A lot of people ask me questions like, “What was the hardest thing to give up when you went vegetarian?” or “Do you ever just crave meat?” The answer to the latter is, yes, I do. The answer to the former is the cause of said cravings: tacos.
I was never too crazy about meat to begin with, so going vegetarian wasn’t that radical of an adjustment for me. I did, however, have a passionate, burning love for tacos. Taco nights at my house were like Christmas to me. I specifically recall riding home from Girl Scouts one night and practically jumping out of the car with excitement because I knew there would be tacos waiting for me when I got home. I can’t say what exactly made me so enamored with them; I wasn’t big on ground beef, and there were no potatoes involved (which I was OBSESSED with). So what’s so great about a taco anyway?
Going vegetarian has allowed me to discover what really makes a taco. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the meat. Think about it: we’re talking about boring ground beef, not a choice-cut of perfectly cooked steak. There are two things that really make a taco delicious: the classic, zesty seasonings we associate with tacos and piling on a plethora of our personal favorite toppings. You may not believe me, but meat tacos and vegetarian tacos are equally delicious. It doesn’t matter if you use beans, meat, or whatever else as the filler, as long as you season it up good with those kickin’ taco flavors and top it off with tons of tasty toppings.
My Ultimate Vegetarian Tacos are just that: the ultimate. Instead of ground beef, my protein of choice is beans. They’re hearty, protein-packed, and they soak up that flavorful taco seasoning just as well as meat does. But I don’t stop at the beans; I’ve got crispy, golden, oven-roasted potatoes in there too, which take these tacos from good to incredible. The beans and taters really bulk these babies up. They’re twice as hearty and filling as a ground beef taco.
Now, I’ve also created a solution to the plaguing problem of hard or soft taco shells. Some people are dead set on one over the other; or you can be like me and love them equally. The answer is simple: use both. I build a double decker taco by spreading melty, spicy queso onto a soft tortilla shell to act as the glue that binds it with a crunchy shell. You get the crunch of the hard shell and the support of the soft shell, plus a layer of cheesy queso. It’s the best of both worlds.
With zesty, kicking flavor, a hearty bean & potato filling, and double decker cheesiness, these are truly the creme de la creme of tacos.
If you’re still not sold on the idea of a vegetarian taco, let me tell you this: my mother, meat-loving, burger-devoring carnivore that she is, was enthralled with these tacos. Her exact words: “You don’t even miss the meat!”
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- Use whatever toppings you like; nothing is off limits!
- You could use pepper jack cheese instead of cheddar if you’re looking to kick things up a notch.
- Don’t like the beans I used? Switch ‘em out for whatever you prefer. Any beans will do.
- These make great leftovers!
- This meal is super quick and easy, but also nutritious, which makes it a GREAT weeknight meal.
- Queso can be found in the chip aisle of your grocery store near the salsa and other dips.
Ultimate Vegetarian Tacos
By The Smart Cookie Cook
Yield: 6 servings
- 2 hard and soft taco kits with taco seasoning (like Old El Paso)
- 1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
- 2 cans kidney beans, drained & rinsed
- ½ cup water
- 1 bag frozen Ore-Ida Roasted Potatoes, original flavor
- 2 cups Queso dip (homemade or store-bought)
- Assorted toppings: shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, black olives, sour cream
- Prepare your toppings of choice (chop veggies, open cans, etc.). Store in fridge until ready to eat.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with nonstick spray. Spread the potatoes out on the baking sheet and cook according to package directions or until golden brown and crispy. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring a large skillet to medium heat. Add the beans, 1/4 cup of the water, and the taco seasoning (included in the kit). Stir to combine. Let simmer until water and seasoning thicken into a sauce. If it gets too pasty or solidified, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time.
- When beans are hot and the sauce is your desired thickness, gently stir in the potatoes until evenly coated. Cover and keep warm on low heat.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, cover and heat the queso on high for 30 second intervals until hot, stirring in between.
- To assemble a taco: Spread a spoonful of queso onto a soft shell. Stick a hard shell taco into the queso on one half of the soft shell and wrap the soft shell around it like a second layer. Stuff with the bean and potato mixture then top with your choice of toppings. Dig in!