Surprisingly, I have never made a proper taco salad recipe. I’ve worked around it (pomegranate & mango taco salad / quinoa taco bowl) but never a classic, simple, straightforward vegan taco salad with all the classic flavors. Well, here it is!
The two things I have to point out about this recipe are the pinto beans and the chili crema:
Something really magical happens to a can of pinto beans when you spread them on a baking sheet, smash them with a ton of chili powder + lime and bake them – they form these bizarre clumps that have a ton of flavor and an almost crispy texture.
But the crema is the highlight. Since this is halfway between a salad and a taco bowl, the crema really threads that needle. At first it hits like a creamy dressing, but then you get the tangy lime and chili spices on the back end and it really unifies all these diverse flavors and textures into a cohesive taco salad.
I designed this recipe to be really streamlined as well: everything goes in the same oven at the same time. There are multiple flavors and components working here, but it’s still really efficient and fast to throw together in about 30 minutes.
Makes: 4 servings
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 cups broccoli florets
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 2 15 oz cans pinto beans
- 5 6-inch corn tortillas
- 6-8 cups chopped romaine
- 5 green onions
- 1 avocado
- Juice of 2-3 limes
- 3+ tablespoons chili powder*
- Sea salt
*Note: I’m referring to a standard chili powder blend that typically includes chilis, cumin, garlic, etc. – not just straight chili/cayenne pepper!
Prep: Soak the cashews for at least an hour in fresh water before blending into the crema.
Prep: Preheat the oven to 400º F.
Step One: The Crema
Drain the cashews of their soaking water and add to a blender with the juice of 1 lime, a tablespoon of both chili powder and nutritional yeast, a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt (or more) and then just enough water to make it into a consistency somewhere between salad dressing and heavy cream. Blend until totally smooth. Then give it a taste and adjust any of the seasonings as needed. This can be made up to 48 hours ahead of time and you *will* have leftovers for salad dressing, etc.
Step Two: Roasted Veggies
On one large baking tray, add the broccoli florets to one half and the tomatoes to the other. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and lime juice. Transfer them to the oven. Bake until the broccoli just starts to char and the tomatoes skins have started to wrinkle and split (about 15-20 minutes).
Step Three: Pinto Beans
Drain and rinse the pinto beans, then add them to a parchment-lined baking tray, sprinkle with a little salt and lime juice, plus about 1 tablespoon chili powder and gently smash them in place with a fork. Add to the 400º oven as well and bake (stirring occasionally) until the edges just start to get crispy (about 20 minutes).
Step Four: Tortillas
On a cutting board, stack the tortillas and slice them all into thin strips. Transfer to a baking tray and sprinkle on some (you guessed it) chili powder, lime, and salt. Then move them to (you guessed it) the same 400º oven until the become crispy (10-15 minutes). Note: if you have an air fryer that works even better, but an oven will do.
Step Five: Assemble
Finally, chop the romain and transfer to serving bowls. Slice the green onions and dice the avocado (set both aside for a minute). As the stuff in the oven is done, add it all to the serving bowls and garnish with the avocado, green onions, and a generous drizzle of the chili creama.
To recap, each bowl should look like this: lettuce + charred broccoli + wilted tomatoes + baked pinto beans + tortilla strips + green onions + avocado + crema.