Tostadas With Kale, Refried Beans, and Cheese Recipe

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Tostadas With Kale, Refried Beans, and Cheese Recipe

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Last week I became infatuated with pairing kale and refried beans. Something about how the creamy, well-seasoned beans played off the earthy, tender kale really worked for me. But I didn't know where to go with this simple combination besides just tossing them in a warm corn tortilla and calling it a day. Though good, something was still missing.

I have to thank SE overlord Ed Levine for helping me complete this one. Not that he had any idea that I was working on a kale and refried bean recipe. He was just in Chicago for a mini food tour, and while trying a kale and cheese side dish at Publican Quality Meats, he declared without hesitation. "Kale loves cheese." I knew right then what this dish needed.

It doesn't need a lot, but a sprinkling of mild shredded cheese adds tang and creaminess to this wholesome recipe, making it seem substantial and complete. It helps if the cheese is tangy, like stringy Oaxacan cheese (also called quesillo), though even Monterrey Jack is okay.

At first this was another one of my many taco recipes, but since all the toppings are on the softer side, I went with crunchy tostadas. Though relatively simple to fry tortillas at home, the easiest option is to just buy tostada shells. That way they are ready to go ready out of the packaging.

  • Yield:serves 4
  • Active time: 30 minutes
  • Total time:30 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1 (32 ounce) can pinto beans with liquid
  • Salt
  • 2 bunches kale (approximately 1 1/2 pounds), stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
  • 12 corn tostadas
  • 1/2 pound Mexican melting cheese (Oaxacan, quesillo, or Monterrey Jack), pulled into small strands or shredded
  • 2 limes, quartered


  1. 1.

    Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and jalapeño, and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cumin, stir well, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook until chunks begin to break down, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Add beans and liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to mash beans until chunky. Season with salt, if necessary (it will depend on how salty the canned beans are).

  2. 2.

    Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the kale, season with a pinch of salt, and cook until bright green and starting to wilt, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining bunch, and cook until all of the kale bright green. Pour in 1 cup water. It should boil immediately. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the cover, and let any excess water evaporate.

  3. 3.

    Smear some of the refried beans on top of each tostada, and top with a sprinkling of cheese and kale. Serve with lime wedges.