I really love this recipe. The final product, these Easy Vegan Crispy Air-Fried Chimichangas, are the culmination of a few different concepts that I’ve been playing with, all coming together into one delicious, easy to make, air-fried snack.
Cook these Easy Vegan Crispy Air-Fried Chimichangas “a la minute”, or meal prep and freeze them in advance so that you’ve always got a savory, crispy, satisfying meal waiting for you in the freezer. Mine, as pictured above, topped with homemade vegan yogurt, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, are stuffed with Homemade Refried Mayocoba Beans (recipe below) and Mexican style rice, but feel free to stuff your any ‘ol way you want.
It’s Bean a Journey…
The full recipes for my Easy Vegan Crispy Air-Fried Chimichangas and for the Refried Mayocoba Beans that I’ve filled them with can be found at the bottom of this post, just below the video of me making these tasty treats. If you’re interested in following the story of how this recipe came about, then keep reading…
This mini-chimi recipe is a mashup up my childhood flavor memories of a small restaurant in Elko, Nevada called Nine Bean and a Burrito, and my partner, Ben’s, childhood (and admittedly adulthood) flavor memories of frozen mini chimichangas.
It all started a couple of weeks ago when I was on the search for some new dried beans to cook. I was getting bored with the same garbanzo, white, black, pinto, and kidney beans that are pretty much all that you can find in a big box supermarket. I was getting bored with those, and after having scrolled through Rancho Gordo’s website, seeing all of their beautiful jewel-esqe beans, I wanted something new!
Randomly I was wandering the aisles of my nearest Walmart Neighborhood Market, when I spotted some beans I had never seen before. Here was this bag of slightly greenish white beans, similar in size to a pinto. The package said “mayocoba” beans, which didn’t ring any bells. My wish had been granted. I found some new beans, and I was happy to splurge 99 cents on them.
On the same aisle, I came across a package of Knorr “Mi Arroz” rice seasoning mix. I have tried to make Mexican (restaurant) style rice a few times from scratch, but I’ve never been happy with the results. And when I’ve found rice seasoning packets at the store before, they always contained animal ingredients.This particular brand and flavor appeared, after many reads through the ingredients list, to be accidentally vegan.
When I got home, I started cooking the beans, and the rice, and I sat down to Google what kind of recipes mayocoba beans can be used for. The first thing I saw was refried beans. Having not ever been happy with making refried beans with pinto beans in the past, I thought maybe these mayocoba beans could be the secret that my favorite restaurants have been using all along.
Also, I really just love refried beans, and as tasty as they can be from a can, they are nothing like what you can get in a restaurant. Most restaurants, however, use animal products in their refried beans so I’m always forced to eat the black beans, which are fine, but nothing compared to a creamy “puddle” of the rich refried variety.
I tasted the rice as soon as it was cooked, and was instantly hit with that flavor memory I had been chasing for so long. This WAS that rice! I had found it!
Once the beans were cooked, I mashed them up in a pot and started seasoning them with a bit of vegetable flavored Better than Bouillon, to try to simulate the depth of flavor that normally comes from lard or chicken stock. Finally, I added a glug of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a lot of pepper, and gave it a taste.
Honestly, I have to pat myself on the back here. From that very first bite of those refried beans, I was sold. I had done it. Then I took a bite of rice, followed by a bit of beans, and I was instantly transported back to high school, waiting in the line at Nine Beans that stretched out the door.
Feeling that I had mastered restaurant-style refried beans, and that I had found an amazing rice seasoning mix that tasted like it just came out of a restaurant, I needed to find the perfect vessel for them. Was a burrito going to be enough?
Oddly enough, on that same Walmart trip, Ben, who still eats dairy occasionally, was looking for quick and easy freezer foods that he could throw in the microwave for when he gets hangry. He found a package of spicy rice, bean and cheese chimichangas, and decided to go with those.
When we first met, I remember him always having El Monterey Mini Chimis in the freezer which he adorably referred to as “mini chims”. Giving up meat, though he hadn’t had them around the house for a long time, so this discovery of this rice and beans variety, brought him right back.
One of my favorite things to purchase at Costco are these frozen uncooked tortillas. You just thaw them and throw them in a dry pan, and you’re seconds away from the freshest restaurant-style tortillas you’ve ever had. For a while there, I was testing some different recipes out, trying to use the tortillas in the same way that you would use egg roll wrappers. The tortilla performed perfectly, but I never settled on a filling that I liked.
So, I’ve got the best rice and beans I’ve had in years, I have uncooked tortillas that roll up and air-fry like a dream, and I have a partner who recently purchased rice, bean, and cheese mini chimis from Walmart.
My mission was clear.
I added a few black beans to the refried mayocoba beans for a bit of texture and color variation, and then I mixed the beans with the rice with some vegan cheese and some diced jalapeno. I scooped a healthy portion onto a tortilla, rolled it up, and threw it into my air-fryer on 400 F.
