A Little Recipe… Inspired by Mexico: Lunchtime Bean Quesadilla

Last updated on August 29, 2020

The clichéd “absence makes the heart grow fonder” mantra popped into my head this week when I thought back on my months living in Mexico earlier this year. I have clocked one entire month living stateside—enough time to start the stir-crazy feelings as I dream of my cute little single-speed bicycle in San Pancho and the evenings on the beach. Then I kick myself, remember to stay present and grateful, and I head out for dinner-dates with friends and movie-dates with my nephews (were in stitches for two hours during Despicable Me 2).

Black bean and pepper quesadilla recipe
Black bean and pepper quesadilla recipe

So, although there are moments when travel pangs hit me, November 2013 marks the end of my fifth year of long-term travel, and the handful of months I spend at home each summer have taken on a rhythm I like. And more than like, they leave me with a profound sense of gratitude that I am able to so freely move between the worlds of long-term travel and home. As I noted in past recipe posts (which are also becoming my more stream of conscious update-y posts even though that was not the original plan), I hope to focus more on fusing the foods and flavors I experienced on the road over the years and combine them into simple recipes that channel the flavors, while also simplifying and healthifying (totally a word, I swear) the recipes.

Which brings me to this week’s recipe. Keeping with last month’s theme, I offer up another black bean recipe. My reasoning is two-fold. It’s sometimes  hard to find ways to add beans into more traditionally American meals (even I don’t know what I mean by that . . . mac and cheese, hot dogs?), and because if you made the sweet potato tacos then you may have a surplus of beans. Plus this is pretty much the best lunch option ever. It’s easy and quick (which is what you want in a lunch), and really the entire point for sharing this recipe is to share my favorite cooking find—garlic toasted tortillas.

You see, my favorite taco shop in San Pancho had the most delicious tacos in town and I just couldn’t figure out why the outside of the tacos tasted so good. I asked Jerry for his secret, and though they do not specifically add the garlic/butter combo I recommend in this recipe, I surmised that the grill took on a very strong, baked-in garlic flavor by my evening visits. Fair warning, you may never go back to the more traditional version of slightly warmed, soft tortilla dishes.

Stir-fried yellow pepper, serrano pepper, onion, and garlic
Stir-fry the yellow pepper, serrano pepper, onion, and garlic.
Black bean and pepper quesadilla
Insides of the gooey, delicious black bean and pepper quesadilla.

Lunchtime Black Bean and Pepper Quesadillas

Lunchtime black bean and pepper quesadilla
Lunchtime black bean and pepper quesadilla recipe

This easy vegetarian recipe requires just a quick prep and even quicker time to execute—it’s done in just 15 minutes if you’re a quick chopper of vegetables. It also has the added benefit of create your own toppings if you’re keen for that too. While it’s always a good time for guacamole, I opted for a simple mashed avocado, sour cream, and tomatoes on this one. This dish would feed two people (I ate the extra insides in taco form later that night with homemade salsa). My favorite part is the garlic buttery outside, it makes the flavor pop, so don’t skip that! And if you’re up for a more complicated garlic butter, this woman describes the process here.


  • 1 stack of tortillas
  • 1/2 can of beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 white onion (diced into large chunks)
  • 1 bell pepper (bonus points for fun colors, diced into large chunks)
  • 1/2 a serrano pepper
  • 1 small clove of garlic (minced or pressed)
  • olive oil or butter
  • a couple hunks of your cheese of choice (sliced thin or shredded)
  • Finish with: sour cream, guacamole, diced tomatoes, and/or sliced lime.


  1. Sauté onions and half the garlic on medium heat for 3-5 minutes with 2 tbsp butter, then add the bell and serrano peppers. Cook until the onions are lightly caramelized and peppers are soft (another five minutes-ish).
  2. Add the black beans to the same pan, stirring until they’re warm; then set skillet aside side.
  3. In a skillet (or griddle if you’re feeling fancy), add a good chunk of butter and the rest of the minced garlic and  heat that mixture to on medium for two minutes. Add one tortilla and top with cheese, then scoop the filling onto the tortilla. Top with another tortilla, then continue cooking on medium for 3 minutes.
  4. Carefully flip the quesadilla over and continue cooking another couple of minutes, until the tortilla is crispy.
  5. Remove when both sides of the quesadilla are crispy, golden brown from the oil/garlic combo.
  6. Slice it up, add toppings to taste, and serve with a lime slice.

Additional Recipe Prep Tips

  • Make the recipe a tad healthier (and vegan!) by skipping the butter. Use olive oil to stir-fry the peppers and instead of toasting the tortilla in the butter/garlic combo, just use that half of the garlic clove and give each tortilla a good rub—this really works and will make them very garlicky!
  • Try my favorite guacamole recipe—there are two options, both tweaked and honed over time from many, many months traveling around Mexico.
  • Use the other half of your can of beans with this simple and tasty, vegetarian sweet potato bean taco recipe!


Soon I’ll post a recipe for the swoon-worthy plantains I ate in Panama. My friends here at home are pretty adventurous, so I promised them a mixed-bag dinner of flavors I’ve been jonesing for of late. :)

14 thoughts on “A Little Recipe… Inspired by Mexico: Lunchtime Bean Quesadilla”

    • Glad you found the site and welcome to the club; I’ve been vegetarian for 16 years now, so if you need advice, just let me know! :)

  1. This post made me weep a bit. This California girl has been in Central Europe for two months and am SERIOUSLY missing tortillas! Quesadillas are my go-to food at home. Now I have to search Budapest for tortillas so I can make these :)

    • Oh good luck! I have had those same desperate hunts in Asia when I really feel the need for cheese. I hope you find it and are able to get your fix! :)

  2. Thanks so much for this post…very nice post about a recipe ..i really appreciate your work..thank you so much again and looking for new post..
    wow great blog ……nice post i have recommend to my friends..

  3. Oh. My. God. My mouth was watering just reading this post! And the photos are beautiful! I’m so happy you’re now able to split your time between your home country & abroad, what a treat that must be after 5 years of travel! I’m especially intrigued by the outside of the taco bit, can’t wait to try to make these!

    • Thanks Roxanne — the outside bit is wonderful because you get flooded with buttery garlic flavor, the insides are really secondary to that ;-) And it’s been great to be back home and really settle in for a bit, hope your travels (living? are you in HK>) are going well.

      • As my (Southern) grandmother raised me with the “everything is better with butter” philosophy AND I’m a garlic fan, I bet I’d be happy just noshing on the outsides! I was living in HK for a few months & am on a little visit to Thailand at the moment (been living in a blogger-fav apartment in Chiang Mai for about a month & am heading south soon to another favorite spot in Thailand for a month-ish). Then back to HK late September with plans to stay for 6-? months (hurray!). If you find yourself back in Asia anytime soon would be lovely to meet up (sounds like you could do an awesome cooking demo :)

        • Nice! Love Chiang Mai, now I’m super jealous as I’m not sure when I can make it back to Asia but would love to hang out when we do cross paths — we could make an epic fusion dinner of yummy foods :)


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