damn tacos.


Tupperware, fridge.  Reheat the beans on the stove — should only take a couple minutes in a pan on medium-high heat — or in the microwave, if you’re a coward.  Reopen the bag of cheese.


Corn Tortillas

There was a time when I would spend actual, real, legitimate money on prepackaged flour tortillas.  I can admit that now because I don’t do it anymore.

Yes, making them yourself takes longer than pulling a couple disks of compressed napkin pulp out of a bag, but doing your laundry takes longer than just pulling your clothes out of the hamper, spraying them with Febreze, and putting them back in your dresser.

Short of rice in microwaveable pouches (which I’m not above!), corn tortillas are maybe the simplest meal staple to make at home.  There are only 2 essential ingredients (one of which is water), it takes about 10 minutes, and the cleanup can be done with a damp paper towel.

This isn’t an original recipe, nor is it a recipe for a complete meal, but I wanted to include it here because I intend to talk more about tacos in the future.  And a good taco starts with a good tortilla.  You didn’t hear it here first, and if you did, then you don’t get out enough.


  • Masa harina (You can get this at your big brand grocery store, but I haven’t seen it at Trader Joe’s.  Look for Maseca brand, that’s the good shit — and don’t get tamal flour by accident!)
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Other spices, if you want (I like to use pepper, smoked paprika, cayenne, and coriander)
  1. Measure out your masa harina in a mixing bowl.  To make four or five tortillas, you’ll want about six tablespoons of masa.  Scale it up or down accordingly, depending on how many tortillas you want.
  2. Add a pinch of salt and whatever spices you want to use to flavor your tortillas.  Stir it all up with a fork.
  3. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time, mixing with your fork as you go.  You want to add just enough water that the dough can be shaped into a ball (the right ratio of masa to water is going to be about 4:3).  If it’s still dry and crumbly and there are pockets of loose flour, add a little more water until it just comes together.  As it gets closer to that point, you’ll probably need to get in there with a hand or two.
  4. Set aside your dough, and lay a damp paper towel over it.  Put a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Here’s where you’ll have to MacGyver the best tortilla press method that your kitchen allows.*
    • In my kitchen, I have a flat countertop (no lines between tiles), which makes life easier.  If you don’t, you can use a cutting board or a plate.
    • Whatever the bottom half of your homemade tortilla press is, set a layer of plastic wrap down on top.  If it’s your countertop, you’ll have to pin down the corners so that it can’t move (cans of vegetables do the trick).
    • For the top half of your tortilla press, a saucepan or pot will work — something with a flat bottom.  Cover the bottom with another layer of plastic wrap.
  6. Break off and roll up a clump of tortilla dough, about the size of a golf ball, and set it down on the plastic wrap on your counter/plate/cutting board/other flat surface.  Now take the other half of your tortilla press and SMOOSH!
  7. You’ll need to apply some muscle; don’t worry, the tortilla can take it.  When you feel like you’ve given it enough, take off the top of your tortilla press.  If everything has gone according to plan, the tortilla, now flat and about 4 or 5 inches across in diameter, will be sticking to one of the sheets of plastic wrap.  Carefully remove it, letting it flop into the palm of your hand.
  8. Your griddle/skillet/other flat stovetop surface should be hot now, so smack that tortilla right onto it.  And I do mean smack — you’re not spiking a volleyball, so don’t get carried away, but you want there to be some force behind the tortilla’s entrance into the pan in order to prevent air bubbles.
  9. Flip your tortilla after a minute with a fork or spatula.  About a minute later, it’ll be done (if you want it a little firmer, keep it in the pan a little longer), so take it out and set it on a plate.
  10. Repeat until the dough is gone.  (Depending on the size of your griddle/skillet, you’ll probably be able to make multiple tortillas at once.)

Now you have corn tortillas!


I haven’t even talked about what to do with your tortillas yet, but if you end up making more than you can eat in one sitting, just stack up the remaining ones and wrap them in plastic wrap or stick them in a plastic bag and refrigerate them.  To reheat, put them in a pan on medium-high heat for a minute per side, or wrap them in a damp paper towel (5 or 6 at a time) and microwave them for about 30 seconds.

(Probably) coming next: what to put in your homemade corn tortillas!


*If you have a legitimate tortilla press at home, what the hell are you doing reading some random blog post about making corn tortillas at home?  Don’t you already know what to do?  Can I have your tortilla press, if you’re not using it?