Ben and I split that first one, and he gave me the go-ahead. I rolled quite a few more to use up the rice and bean mixture I had thrown together, and that batch was gone by the next morning.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you. You’re a champ. The full recipes for my refried mayocoba beans, and the mini chimis I made with them are just below the video. What I’ve made matches my flavor memories exactly, but you may have another favorite rice or bean or vegan meat filling that you would like to use instead. Go for it!
I even tested this recipe out in the oven as well as the air-fryer, so if you don’t have one, you can always use the other.
You can also make prep these ahead and keep them in the refrigerator for a few days, or freeze them so they’ll last a bit longer. I have storage and reheating directions in the full recipe below. But regardless of how you choose to make or store them, those uncooked tortillas will come out fresh and homemade tasting every time.
Easy Vegan Crispy Air-Fried Chimichangas
A childhood favorite, these mini chimis are perfect for a weeknight meal, or they can be made ahead and refrigerated or frozen for a quick and easy snack or lunch.
- 2 ½ cups refried beans (see recipe below)
- ½ cup cooked black beans
- 3 cups seasoned Mexican rice (I prefer Knorr’s “Mi Arroz”)
- ½ to 1 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese
- 8 to 10 10” uncooked flour tortillas
- diced jalapeno, diced onion, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, or additional veggies to taste
- Water in a spray bottle
- Cooking spray, optional
- Vegan sour cream or soy yogurt*
- Hot sauce or salsa
In a large bowl, combine the beans, rice, and cheese, along with any onions or jalapenos you would like to add inside of your mini chimis. Working one at a time, spritz a bit of water onto an uncooked tortilla. Using a ⅓ cup measuring cup or scoop, place the rice and bean mixture into the center of the uncooked tortilla. Fold the sides of the tortilla into the center until the touch. Press down lightly as you begin to roll the tortilla away from you until it rolls over to meet the far edge. Spritz a little bit of water onto the seam to help it stick. Continue rolling your mini chimis until you have used all of your fillings or tortillas. If you are concerned about them unrolling, you can weave a toothpick into the seam to prevent them from coming apart.
- Preheat your air-fryer or oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If you would like to ensure a more even browning, you can spray each mini chimi with nonstick cooking spray.
- The cooking time will vary depending on the size of your air fryer. Begin checking them after about 5 minutes. Flip them over if they appear to be browning too much on on side. They are done when they are crispy and golden all around.
- Place your mini chimis onto a metal rack placed over a baking sheet. Check your mini-chimis after about 10 minutes, flipping them over if they appear to be too brown on one side. They are done when they are crispy and golden all around.
- Bake or air fry your mini-chimis just until they begin to get crispy, but before they brown. Allow them to cook to room temperature, and then wrap each mini chimi in foil or parchment paper. Store for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. To reheat, remove from the foil or parchment, and follow the cooking instructions above.
- Follow the same directions for refrigeration, but place them in the freezer. To reheat, microwave for 30 seconds before following the air fryer or baking directions above.
Looking for a fast and easy way to cook beans from dry? Check out this tutorial to see how I make them in my Instant Pot using the “quick soak” method.
If you have an Instant Pot, and a bit more time and patience to babysit your beans (at least the first time cooking them with this method), then might I suggest the slow and low method that I’ve recently been obsessed with.
After feeling like pinto beans just weren’t cutting it for making homemade refried beans, I decided to give mayocoba a try. The result: I’m convinced that mayocoba beans are the secret to incredible refriend beans, that my favorite Mexican restaurants have been keeping from me my entire life.
- 1 cup dry mayocoba beans
- 4 to 5 cups filtered water
- 4 inch piece of dried kombu*
- 2 teaspoons vegetable flavored Better Than Bouillon paste, or enough bouillon to season 2 cups of water.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or more to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
I prefer to use a “slow and low”, no soak method for cooking these beans: Rinse and drain the dry mayocoba beans before adding them to your Instant Pot or slow cooker. Cover the beans with 4 to 5 times the amount of water, and add the dried kombu.
If using an Instant Pot, use the Slow Cook setting, adjusting it to “Less” so that it will cook on a lower temperature. If using a slow cooker or Crock Pot, set it to cook on “Low”. Begin checking your beans for doneness around the 2 1/2 hour mark. This is also a good point at which you can season your beans with a bit of salt, and remove the kombu. If the beans are not creamy and cooked through, allow them to continue to cook, checking them again every 20 minutes. In my experience, they are normally done in 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
Unplug your cooker, and allow the beans to cool in the cooking liquid. Using a slotted spoon, remove your beans into jars or storage containers, and then cover them with the remaining cooking liquid. Beans can be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator, or they can be frozen and stored for a few months.
Drain your beans, but reserve some of the cooking liquid. To a pot on medium heat, add your cooked mayocoba beans, and mash them with a potato masher until they reach the desired consistency. If they are too dry, add a bit of the cooking liquid to thin them out. Add bouillon, and taste for seasoning. If your beans are too bland, add more bouillon, or salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
*Kombu is a dried seaweed that it used in a lot of traditional Japanese cooking. It is believed that an enzyme in the kombu helps the beans to cook faster, and it also helps with digestion to eliminate gas and bloating.