Easy Vegan Tacos with Smoky Cashew Crema

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Bring Taco Tuesday home with these Easy Vegan Tacos with Smoky Cashew Crema! Made with all pantry ingredients, these tacos are easy to make and budget-friendly but don’t sacrifice on flavor!
Prep 30 minutes
Cook 50 minutes
Total 1 hour 20 minutes
5 from 6 votes

I first made these Easy Vegan Tacos with Smoky Cashew Crema during the pandemic. My partner Max was in the mood for tacos and margaritas. Ordinarily, we would just go out to a local Mexican restaurant to satisfy the craving, but, in the circumstances, we decided it would be safer to eat at home. So I had to bring the Taco Tuesday (Saturday) to our house (1-bedroom NYC apartment).

Ordinarily, I would make guacamole and fresh salsa for tacos, but with it being hard to get to the grocery store, I knew I had to get creative with my taco game and rely on my pantry.

Aside from the tortillas, these tacos are made with exclusively pantry ingredients that you likely already have at home, and are easy to customize to your needs.

Looking for more easy and quick taco recipes? Try these 20-Minute Chickpea Tacos!

Easy Vegan Tacos with Smoky Cashew Crema

Why you’re going to like this recipe 

Pantry staples. And all ingredients (except the tortillas themselves) are pantry staples (i.e., you might already have all the required ingredients in your pantry).

Budget-friendly. In addition to being a pantry meal, it’s budget-friendly!

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Weeknight-friendly. If you multitask and cook the refried beans and sauteed onions at the same time, the whole meal takes 30 minutes to make, from start to finish.

Comfort food heaven. Creamy refried beans, sticky sweet onions, and a finger-lickin-good smoky cashew crema…all rolled up in a tortilla! Totally satisfies those comfort food cravings!

Packed with flavor. Despite being a pantry meal, these tacos do not skimp on flavor. The refried beans are packed with spices, garlic, and onions; the onions are sticky and sweet; and the Cashew Crema is slightly spicy, cheesy and smoky in all the best ways possible.

Easy Vegan Tacos with Smoky Cashew Crema

Taco Components

Easy Refried Beans

I love Mexican restaurant-style refried beans, but unfortunately, canned refried beans aren’t that tasty. And some varieties are made with lard, so they’re not vegan.

Luckily, it’s so easy to make your own homemade refried beans. All you need is a can of pinto beans or black beans, a few aromatics, and a mashing instrument.

Tip: You’ll need some liquid to mash the beans, and the recipe calls for vegetable broth or water. But you could also use the liquid that canned beans come in. Contrary to popular belief, this goopy liquid is safe to consume – it’s just water, salt, and the starch released from the beans.

If you use the canned bean liquid, you might need to supplement with a bit of broth or water, as there might not be quite enough liquid as the recipe calls for.

Not a fan of refried beans? Use these saucy Mexican Black Beans instead.

Sautéed Onions

I wanted to make some Chipotle-style sautéed onions and peppers, but since bell peppers aren’t a pantry item, I omitted them. That said, if you have bell peppers at home, throw some bell pepper strips in the mix.

The onions aren’t quite caramelized, but they do get nicely browned and soft. To get there, cook them in shimmering oil over medium-high heat and generously season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes until a fond appears on the surface of the pan, then start deglazing the pan with a bit of water to prevent burning.

Easy Vegan Tacos with Smoky Cashew Crema

Smoky Cashew Crema

The final main component of these easy vegan tacos is my favorite part: the Smoky Cashew Crema! This stuff is pure gold, and you will want to eat it by the spoon.

A few tips and notes on substitutions.

This recipe is definitely the best with cashews, but if you don’t have cashews or are allergic, I’ve also tried this recipe with hemp seeds and it’s quite tasty. The texture isn’t as smooth or creamy but the flavor is still great. Sunflower seeds are another option, but just FYI, they will likely discolor the cream.

I use 1/2 cup (120 mL) water so that the texture is very thick and creamy, but if you want it a bit thinner, add a bit more water, up to 3/4 cup (180 mL). Also, if you don’t have a powerful blender like a Vitamix, I recommend using a food processor instead.

If you don’t have nutritional yeast, omit it. I love adding it because it brings a subtle cheesy flavor but it’s still delicious without it.

If you don’t have fresh limes but have lemons, lemon juice could also work in a pinch.

If you like things spicy, and have fresh chili peppers on hand, a jalapeño pepper or serrano pepper are a fabulous addition. If you want a slight background heat, remove the seeds, where most of the heat lives. If you like things spicier, use a serrano pepper (or 2 jalapeño peppers) and keep some of the seeds in.

The smokiness comes from the smoked paprika, and I really recommend using it. But if you don’t have it, regular paprika is fine (or omit it).

You will likely have leftovers of the Cashew Crema, but trust me, you won’t mind because it is extremely delicious.

Even more delicious Mexican inspired vegan fare

Hungry for more Mexican inspired vegan fare? Give these recipes a try:

That’s everything you need to know about these Easy Vegan Tacos with Smoky Cashew Crema, so if you give this recipe a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram!

