Vegan or Paleo!
Wintertime calls for warm, filling meals that nourish your body and comfort your soul. It can be easy to forget about fresh greens this time of year, but they really are so important to a healthy diet. That’s why I love making hot dishes in to salads and getting the best of both worlds. This taco salad has such a great combination of sweet and savory flavors and it can be made Vegan or Paleo; both turn out equally yummy. It’s also a really simple dish to make.
Recently I was talking about the blog with some friends and they suggested I make some healthy Super Bowl recipes to share. Since I am not a huge football fan I didn’t realize it was this weekend (no, I do not live under a rock) so I wasn’t prepared. I do, though, think one big buffet-style bowl of this taco salad would be an excellent addition to any Super Bowl spread! This recipe makes 2 servings so just double or triple as needed.
On to the wholesome components that make this salad amazing. Purple sweet potatoes are soooo good.
BUT there’s so much more to them than their satisfying color, flavor and texture. The purple variety of sweet potatoes are extra rich in antioxidants, specifically anthocyanins, which not only fight damaging free radicals but have also been found to help reduce exposure to heavy metals while providing anti-inflammatory benefits. These hardy root vegetables are working double time; not only do they provide your body with tons of beneficial nutrients but they help you eliminate harmful toxins at the same time! Purple sweet potatoes are also a great source of fiber, which actually reduces the effects of their starch content on blood sugar and helps your body to slowly break down their carbohydrates for more sustainable energy.
One of the things I truly love about nutrition is the way nutrients within different foods work together. This recipe is a great example of that. The fats from the coconut oil boost the absorption of the Vitamin A in the sweet potatoes and you get complimentary B Vitamins that work together to help your body metabolize food into energy; B1 from the black beans, B5 from the shiitakes, B6 from the sweet potatoes, and Vitamins B3 and B12 from the buffalo. B Vitamins are also crucial for the nervous and adrenal systems as well as proper detoxification.
For the Vegan version of this recipe I used black beans, shiitake mushrooms, walnuts, and almond flour to create a meat alternative that turned out to be a great vehicle for these Southwestern spices. This combination also lends a bunch of plant-based protein to your meal with just a few quick steps. This tasty Vegan Taco Crumble puts those processed, frozen, fake meats to shame! Shiitake mushrooms have a potent balancing effect on the immune system, which is why they’ve been used medicinally throughout Asia for centuries. They have antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-cancer properties!
Buffalo (also labeled as Bison) is an amazing source of lean protein. It has more iron, less fat, and just as much protein as beef and can easily be substituted in to most recipes. Something I find very interesting about buffalo is that it’s considered a non-allergenic meat – no one has ever been recorded to have an allergy to it. This is probably in part because buffalo are predominantly free-range and so their meat is usually very clean; free from antibiotics, hormones, and the negative effects of life in a crowded feedlot.
SO, now that you’re super excited to eat all these healthy ingredients, let’s get on to the cooking! Start by mixing all your spices (chili powder, coriander, smoked paprika, oregano, cumin, sea salt, and black pepper) together in a small bowl, so that you can easily add them to your protein and they’ll be evenly dispersed. Please make sure you look at the spices specific for the version of the recipe you’re making – the meat needs a good bit more salt than the bean and mushroom mixture.
For the Vegan Taco Crumble – Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil over medium heat and add diced onion and minced garlic once it’s melted, sautéing for 2-3 minutes. Put your black beans (very well-drained), shiitakes, walnuts, almond flour and spices into a food processor. Pulse a few times, being very careful to only blend until chopped but still very crumbly. If you over process you’ll end up with a paste and the next steps won’t work out so well. Add this mixture to your pan with the garlic and onion and cook for 12-15 minutes, using a spatula to chop and turn the crumbles. In a separate pan, melt 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil over medium high heat and add the sliced yellow peppers and additional onions, cooking them 10-12 minutes until soft and just slightly charred. Once the Taco Crumble mix gets browned and a little crispy, remove from heat and allow to cool in pan for 3-5 minutes.
