This deliciously fresh Vegan Taco Salad is made with crisp romaine lettuce, sweet corn, hearty black beans, the best homemade zesty jalapeño dressing, and the easiest plant based meat made from spiced, riced cauliflower and pecans! It’s packed with plant based protein, flavorful veggies, and is perfect for both healthy meal prep and easy, meatless weeknight dinners!
Add this to your list of not-boring healthy salad ideas. She’s healthy for your gut, inflammation, and aging, too!
I’m not vegan or even strictly plant based, but I honestly prefer this homemade plant based meat recipe to ground meat or Beyond plant based meat. It’s THAT good, you guys. Plot twist: it’s made from frozen cauliflower rice & chopped pecans, which adds this hearty richness that is so cozy, plus protein, healthy fats, and even more health bennies for your gut and body (details below).
I got the (pretty genius) idea for using riced cauliflower as a plant based meat back when I shared this Spicy Cauliflower Bolognese recipe, and you all LOVED it. Maybe because it tricked your families into eating plant based dinners with great enthusiasm, maybe because it’s one of the tastiest budget friendly meals on the internet. Either way, I knew this cauliflower rice “meat” needed to make a second appearance. What better way than in taco form?
What does this plant based meat taste like?
Tasty. Flavorful. Hearty. A little spicy. Rich. So delicious that a meat-eating man (my husband, Zack) exclaimed a joyful profanity at first bite. Trust me when I say you won’t miss the meat in this dish.
In this plant based meat recipe, I wanted to build a rich and complex Bolognese using absolutely no animal protein. We use shallots (which are a bit more potent than normal onions) for a delicious base, then red pepper flakes and fennel for even more pizzazz (also fennel is proven to be AMAZING for your gut). If you’re skeptical about plant based dinners, here’s what you’re going to love about this recipe:
- has nearly 20 grams of protein
- is naturally gluten free and dairy free
- is filled with healthy fats from pecans
- and is easy to customize with your favorite taco toppings!
What makes this taco salad healthy?
If you’ve followed my Instagram for a while, you know I’m all about ADDING nutrients into my diet rather than restricting myself from foods. When I’m developing a recipe, I ask myself: what functional foods can I add in here to make this recipe even more healing for our bodies? In this taco salad, I focused on three main health benefits: gut health, anti-inflammation, and aging. If that last one caught your eye, you’ll want to listen to my latest podcast episode where Dr. Levy shares exactly how we can live longer and feel better as we age!
Here’s the breakdown of the functional foods in this recipe and their health benefits:
- Boosting digestion: I snuck fennel into the taco spice mixture because it’s proven to do wonders for aiding digestion and alleviating IBS and constipation
- Fights inflammation: the taco meat base uses fennel, cauliflower, and pecans which have all been proven to reduce inflammation in the body
- Longevity: cauliflower and pecans have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, brain disease, and cancer
Everything you’ll need to make vegan taco salad
The best part about this healthy taco salad recipe is that you can make it with ingredients you probably already have on hand. I kept the spice blend minimal, so you wouldn’t have to buy any new ingredients, but feel free to use your favorite taco seasoning instead! Just definitely still use the tomato paste, which brings the “meat” together texturally. This Vegan Taco Salad is only truly complete with this zesty jalapeño dressing which will blow your mind by how delicious and healthy it is.
Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- For the dairy free jalapeño dressing: you’ll need a small shallot, a jalapeño, garlic cloves, limes, fresh cilantro or parsley, maple syrup, fine grain sea salt, and olive oil
- For the plant based taco meat: easy pantry finds like chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, olive oil, cauliflower rice, pecans
- For the taco salad base: romaine, red onion, frozen corn, black beans all work well here but you could also add avocado, tomato, and cheese!
Customize this healthy taco salad
Another wonderful thing about this vegan taco salad is that you can get creative with it! Here’s some ideas to get you started:
- Mix in your favorite taco veggies: I think chopped red pepper or diced tomato would be delicious here, plus they add more nutrients.
- Go wild with toppings: sliced avocado… cheese… fresh cilantro… the whole kitchen sink!
- Make it a taco bowl: add your favorite rice or quinoa to the base of this salad, and bam! It’s a taco bowl.
Make it ahead of time
Much like me on date night, this salad thrives being made up ahead of time– which makes it perfect for meal prep! You can make everything 4-5 days in advance. I recommend storing the plant based meat, the salad base, and the dressing separately in individual containers in the fridge. Then assemble it all together when you’re ready to eat it! This recipe makes four servings, so you’ll be set up for eating healthy for most of the week!
More meal prep salads to try
I hope you love The Best Vegan Taco Salad! Enjoy, and tag me if you make it on Instagram (@lizmoody)—I can’t wait to see!Print
For the plant based taco meat:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cups fresh or frozen cauliflower rice (12 ounce bag)
- 2 cups pecans, chopped or pulsed a few times in a food processor
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 3/4 cup filtered water
- 2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoon onion powder
- 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
For the zesty jalapeño dressing:
- 1/4 cup shallot, roughly chopped (about 1 small shallot)
- 1 jalapeño, veins and seeds removed
- 2 garlic cloves
- Juice of 2 limes
- 1/2 cup packed of fresh cilantro or parsley
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1/4 cup+ olive oil
For the taco salad base:
- 1 large head romaine, chopped
- 1 cup crumbled tortilla chips
- 1 chopped red onion
- 1 cup frozen corn, sautéed with olive oil and salt until warmed through
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- Make the taco “meat.” Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. Add the cauliflower rice and sauté until brown at the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped pecan, chili powder, and cumin and toast until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Then, stir in tomato paste, water, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt until well-combined and warmed through. Stir in nutritional yeast and add salt to taste. Set aside
- Make the dressing. In a blender or food processor, add all dressing ingredients and blend until smooth. Start with 1/4 cup of the olive oil to blend, then add 1 tablespoon at a time and blend until you reach desired texture). Add salt to taste.
- Assemble the taco salad. Combine all salad base ingredients together in a bowl and top it with the taco meat and zesty dressing.
- Serving Size: 4