“Sometimes, the simplest meals are often the best,” says Oklahoma City-based integrative nutrition health coach Emma Ryan, who provides vitality coaching services to a wide variety of clients to help them reach their wellness goals. While working with the Oklahoma City Fire Department to help equip firefighters with energy-sustaining recipes, Ryan, who is also a plant-based sports nutritionist, focused on developing healthy, filling, and easy-to-prepare dishes that would carry the first responders through an entire shift. Here, she shares the recipe for one such meal: black bean and quinoa tacos, a crowd-pleasing dinner that’s perfect for making ahead or serving on a busy weeknight.

Black Bean and Quinoa Tacos

Serves 4


For the filling:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 1 14-ounce can black beans or 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the avocado cream (optional—you can substitute sliced avocado) :

  • 1 large avocado, sliced into long strips
  • 1 to 2 medium limes, juiced
  • 1 medium jalapeño, deseeded, membranes removed, and roughly chopped
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the tacos and toppings:

  • Corn tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped romaine lettuce


To make the filling, warm the olive oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and a dash of salt and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onions are softened and turning translucent. Add the tomato paste, cumin, and chili powder and sauté for another minute, stirring constantly. Add the rinsed quinoa and 1 cup broth or water. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the quinoa from the heat and let it rest, still covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover the pot, drain off any excess liquid, and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Stir in the drained and rinsed black beans and add salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and set aside for a couple of minutes to warm up the beans.

To make the avocado cream, combine the ingredients as listed in a food processor or blender. Blend well and season with salt, to taste.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the tortillas in a single layer, flipping the stack once to warm them evenly.

To assemble the tacos, spread the quinoa and black bean filling down the center of the tortilla, then top with a generous drizzle of avocado cream (or sliced avocados), a handful of chopped romaine, and any additional garnishes you’d like to add.

The filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week, or frozen if you wish to store it for a longer period of time.

Photography by Dwelling Table. Recipe courtesy of Emma Ryan in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Emma Ryan is featured in The Scout Guide Oklahoma City.