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Happy Cinco de Mayo! I've always loved Mexican food, but I've drastically changed the way I prepare and consume it in recent years. Where there were once huge piles of cheese and sour cream you'll now find handfuls of fresh veggies and beans prepared with minimal oil. Mexican food can get really heavy when it's fried and drenched in meat and cheese, but it can also be prepared in a way that's super fresh and light. Focus on fresh veggies, skip the globs of cheese and get your healthy fat fix through avocado or homemade guacamole. Opt for baking, roasting or grilling over frying. To make things even healthier, skip the salty store-bought chips and bake your own by cutting up whole wheat or corn tortillas. If you're feeling ambitious, make your own salsa. There are so many swaps you can make to turn a Cinco de Mayo fiesta into a healthy event. Here are some ideas for taco and fajita fillings to get you started.
1. Walnut Taco “Meat”
Note: I’m not including any real meat in this list because I don’t eat meat and haven’t eaten meat for over 20 years. I have nothing against people who do eat meat and encourage you to use whatever fixings you love, but I it would be a little ridiculous for me to recommend meat because I don’t even remember what it tastes like at this point. With that said, this is going to be a plant-based list.
I’m a fan of soyrizo and other types of veggie crumbles, but sometimes buying fake meat makes me feel like I’m getting something more processed than actual meat. I used to be a diehard Morningstar Farms lover, but familiarizing myself with the huge ingredients list on the back of the box made me wary. These days I prefer making my own not-meat products, whether it’s black bean patties or tempeh bacon. Walnut taco “meat” is one of my favorite things to make recently. It has the texture of regular taco meat but a flavor all its own.
I was first introduced to walnut taco “meat” when I made taco fiesta potato crisps from the Oh She Glows cookbook. She doesn’t have that basic walnut taco meat recipe on her site, but she does have this lentil-walnut taco meat recipe. For something more basic, here’s a walnut taco meat recipe from Food.com. Or for a fun twist, try this walnut taco meat with sundried tomatoes recipe from The Naked Avocado.
2. Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
Portobello mushrooms are a magical vegetarian ingredient because they have a meaty texture without being meat. I'm sure a lot of omnivores associate summertime with grilling burgers and steaks, but when I think of summer I think of grilling corn, peppers, and portobello mushrooms. There's something in particular about mushrooms and tortillas that seem to go really well together. Try this grilled portobello mushroom fajitas recipe from The Scramble or try this garlicky grilled portobello mushrooms with smoky tomato-chile salsa recipe from The Splendid Table.
Wait a minute, what? Why are we combining cauliflower and Mexican food? What's next, black beans in our brownies? First of all, do not knock black bean brownies until you try them. Secondly, cauliflower is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can take on the flavors of just about anything you combine with it. This is why cauliflower is widely known among parents as a secret ingredient to throw in meals to make healthy food undetected by kids. Cauliflower is now a popular ingredient in eggs and macaroni and cheese, and it's replacing starchier carbs in cauliflower pizza crust and cauliflower rice. Here are two delicious cauliflower variations to try out: a buffalo cauliflower tacos recipe from Buzzed and a roasted beer and lime cauliflower tacos recipe from Epicurious.
Chickpeas are another one of those miracle vegetarian ingredients that can be flavored in a lot of different ways and cooked to get a really crispy texture. Spicy roasted chickpeas are great as a snack on their own and delicious when thrown into a tortilla, too. Try this roasted chickpea & broccoli burrito recipe from Thug Kitchen or this chickpea tacos with guacamole recipe from Coffee and Quinoa.
5. Sweet Potatoes
As followers of Fit Girls Guide know, sweet potato street tacos can be life-changing. Sweet potatoes are super easy to make. For a really fast variation, cut into cubes (don't worry about the skin), microwave in a bowl with a splash of water for a few minutes, and transfer to a pan to cook with a little olive oil, spices, onions and garlic until done. Try this sweet potato and black beans fajita recipe from BakeSpace, this sweet potatoes and avocado tacos recipe from Love and Lemons, or this sweet potato and pinto beans taco recipe from Thug Kitchen.