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Vegan Quesadillas with Smoky Cheese and Refried Beans

Prep Time1 hr 10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr 40 mins
Servings: 4
Calories: 584kcal
Author: Nisha Vora



  • 4 to 8 flour tortillas or tortillas of choice*
  • Oil of choice for frying/baking the quesadillas
  • Smoky Cashew Cheese (recipe below)
  • Refried Beans (recipe below)
  • Sautéed Onions (recipe below)

Smoky Cashew Cheese**

  • 1 cup (140g) raw cashews, soaked in water overnight, or in boiling water for 1 hour
  • 1/3 cup (~25g) nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder (optional but adds a nice sharp tangy flavor)
  • 4 garlic cloves (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt + more to taste
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons tapioca flour (see notes above on “spreadable cashew cheese” for substitutes and tips)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup (240 mL) creamy, unsweetened plant-based milk, such as oat milk, “lite” coconut milk, or soy milk
  • 2-4 tablespoons pickled jalapeños with brine (optional)

Refried Beans***

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or a neutral cooking oil
  • 2 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) water, vegetable broth, or canned bean liquid
  • Kosher salt or sea salt to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (if you don’t have lime, sub lemon juice or half the amount of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 small handful of cilantro (optional), chopped

Sautéed Onions

  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons oil of choice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Water, as needed


  • Make the Smoky Cashew Cheese, Refried Beans, and Sautéed Onions.
  • Assemble the quesadillas using the Folded Method. Spread a bit of the cheese onto only one half of a tortilla. Top with a bit of the beans and onions on the same side (don’t overfill). Fold the side without the toppings over into a half-moon shape.
  • If using this method, you can either pan-fry the quesadillas or bake them.
  • Or, assemble the quesadillas using the Stacked Method. Spread a generous layer of the cheese onto one tortilla. Arrange some of the refried beans and the sautéed onions on top. Place another tortilla on top to cover.
  • To pan-fry the quesadillas (either stacked or folded), lightly grease a large skillet with a bit of oil (not too much) and place over medium heat. Once hot, add the prepared quesadilla to the skillet. Place a smaller skillet on top of the quesadilla so that it presses down on the quesadilla, resulting in a nice crispy exterior.
  • Cook the quesadillas for 2-3 minutes, then flip and cook another 1-2 minutes, or until both sides are crispy and nicely browned. Repeat with the remaining cheese, beans, onions, and tortillas.
  • To bake folded quesadillas, preheat the oven to 425°F/218°C. Brush a baking sheet with a bit of oil. Add the folded quesadilla and brush a tiny bit of oil on the top side. Bake for 8 minutes, then carefully flip and bake for 6-8 minutes more.

Smoky Cashew Cheese Directions

  • Drain the soaked cashews.
  • Add all of the ingredients to a high-powered blender or food processor. Blend until the sauce is completely smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes for a high-powered blender, or 4-5 minutes in a food processor, scraping down the sides with a silicone spatula as needed. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly, adding more salt as needed or more lemon juice for more acidity.
    1. NOTE: the tapioca flour will make it taste chalky, but that will go away once it’s cooked on the stove.
  • Transfer the cheese sauce to a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high. Whisk almost constantly, until the sauce is very thick and almost stringy and you have a spreadable consistency, about 3-4 minutes. Take off the heat immediately.

Refried Beans Directions

  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown
  • Add the 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. Remove the bay leaves.
  • Using an immersion blender or a potato masher, mash most of 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.


* There is a range in the number of tortillas because (1) flour tortilla sizes vary in size, from 6 inches on the small end to 12 inches on the larger end, and (2) there are two different ways to make a quesadilla. For more, read the section in the blog post called “how to assemble quesadillas.”
** If you want to keep this is as a cheese sauce and not a thicker, spreadable cheese, be sure to read the notes on “spreadable cashew cheese.”)
*** If you use the canned bean liquid for the liquid, you might need to supplement with a bit of water, as there might not be quite enough liquid as the recipe calls for. If you are very sensitive to digesting beans, use water or broth instead.