Last week, I had a deep yearning for Taco Bell.

Back in college, when I was a strict vegetarian, Taco Bell was my fast food of choice because you can sub refried beans for basically anything on the menu that contains meat.

As a young, harried and very financially challenged reporter, I often would grab cheesy bean and rice burritos from the Taco Bell drive-through on the way to cover a story. I also ate them in the late-night hours after my wedding last year. They're a perfect vegetarian junk food: Salty, cheesy, filling, incredibly high in salt and preservatives.

These days, I try not to eat much fast or processed food. Though Massachusetts has begun reopening, I'm still practicing social distancing as much as I can, so no drive-through visits for me. But social distancing practices can't erase a legitimate craving, so this week, I created a dupe for my favorite fast-food menu item.

It takes about 30 minutes to put together thanks to my Instant Pot (and you can easily make the rice on a stovetop), and the flavor of the nacho cheese is pretty spot-on, thanks to the addition of some brine and hot sauce. It's not technically healthy, but it sure hits the spot, and it's certainly better for you than the processed version.


Serves 5-8


1 can refried pinto beans of your choice: Remove from can and microwave until warm.

8-pack of burrito-size tortillas

Spanish rice (Instant Pot)

2 cups jasmine rice

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 cup crushed tomato

2 cups broth


Add onion and garlic to Instant Pot (or saucepan) and saute with olive oil until soft, around 5 minutes. Add rice, cumin and chili powder, then cook 3 or 4 minutes longer before adding tomato and broth. Set Instant Pot to pressure cook on high for 12 minutes. If using a saucepan, bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook 20 to 30 minutes.



2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 3/4 cup milk

1 16-ounce brick pepper jack cheese, shredded

1/3 16-ounce brick cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon hot sauce of your choice

1/2 tablespoon brine or vinegar


Melt butter in saucepan over medium high heat, then add flour and turn heat down slightly. Cook flour and butter until thick and slightly darkened in color, around 4 to 5 minutes. (You're going for a wheat/tan hue, no darker). Add milk and stir or whisk until milk and roux are fully incorporated and warm. Turn heat to low and add cheese about a handful at a time, stirring to melt. Once cheese is added, add hot sauce, chili powder, and brine or vinegar, and stir to combine. Keep warm.

Make burritos: Add 1/3 cup rice, 1/3 cup beans, and three or four spoonfuls of queso to center of tortilla. Fold bottom of tortilla up over filling, then fold over sides. Now, roll your almost-made burrito over, and let sit face down. You can eat them now, or brown top and bottom in a pan with some vegetable oil or butter on medium low. Heat each side for 3 to 4 minutes and let sit for 5 minutes or so if you want a neat cross-section.