Vegetarian Mexican-Style Layer Bean Dip

I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life, so when people tell me how they couldn’t last a week without meat, I just smile and point out that I’ve never known any better. But while my dietary restrictions might seem burdensome to many, I think there are still plenty of opportunities to make delicious food that’s vegetarian-friendly.

With the NFL season well underway and the MLB postseason heating up (go Cards!), I thought it was as good a time as any to put up a recipe for a bean dip I’ve been making for years now. There’s really nothing complicated about it (which is a good thing for me, because if there was a way to mess it up, I’d find it). All you have to do is get the ingredients together and then layer them on top of each other. Here’s what you’ll need:

(2 cans) Refried Beans
(1½ bottle) Taco Bell Brand Restaurant Sauce
(16 oz) Sour Cream
(3) Medium Tomatoes
(1) Medium Onion
(1½ Jar) Sliced Jalapenos
(1 bunch) Green Onions
(1 bunch) Cilantro
(½ tsp) Cumin
(½ tsp) Cayenne Pepper
(½ tsp) Lime Juice

The truth is, a lot of these things are going to vary for you based on your tastes. Personally, I’m a big fan of spicy food, and I love cilantro. If these don’t apply to you, I’d recommend you tweak the recipe accordingly. The best part about the cilantro is that it gives the whole thing a fresh flavor that you just can’t seem to get out of a pre-made dip.

Step 1: In a large bowl, mix two cans of refried beans with a half bottle of Taco Bell Sauce. Add ½ tsp cumin and ½ tsp cayenne pepper if desired.

Refried beans from a can are often fairly dry and difficult to spread around. Since we want to make a layered dip, it makes sense to soften them up a bit. Fortunately, adding some sauce directly to the beans does just the trick, and serves to keep the beans from being too bland otherwise. Feel free to experiment with other spices here, too. I tried cumin and cayenne for this last time, and I noticed some extra heat, but not much else. I was also being pretty conservative on how much I added. I think taco seasoning might be nice here, but I didn’t have any on hand. I’m sure some of you are far more experienced cooks than I am; please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments!

Step 2: Spread the bean mix in a 13”x9”pan, layer sour cream on top.

I find it helps a lot to take the sour cream out of the fridge a little early. Maybe chop some veggies while you wait. Otherwise the sour cream stays pretty thick and is hard to spread. Since we can’t add sauce (or else the color will look pretty ugly), we have to wait for it to get soft on its own. When adding the sour cream, place dollops all over the top of the bean layers, and then attempt to “connect the dots.” This helps make it easier to spread the sour cream evenly. If you’re looking to cut some calories, I use “light” sour cream, and I’m sure even fat free would work well, too.

Step 3: Add diced onions, tomatoes, and jalapenos.

Here’s where the fun starts. Adjust the proportions as you see fit, but bear in mind that the beans and sour cream are both going to cut a lot of the punch from the onions and jalapenos, so don’t be too stingy.

Step 4: Add a little more Taco Bell sauce over the top.

This is pretty self-explanatory. I’m just going to move on. If you find yourself stuck at this step, well, maybe phone a friend?

Step 5: Chop up cilantro and green onions, toss in ½ tsp lime juice, add to dip.

The lime helps add to the already fresh smell and taste of these greens. If you’re not as big a fan, feel free to tone it down. Did you know that if you don’t like the taste of cilantro, the reason could be your genes?

Step 6: Just a little more Taco Bell sauce to top it off.

And with that, you’re done! Enjoy it with your favorite tortilla chips, but make sure they’re sturdy. Thin chips are no match for the weight of this dip. Grab a bag, call your friends over, and have a party. Or, if you’re not much for sharing, make it a party of one!

Again, feel free to experiment here; the opportunities are endless. Toss some cheese on top, or add olives. If you’re not a vegetarian, ground beef could be an option. Cut the sour cream, and the whole thing is vegan-friendly. Tailor it to your wants and desires.

Your turn: What are some simple snacks or dishes you like to make for special events?

Neel Joshi

Neel is a medical student who also does research on pediatric brain tumors. He is passionate about medicine and blogs about health, politics, weight loss, and more at The Soapbox. He also maintains a blogging "happy place" at OptimistPrime.


  1. I have to admit I am a meat eater, but I do love to have vegetarian meals a few times a week. This one looks delicious so I am going to have to put it on my to make list. There is often the risk that thinking vegetarian food is boring….but this clearly proves that wrong!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *