How many calories in a refried bean and cheese taco?

Tacos are a popular Tex-Mex food that typically consist of a corn or flour tortilla filled with meat, cheese, lettuce, and other toppings. One common taco filling is refried beans and cheese. Refried beans are a tasty and protein-packed option, while cheese adds creamy texture and savory flavor. But many taco lovers wonder just how many calories are packed into a refried bean and cheese taco.

Calories in Refried Beans

Refried beans start out as cooked pinto beans that are then mashed and fried with oil or lard. This gives them their creamy, spreadable texture. One-quarter cup (about 60 grams) of canned, ready-to-eat refried beans contains approximately:

  • 110 calories
  • 6 grams protein
  • 7 grams fat
  • 12 grams carbs
  • 4 grams fiber

So refried beans are relatively high in calories and fat compared to other bean varieties. This is mainly due to the oil or lard used to fry them during processing. Still, they provide a good amount of plant-based protein and fiber.

Calories in Cheese

Cheese comes in many varieties, but most tacos are topped with cheddar, Monterey Jack, queso fresco, or a Mexican-style blend. One ounce (about 30 grams) of cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese contains roughly:

  • 110 calories
  • 7 grams protein
  • 9 grams fat
  • Trace carbs

So cheese packs a hefty calorie load, with about 80–90% of those calories coming from fat. The protein in cheese also counts toward the taco’s total protein amount. Other cheese varieties like queso fresco or Mexican blends contain similar calorie counts per ounce.

Calories in Tortillas

Tortillas act as the “bun” or wrapper in a taco. Here are the calories in one small (about 6″ diameter) flour or corn tortilla:

  • Flour tortilla: approximately 70 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 13 grams carbs, 2 grams protein
  • Corn tortilla: approximately 50 calories, 1 gram fat, 11 grams carbs, 2 grams protein

As you can see, corn tortillas are lower in calories and fat compared to flour. So choosing corn will save you a few calories per taco.

Putting it All Together

Now let’s estimate the total calories by adding up the individual ingredients:

  • 1⁄4 cup refried beans: 110 calories
  • 1 ounce cheese: 110 calories
  • 1 small flour tortilla: 70 calories

Total calories per refried bean and cheese taco: Approximately 290 calories

This number can vary slightly depending on the exact ingredients and amounts used. But in general, a small refried bean and cheese taco will contain about 290 calories.

Here are some other factors that can raise or lower the calorie count:

  • Tortilla size – Large tortillas can add 50+ more calories
  • Fillings – Adding meat, sour cream, guacamole, etc. increases calories
  • Oil or butter for cooking – Adds about 50 calories per teaspoon
  • Corn vs. flour tortilla – Corn saves 20 calories per taco
  • Cheese type – Using a cheese blend instead of cheddar may alter calories slightly

Tips for Lightening Up Your Taco

There are many ways to lighten up a refried bean and cheese taco if you’re looking to cut calories:

  • Use a smaller 6-inch corn tortilla – Saves about 20 calories
  • Reduce cheese to 1/2 ounce – Saves around 55 calories
  • Use low-fat refried beans – Saves up to 5 grams fat/45 calories per serving
  • Load up on lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cilantro – Adds volume without many calories
  • Skip the sour cream and guacamole toppings
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream
  • Go easy on any taco sauce or oil when cooking

Following some of these tweaks can help turn a 290 calorie taco into a 220 calorie taco, while still keeping it full of flavor. Portion control is also key – be mindful of only eating 1 taco if your goal is limiting calories.

Healthier Taco Fillings

If you want to make your taco even more nutritious, here are some low-calorie, protein-packed fillings to try instead of refried beans and cheese:

  • Shredded chicken – Use breast meat and shred yourself instead of canned for less sodium
  • Canned tuna or salmon
  • Scrambled eggs or egg whites
  • Black beans or pinto beans
  • Edamame
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Lean ground turkey or grass-fed beef

Pair these with lots of crunchy toppings and a dollop of Greek yogurt for a nutritional powerhouse taco. Don’t skimp on the salsa – it adds a ton of flavor for minimal calories.

Should You Avoid Refried Bean and Cheese Tacos When Dieting?

Refried bean and cheese tacos can absolutely still fit into a healthy diet plan when trying to lose weight. A few tips:

  • Watch your portions – stick to just 1 taco and pair with veggies on the side
  • Make it with lighter ingredients as discussed above
  • Eat slowly and mindfully to enjoy every bite
  • Balance it out by eating lighter at other meals and choosing active movement
  • Make it yourself instead of eating out for better nutrition control

One taco with a 290 calorie count won’t break the calorie bank. Just be sure to practice moderation and listen to your hunger/fullness cues. And emphasize nutrition-packed foods like veggies, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats throughout the rest of your daily meals and snacks.

Convenience vs. Homemade Refried Bean and Cheese Tacos

When it comes to calories, homemade tacos using fresh, natural ingredients win over fast food or frozen tacos. For example:

Fast food taco (1):

  • Taco bell – 350-400 calories
  • Del Taco – 300-350 calories

Frozen taco (1):

  • El Monterey – 210 calories
  • José Olé – 200 calories


  • Can clock in around 200-300 calories depending on ingredients
  • Much more control over portions and nutrition
  • Can use wholesome, fresh ingredients

The fast food and frozen options often pack in more calories, fat, sodium, and preservatives. Cooking up your own refried bean and cheese taco is a tasty AND healthier option.

Should You Make Refried Beans from Scratch?

Making your own refried beans from dried pinto beans has some benefits compared to canned.

Benefits of homemade:

  • No added oils or preservatives
  • Control over texture – can mash to your preferred consistency
  • Tailor spice blend to your taste
  • Much cheaper than canned

However, canned refried beans are very quick and convenient. So it’s fine to use canned, just look for low sodium and no-added-fat varieties when possible.

If going homemade, be sure to soak the dried beans overnight first before cooking. It takes a bit more effort upfront, but will pay off in fresher, better-tasting refried beans.


A small refried bean and cheese taco generally clocks in around 290 calories. There are many simple ways to reduce the calorie count while boosting nutrition, like using corn tortillas, cutting back on cheese, and piling on the veggies. Sticking to just one taco along with other healthy meals and snacks can allow this classic Tex-Mex favorite to be part of a well-rounded diet. Preparing your tacos at home with fresh ingredients trumps fast food or frozen options calorie-wise. And consider making your own refried beans from dried pinto beans for an even healthier taco filling option. So you can feel good enjoying the rich flavors of refried beans and melted cheese in a taco, even when watching your calorie intake. Moderation and balance is key.

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