I love Mexican food. New Mexican food, Tex-Mex, really anything remotely in the Mexican food family and I’m yours. The flavors, the aromas, even the spice…. yum!
Originally, I feel in love with the cheese that punctuated every Mexican dish I tried. Cheese enchiladas, quesadillas, Chile rellenos. However, when I become a vegan and significantly cut my cheese intake (I do cheat once in a while, oops!) I discovered that Mexican food could be so much more than a ooey-gooey cheese puddle. In fact, traditional Mexican food doesn’t even contain that much cheese; they use cheese at a garnish rather than the main portion of the meal. As such, Mexican cuisine is very adaptable to a vegan diet. The use of seasonings and spices lend such a complexity to any dish that you won’t even miss the lack of animal products. Therefore, I am always creating new dishes that are vegan but still contain the Mexican flare that I love so much.
Last weekend while we were out running errands, we popped by Chipotle for a quick bite to eat. I ordered the soft tacos with pico de gallo and sautéed veg. While the food was tasty and my belly was happy, I couldn’t help feeling how much better homemade would taste. So naturally, we went to the grocery store and made it the next day.
We make a bunch of items that are great alone or together and combine them at random for a variety of meals throughout the week. The great thing about having a few staple items is that you can combine them endlessly! You could make tacos, burritos, nachos, a burrito bowl, a salad, etc with any or all of the recipes here. I like to use chickpeas in my burrito bowls, but I’d rather put the black beans in a burrito. Add avocado to your salad but keep it off your nachos. Whatever you like!
Anyone ever had that delicious Cilantro Lime Rice? You know the one. I love that stuff. And when I learned how to make it at home and how easy it was to make, I knew I would never be deprived. Ok so get your pen and paper out. You better take notes on the ingredient list; it’s pretty long. Ready? Rice. Cilantro. Lime. Yes! THAT’S IT. Literally.
Cook your rice. You can use white rice like the restaurant variety, but I like brown. It’s one cup dry rice to two cups liquid. Usually it’s made with water but veggie broth would be so yum. Be sure to rinse your rice! There are many videos/articles on how to rinse your rice, but I just add it to a mesh strainer and run it under the tap until the water is clear. Add it to your rice cooker (best kitchen gadget I ever bought, only $10, too) or a pot on the stove. I add a little bit (about 1 tablespoon) of oil so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom. Cook on low/medium heat about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally or according to your rice cooker’s instructions.
Meanwhile, wash and finely chop your cilantro. For two cups of cooked rice (that’s one cup of dry rice) use ¼ cup chopped cilantro. Once your rice is cooked and cooled, add your cilantro and the zest and juice of half a lime. Zest your lime before juicing, it makes life easier. Save the rest of your lime for garnish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Super easy!
Pinto, black, garbanzo/chickpeas, whatever kind of bean floats your boat. I like black beans best, especially for Mexican dishes, but the great thing about beans is that they are so versatile. You can use canned beans if you’re in a pinch, but cooking beans from scratch is super easy and way cheap!
In general, if you want two cups of beans, then cook one cup of dry beans; they’ll end up doubling in size once they’re cooked. Rinse your dry beans for a few minutes to ensure they’re clean and then soak them in water for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight. Make sure you add enough water. Again, if I am using one cup of dry beans, I’ll add two and a half cups of water. Transfer the water and beans to a pot with a lid and cook on low/ medium heat for about four hours. Stir occasionally and add water if necessary. If you’re beans are too soupy, take the lid off and let the steam evaporate. Your beans will be done when they reach your desired firmness. I like my beans to be a bit firmer, but if you like soft beans or plan on mashing them, cook a bit longer.
I like to make a large batch at the beginning of the week that I can use in various ways throughout the week. Because I cook a large batch ahead of time, I do not season my beans while cooking. I may want to make burrito bowls AND brownies with my black beans. If I add seasoning—even salt—to the beans while they cook, it will contaminate them for future uses. If you know that you’ll only be using the beans for one specific meal, you can certainly season them! Try garlic powder, salt and pepper. You could also add Chulula or sliced jalapeno. YUM.
A note about beans: If you have slow cooker, add them to your cooker’s pot before you leave for work along with the specified amount of water and cook. They will take about 8-9 hours to cook on low and 4 hours on high, depending on the type of bean. If I know I will not be home to monitor my beans, I will add excess water so they don’t dry out. Bigger beans=more water.
Another note on beans: The reason we soak them overnight and cook them low and slow is to break down the bean and therefore make them easier to digest. Ever heard that saying about how beans make you toot? Well cook them slow and they won’t!
This is my favorite part. It’s not even funny how much I daydream about a big ol’ serving of sautéed peppers and onions. I don’t know what sorcery occurs, but for some reason a plan bell pepper can turn into a delicious morsel with just a few minutes sizzling in a pan. Add a sliced onion and—here’s the game changer—some sliced poblanos to the pan, let it sizzle for a few minutes and BAM! Deliciousness ensues.
I used three poblanos, two medium yellow onions, and a yellow, orange, and red bell pepper. Turn the burner on and add a teaspoon of high heat oil, once the oil is shiny and moves easily about the pan (indicating its warmed up) add your delicious veggie mix. I like to add my favorite taco mix and some salt to the batch and give it a good stir. Ensure everything is evenly coated in your oil and spread it out evenly in your pan. Use a large flat-bottomed pan for this. Don’t crowd your veggies. Now the trick is to leave it alone! Let your peppers and onions sit undisturbed for a few minutes. This will ensure your veggies get browned on the bottom. Stir and repeat until your veggies are tender but not mushy.
Once I had my peppers and onions cooked up nicely, I put them in separate bowl and used the same, dirty pan to sautéed up a few mushrooms. I sliced the mushrooms vertically into slices and added them to some hot oil, already in the pan. After stirring occasionally and a few loooong minutes they were a deeper shade of brown and thoroughly cooked.
Variety is the spice of life y’all. Have a few options to choose from and you’ll never get bored. Avocado is a staple. But you can also have a few less common items. We like to add chopped spinach or mixed baby greens to our burrito bowls. It’s a great way to add another serving of veggies and some extra vitamins to your food. You could also try tomatoes, zested carrots, pepitas (yum) or some chopped jalapeno if you like things on the spicy side.
I am a sucker for fresh cilantro. I always add this to my Mexican dishes. I even have pot growing on my patio so that I am never without my beloved herb. You could also try parsley or chopped green onion. Try a quick corn salsa or some pico-de-gallo! And make sure to add a squeeze of lime. Fresh lime is the difference between an ‘ok’ meal and an ‘out-of-this-world’ meal.
6. Spicy Bits
Of course, this is optional, but it can elevate your meal. I am a big whimp and can’t handle anything overly spicy, but I do add a few squirts of Chulula. It adds a nice zing and boosts your metabolism. You could also add spicy salsa. Check out the MOST delicious and easiest authentic Mexican Salsa here.
If you eat meat, you could easily add an animal protein to the mix, like grilled chicken and use sour cream or cheese. Alex likes to cook a batch of nachos in the stove with his cast iron skillet. If you don’t eat cheese you could try a non-dairy cheese (I like the So Delicious Dairy Free Shreds). Or you could just forgo the cheese altogether. These fixin’s are soo good, you won’t even miss it!
Okay…I’m off to go eat another taco. No, YOU’RE the one who already ate four.
Feel free to leave a comment it you have any questions, tips, or ideas!
Lots of Love,