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Island Life. Recipes. Frugal and Sustainable Living.

Taco Salad Basics

Taco Salad Basics

It seems like I tend to have small flashes of culinary brilliance on Mostly Vegan Mondays, and today was no exception to that. I am finding more and more, that having a lot of vegetables on hand really saves the day when Monday rolls around. One of our new neighbors gave us a bag of avocado this weekend and it fueled the inspiration for this vegan taco salad, and the great thing about avocado is, that it has a rich creaminess all of its own, so you’ll hardly miss the sour cream or cheese. Yay! Perfect idea for Mostly Vegan Mondays.

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Many of the “basic” taco salad veggies are probably ones you already have on hand, like tomatoes and lettuce, and can be adjusted to your personal taste. This is an easy base to get creative with, and you can branch out even further by swapping kale for lettuce, or heirloom tomatoes for cherry tomatoes. I like to throw Kalamata or black olives on top when I want a little extra saltiness, and I frequently use shredded cabbage and carrots to bulk it up and give it more crunch. **I’m also less inclined to over-indulge on chips when I have more crunchy vegetables in my salad. Bonus!

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Another wonderful thing about taco salad is that you can add proteins like soy crumbles, baked tofu, roasted root vegetables, beer-battered fish, or ground turkey, to make it even heartier. Shredded cheese and roasted almonds would also pack a tasty protein punch. Taco salad is also easily adaptable to a Paleo diet by skipping the chips and adding even more protein, such as bacon bits or roasted chicken.

Making a serve-yourself taco bar for parties and other gatherings, would be a great way to offer something to please everyone, from carnivores to vegans. If you’re willing to do some chopping ahead of time, you could have an inexpensive spread, using mainly veggies and canned beans.

Here are some basic taco salad suggestions:

  1. Try to aim for at least half of the dish to consist of a ‘crunchy’ texture. If you put dressing on it, or get heavy handed with the sour cream or guacamole, you’ll just end up with a goopy mess. You will need a hearty base. I like to use sturdy romaine for this salad and add additional crunchy vegetables for texture, like carrots, cabbage, celery, onion, peppers, etc.
  2. Prepping ahead is the key. If you have everything washed and chopped a day ahead of time (*except the avocado, it will brown), then you’re 95% finished. Some finishing touches, like shredded cheese, cilantro, or guacamole will easily round-out this quick meal.
  3. Always chop more vegetables than you need. Trust me on this. If you happen to have some leftover, you will have a great lunch for the next day. Just add salsa!
  4. If you prepare any warm or hot toppings, wait until just before sitting down to place them on the salad. (Nobody likes warm, limp lettuce)
  5. Get bold with flavors. If you want your salad to have that zesty ‘taco’ flavor, go bold when you season your protein(s). I used organic canned black beans and added cumin powder, chili powder, sea salt, black pepper, and a pinch of vinegar. The cherry tomatoes shown in the photo were also seasoned with garlic salt and fresh cracked pepper. You could even add fresh jalapenos or roasted chili peppers for extra heat. Fresh lemon or lime squeezed over the entire salad would also add another layer of bold flavor.
  6. Most taco seasonings have some combination of chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Feel free to throw together your own blend or try adding fresh herbs like oregano and chives.

The possibilities are many, and it really just depends how far you want to take it. You could easily adapt taco salad to most diets and personal preference. Enjoy!

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