Easy Vegan Tacos with Smoky Cashew Crema

5 from 6 votes
Bring Taco Tuesday home with these Easy Vegan Tacos with Smoky Cashew Crema! Made with all pantry ingredients, these tacos are easy to make and budget-friendly but don’t sacrifice on flavor!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: Mexican-inspired
Diet Vegan
Serving size: 8


Taco Ingredients

  • Easy Refried Beans, recipe below
  • Sautéed Onions, recipe below
  • Smoky Cashew Crema, recipe below
  • Corn tortillas or tortillas of choice
  • Salsa of choice
  • Optional toppings: cilantro, diced avocado or guacamole, vegan cheese

Easy Refried Beans Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or a neutral cooking oil
  • 1/2 of a yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 (15-ounce / 440g) can pinto beans or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2/3 – 1 cup (160-240 mL) vegetable broth (or water)*
  • Kosher salt or sea salt to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 small handful of cilantro (optional), chopped

Sautéed Onions Ingredients

  • 1 large yellow or red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon oil of choice
  • Kosher salt or sea salt to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • Water

Smoky Cashew Crema Ingredients

  • 1 cup (140g) raw cashews**, soaked in water overnight, or in boiling water for 1 hour***
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup (120-180 mL) water (depending on desired thickness)
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (omit if you don’t have it)
  • Juice from 1 medium juicy lime
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped (can sub with a pinch of cayenne pepper, or omit entirely for mild version)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin


Taco Directions

  • Heat the tortillas. Turn on a gas stove burner and use some tongs to place one tortilla directly over the flame. Flip after 15 seconds or when small brown spots appear, and cook for another 15 seconds. Stack them in a clean kitchen towel or in foil to keep them warm.
  • Assemble tacos. Top warmed tortillas with Refried Beans, Sauteed Onions, Smoky Cashew Crema, salsa of choice, and any other optional toppings.

Refried Beans Directions

  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook until softened, about 6-7 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, oregano, chili powder, and cumin and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add in the drained beans, bay leaves, and broth or water. Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the beans are warmed through.
  • Using an immersion blender or a potato masher, mash the beans, but leave some beans whole for texture. If the beans appear dry, add more broth or water as needed to moisten. Continue to cook the beans, stirring often, for 2-4 more minutes.
  • Season the beans with salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat, and stir in the lime juice and cilantro, if using.

Sautéed Onions Directions

  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with the oil. Once shimmering, add the onions and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until a light brown fond starts form on the surface of the pan, about 4-5 minutes. Add a few spoons of water to deglaze the pan, and continue cooking until the onions are softened and browned, about 9-10 minutes total.

Smoky Cashew Crema Directions

  • Drain cashews and pat dry. Add cashews to a high-powered blender or food processor along with all of the remaining ingredients. Blend on high speed until smooth, thick and creamy, scraping down the sides with a silicone spatula as you go. This will take about 2 minutes in a high-powered blender like a Vitamix, or about 4 minutes in a food processor. Taste and adjust for seasonings, adding more jalapeño, lime juice, or salt as needed.


* See notes on “taco components” about substituting the broth or water with bean liquid.
** If you don’t have cashews or are allergic, hemp seeds are a good sub. Sunflower seeds would be the next best sub.
*** If you have a powerful blender like a Vitamix, you can soak for as little as 15 minutes, but I still prefer a full hour.

Calories: 243kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 246mg | Potassium: 436mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 190IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 71mg | Iron: 3mg

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11 comments on Easy Vegan Tacos with Smoky Cashew Crema

  1. Hana

    5 stars
    These were delicious! I added tomatoes and avocado on top as well as some cilantro into the crema. The beans were amazing – will be serving them with some chips later!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We’re so happy that the tacos turned out well for you, Hana. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and for trying out the recipe!

  2. Paula Egbers

    5 stars
    Wow, another one that’s so delicious. I’m so happy I found your site. Thank you for the wonderful recipes!!!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Paula, so happy to hear you loved this recipe! We’re glad you found the site as well :)

  3. Jenny

    5 stars
    I love how easy this is for weeknight cooking, and I have to say that the cashew crema is an absolute revelation. I’m not big cashew fan, so I was a little bit skeptical about them being the base ingredient for the sauce, but with all of the other spices and flavors, this sauce was just perfect.

    I ended up also serving these tacos with some sliced avocado and a basic pico de gallo, and it was great!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Yum, Jenny! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Mary

    5 stars
    These are delicious. I’m not sure if I’d call them easy because there’s a few steps you’re doing at once but totally worth it. The homemade refried beans are delicious

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Glad you enjoyed the tacos, Mary! :)

  5. Courtney

    This was UNREAL. so incredibly delicious, especially the yummy crema.
    Thank you so much

  6. Angie

    These look terrific and sound delicious! My only comment would be to add that I consider my freezer part of my "pantry" so I always keep a bag of Three Pepper Stips in there. It contains red, green, and yellow peppers; sometimes they come with onions. They make a great addition to any dish and would work great in this one if sauted with the onions for a fajita type filling to the tacos. Thanks for your great ideas and entertaining videos. Stay safe!

    1. Nisha Vora

      Hi Angie, I like the idea of incorporating the freezer into the pantry! I used to get frozen bell pepper strips from Trader Joes and I agree – they would make a great addition here for a fajita type filling. Thanks for the idea and the warm wishes!

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