I have a confession: I love Taco Bell. Their deliciously cheap, greasy, food reminds me of being young, care-free, and of simpler times. Before you judge this fast-food affection hear me out; while I revel in the simple pleasure of their 99-cent bean and cheese burrito, I can also be brought to tears by a perfectly-spiced mole poblano or a lovingly-wrapped tamale. I've come to accept this juxtaposition, this conflict of high-low tastes, and the moment I did I felt a burrito-supreme-size-weight lifted off my chest.
I used to have similar conflicting feelings about cheese. I was what you call a “cheese purist”, scoffing at those soy-cashew abominations that graced the deli counter with all the dairy-loving snobbery I could muster. Yet when dairy started giving me trouble in my mid-20s, I had to slowly (very slowly) let my culinary curiosity take over - and soon I learned to love the sheer innovation going on in the world of dairy-free cheese.
So that brings us to the recipe at hand - a dish that embraces high-low tastes. When I get nostalgic, I inevitably think of The Bell's 99-cent bean and cheese burritos, and I've successfully recreated the experience while also keeping it dairy-free. I love cooking, and challenges, so it would never have been enough to buy ready-made dairy-free cheese and call it a day. Instead, I came up with this nacho cheese look-alike that not only scratches the cheese itch, but wrapped up in a tortilla with some beans taco sauce and onions, it will transport you a drive-thru window in the warmth of your own kitchen.
The secret ingredients? Creamy soft tofu and carrots. The addition of a cooked carrot not only adds a delightful orange color, but a subtle flavor that brings this cheese sauce to new heights. Even just with chips, this sauce slaps, and I knew it would be perfect for my dairy-free burrito dreams. In order to keep the recipe unfussy and as true to the original as possible, I used some simple canned refried beans (ok I might have added a few extra spices), jarred taco sauce, and a sprinkle of raw onions for crunch.
My final touch? Give that burrito a quick fry in a dash of hot oil. Not only does this help seal the burrito so beans aren’t spilling everywhere, but the added crispiness from lightly frying the outside might just be the greatest thing to happen to pseudo-Mexican food since Baja blast mountain dew.
So go ahead, make this vegan bean and cheese burrito and love yourself for exactly who you are - guilt-free.