With Cinco de Mayo around the corner (and Tuesdays happening every day after Monday), we’ve got tacos on the mind. The way we see it, there is no food more perfect than a collection of fillings, mingling with zingy salsa, topped with a creamy dollop of cashew crema, just the right number of shakes of hot sauce, all wrapped up in a warm tortilla. Making tacos is an art, and sometimes we’re too lazy for creativity and just drive out to Taco Bell. However, while the chain is reformulating their rice to be vegan once again, we’re taking on the task of breaking down the quintessential summer food into its essential components and building the perfect taco from the tortilla up.
Any abuela will tell you that the only tortilla worth touting is one made at home from masa (a mix of corn flour and limewater) and love. And while we’ve been coveting a cast aluminum tortilla press, mostly of the store-bought tortilla varieties are vegan, and will do in a pinch. Plant-based tacos are fantastic because of the wide range of ingredients that can be used to make taco combinations that meat-eaters couldn’t dare dream up (we’re talking sweet potato, buffalo cauliflower, and French fry tacos). Putting all those flavorful ingredients in a basic tortilla will always yield fantastic results. Get a few simple corn rounds (or go for that pack of 85 for under $3 bucks) and you’re good to go.
Coconut meat is called “meat” and mushrooms are often described as “meaty.” Beans? They’re meat, too … at least for taco purposes. As such, the plant-based possibilities of meaty taco fillings are pretty much endless. Jackfruit slathered in a tangy barbeque sauce—for instance, this incredible take on carnitas from Edgy Veg—will make for a lucious pulled pork-like taco. Tofu, tempeh and seitan marinated in Mexican spices are always good taco bases that add a lot of texture. Prepared meats by companies such as Gardein (try the Beefless Grounds) and soyrizo available at Trader Joe’s are also an excellent option. However, if throwing plain ol’ black beans into a taco is your game (as is often ours on work nights), then Edible Perspective’s smoky chipotle-spiced approach is right up your olé!
Plant-based cheeses have come a long way and now, our forlorn cheese-grater is back in action thanks to delicious offerings from European import Violife (try the With Hot Peppers flavor available in a grate-able block), or easy-to-use shreds such as Follow Your Heart’s fiesta favor and Daiya’s cheddar-style variety. Here’s a little secret: Daiya is in the midst of launching a brand new formulation of its classic cheese shreds. What’s different? They’re cheesier, meltier, and scary-closer to the real-deal than ever. We promise it’ll make taco night an “are you sure that’s vegan cheese?” type of affair. Look for the “gourmet” labeled package alongside Daiya’s classic shreds on store shelves soon.
Think of this as creamy sauce, hot sauce, or salsa (which means “sauce” in Spanish), or all three! A simple cashew crema—like the one by The Simple Veganista—is the way to go if creaminess if your jam. As far as hot sauce is concerned, vegan resource site One Green Planet is great at breaking down the basics of making a homemade cooked sauce—and it all starts will selecting a fiery mix of peppers. When it comes to salsa, we like to keeps ours classic with a pico de gallo (or a humble mix of diced tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, salt, and lime). Can all three sauces live in one taco? You betcha!
Is this another type of sauce? We’d like to think of it as the dip of the Mexican gods but, yes, guacamole can be considered a sauce in certain scenarios. If you’re not already adding slices of avocado to your taco (and even if you are), a dollop of classic guac can really take a good taco to the type of taco that gets chaperoned from the back of the line to the front door at a popular nightclub. Just a perfectly ripened avocado, a squeeze of lime, tomato, jalapeño, red onion, cilantro, a touch of salt and pepper, and a good mashing is all it takes for good guac. Whatever you do, please don’t put peas in the guacamole (or wear that dollar store sombrero on Cinco de Mayo unless you’re in an actual mariachi band).
Check out the May+June issue of VegNews for more taco-spiration!
Anna Starostinetskaya is the news editor for VegNews and likes her tortillas flame-grilled, her taco fillings overflowing, and her guac sans peas.
Photo courtesy of Gardein