30 Minute Loaded Quinoa Taco Salad is vegan-friendly, gluten-free, and perfect for make-ahead lunches or weeknight dinners.
The Best Meatless Taco Salad:
Today, we’re gearing up for another snow storm here in Denver, so I’m hunkered down with a laundry list of computer work to keep me occupied. On days like this, I’m so grateful to have the luxury of working from home, because this Florida girl is still adapting to single digit temps and weekly bouts of snow.
And lucky for me, I have leftover taco salad to keep me from dialing up the nearest Thai takeout joint for pho (at least until dinner).
How to Make Vegetarian Taco Salad:
If you’re looking for a hearty, vegetarian taco salad that you can stretch out for several days of lunches, this recipe covers all bases. Nutrient- and fiber-dense quinoa, black beans, and bright, colorful toppers are the components that make this recipe a wholesome upgrade. Compared to the Tex-Mex favorite, this vegetarian version is both fresher and more nutritious.
Chipotle-flavored quinoa and black beans make it plenty hearty, while fresh salsa, avocado, and cilantro lend some bright pops of color and crunch. By using refrigerated pico or salsa, this meal becomes not only convenient and quick, but also flavor-packed.
By using kale as the base, it allows the flexibility for the salad to be prepared 2 to 3 days in advance, however if you’re not a kale fan, you could use chopped romaine instead. I would recommend, however, to hold off on dressing the salad until right before serving to maintain romaine’s crunch.
Does Quinoa Have Protein?
In short, quinoa is a nutrient-packed pseudo-grain that makes for a fantastic swap for taco meat. Additionally, quinoa is one of the few plant sources of all nine essential amino acids required to build and repair protein tissues in the body, which makes it a complete protein.
In terms of flavor, quinoa has a a signature nuttiness that takes well to bold spices, such as chili powder and quinoa. In addition, it also holds up great for leftovers, so feel free to double the batch and enjoy on repeat for weekday lunches.
Where to Buy Quinoa
I typically purchase quinoa from the bulk bin section of Sprouts Market or Whole Foods for cost savings. You can use white, red, or multi-colored quinoa for this recipe, however white has the mildest flavor. Red and multi-colored offer a bit more nuttiness, though will still work great!
Is Taco Salad Healthy?
This recipe offers a slew of nutrients, including protein, fiber, heart-healthy fats. The combination of quinoa and black beans deliver a lofty 12 grams of protein per serving. Not to mention the 12 grams of fiber, which is almost half the daily recommended amount. The two combined make this salad super satiating and nutritious.
To sum up, this taco salad offers an authentic and flavorful edge and soars above the rest in terms of simplicity. Try it this week and be sure to tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations!
More Healthy Mexican-Inspired Recipes:
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- ¾ cup chopped onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp. adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle chiles)
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- ¾ tsp. ground cumin, divided
- ½ cup dry quinoa, rinsed
- 1 cup lower-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, divided
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
- 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup prepared pico de gallo or fresh salsa
- 1 ripe avocado, sliced
- ⅓ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 3 Tbsp. whole-milk Greek yogurt or sour cream
- Heat 1 Tbsp. of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in adobe sauce, chili powder, and ½ tsp. cumin; cook 1 minute, stirring often. Add quinoa and vegetable broth; increase heat and bring mixture to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until quinoa is tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate while you assemble remaining salad ingredients.
- Prepare dressing by combining remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil, ¼ tsp. ground cumin, 1 Tbsp. lime juice, and salt; stir with a whisk. Place kale in a large bowl and add dressing. Use your hands to massage dressing into kale for 1 to 2 minutes until leaves starts to soften. Top with black beans, pico, avocado slices, and cilantro.
- Stir remaining 1 Tbsp. lime juice into yogurt (or sour cream). Whisk in up to 3 tsp. water to thin out to desired consistency. Top salad with cooled quinoa mixture and drizzle yogurt overtop.