I love salads. One reason I love them is because they are so versatile. They can be as simple as three or four ingredients and be amazing. Or you can get crazy with them and they’re this wonderful, complex mix of delicious flavors. Unless you’re making something very specific, ingredients are often easily changeble – and you can often throw one together in minutes with ingredients straight from your fridge to a bowl!
I actually own 2 large white serving bowls that I bought specifically for the purpose of making big ol’ meal-sized salads in.
Growing up, I remember my mom serving salads with practically every meal, even if it was just some greens with tomatoes and cucumber. She made it a point to get us a salad on every dinner plate… unless it was Friday night, which was often either pizza night or burgers-tots-and-baked-beans night. Sometimes, Friday or Saturday night was Taco Salad night. My favorite! Obviously, my mom’s persistence with the salads has stuck with me now that I’m grown. And taco salad continues to be one of my favorites.
I grew up vegetarian, but now that I’m vegan I’ve gotten a little creative in how I re-create this old family favorite. Sometimes I get fancy with taco salads and get the skillet out and do a lot of slicing and chopping of ingredients, and sometimes I toss them together in a few minutes with stuff I can pull out of the fridge. Either way, here’s some ideas for Taco Salads:
Romaine lettuce, or mixed greens. Taco salads tend to be hearty and romaine holds up better than other lettuces to the heavy topings.
Quinoa. I’ve seen recipes with red quinoa, but I’ve yet to try the red variety. Apparently it works well, though. Also, later down the list I suggest nutritional yeast, and quinoa is a great carrier of nutritional yeast. It really sticks and they compliment each other’s flavors very well!
Pinto or black beans, maybe either of those refried if you want some added heartiness. I’ll explain more later.
Salsa, homemade when possible, or at least high-quality. Life is too short to eat crappy salsa!
Seeds, maybe appropriately flavored ones?
Nutritional yeast. I either cook it into my beans as well as sprinkle it on top.
Sauteed onions and bell peppers.
CORN CHIPS! Seriously, a taco salad is just not complete without corn chips. Several times I have actually been halfway through making taco salads, or even finished, only to realize I was out of corn chips. You betcha I ran out to the store simply to buy some chips. It’s very necessary. Buy organic.
Now, obviously you can make this as easy or labor-intensive to make as you like. Either way it’s delicious. If you want to make an event of it/impress people: sautee the onions and peppers (I wouldn’t include them if they weren’t sauteed…), make homemade salsa, cook homemade beans, take the time to cook quinoa, make guacamole, etc. Or make it super simple: throw some mixed greens in a bowl, warm up some beans from a can and season to taste with garlic, cayenne, pepper, and nutritional yeast, chop some cucumber and avocado, dollop some salsa on top, and crunch a fistfull of torilla chips over the top, and sprinkle nutritional yeast and fresh lime over it all. Although this second style of making taco salads is more raw and free-form, I actually prefer it because I feel like the flavors end up standing out a lot more. When you make guacamole all the flavors kinda get lost in the mix, etc. The only thing I’d say is it’s often a good idea to just have a jar of homemade salsa in the fridge most of the time, anyway. 😉
I suppose you could do rice instead of quinoa, but I just tend to associate rice with Indian and Asian food more than Mexican food. To me, Mexican food should be simple and easy to make and rice doesn’t fit that description because it takes too long to cook.
Another tip: I tend to drizzle a little olive oil over top, espeically if I’m not using salsa, just to give it some more moisture. Also, mix it together really well once you get it served up in your bowl! It’s best that way. And lastly, I sometimes go with whole beans and sometimes I go with refried. I sometimes like the refried because of the thickness they add. Once you get everything mixed in, the beans will coat everything and you’re sure to get some tasty beans in every bite. De-lish!