To make the version using Ground Buffalo – Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil over medium heat and add diced onion and minced garlic once it’s melted, sautéing for 2-3 minutes . Add your meat into the pan with the garlic and onions and sprinkle with spice mix. Use a spatula to thoroughly incorporate the spices into the buffalo and chop it into smaller pieces. Let this cook for 8-10 minutes until browned all the way through. In a separate pan, melt ½ tablespoon coconut oil over medium high heat and add the sliced yellow peppers and additional onions, cooking them 10-12 minutes until soft and just slightly charred.
For both versions of the recipe you can continue on from here. While you’re watching the pans for the above steps, you can begin roasting your purple sweet potatoes. These are so simple! Just preheat your oven, put a tablespoon of coconut oil on your pan and pop it in the oven to melt. After a couple of minutes, take the pan out, toss your cubed sweets in the oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Pop em’ back in the oven for about 15 minutes (this can vary depending on your oven) until they’re a little crispy and brown on the outside and soft on the inside. You should probably try one, or ten, to make sure they’re done to perfection (wink, wink).
For the (super easy) Tangy Lime Garlic Dressing, it’s helpful to use a little manual citrus juicer to get the most out of your limes. After you juice your limes, pour the juice in a small jar and add the rest of your ingredients – olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder and mix well. Done!
While everything finishes cooking you can start making your pretty plates. Make a nice bed of your romaine and red leaf mix and toss your cilantro in with the greens. Top with all your other amazing ingredients! I like to save the avocado for last. You can make it neat and organized….
Or you can just go for it and mix everything into one beautiful mess….
Drizzle with dressing and enjoy!
Purple Sweet Potato Taco Salad (Vegan or Paleo)
This salad is sweet, savory, warm, and comforting. Depending on your diet you can make it Vegan or Paleo; all that changes is the protein and salt but the rest of the recipe is the same. It's a really simple yet super healthy dish that packs your whole meal into one bowl! I highly recommend looking for the purple sweet potatoes but you can sub in orange ones if needed.
- Spice Mix:
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- 1/8 tsp fine sea salt (use 1/4 tsp. for buffalo version)
- 1/2 lb ground buffalo
- 1/2 c no salt added black beans
- 1/2 c sliced shiitake mushrooms
- 1/4 c raw walnuts
- 3 Tbsp almond flour
- coconut oil (1/2 Tbsp for peppers and onions, 1 Tbsp for sweets, 1/2 Tbsp for buffalo, 1 Tbsp for Vegan Taco Crumble)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into strips
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
- 2 small purple sweet potatoes, cubed
- 1/2 head red leaf lettuce, chopped and washed
- 1/2 head romaine lettuce, chopped and washed
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- Tangy Garlic Lime Dressing:
- Juice from 2 limes
- 6 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Mix spices, salt, and pepper into a small bowl and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Vegan Taco Crumble: Heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil on medium heat, add diced onion and garlic once melted and sautee 2-3 minutes.
- Add black beans, shiitakes, walnuts, almond flour, and spices in to food processor. Pulse a few times until mixed but still crumbly. Add to garlic and onions and cook 12-15 minutes, chopping and gently turning with spatula until crispy. Allow to cool in pan 3-5 minutes to firm up and retain structure.
- Buffalo: Heat 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil on medium heat, add diced onion and garlic once melted and sautee 2-3 minutes.
- Add buffalo to pan and sprinkle with spice mix, chopping and mixing with spatula until fully incorporated.
- Cook 8-10 minutes until browned all the way through.
- In a separate pan, heat 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil over medium high heat.
- Once melted, add sliced onions and peppers.
- Sautee 10-12 minutes until just slightly charred.
- Add 1 Tbsp coconut oil to a baking sheet and place in oven 1 minute to melt.
- Remove pan from oven, add cubed sweet potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss, and place back in to oven.
- Bake 15 minutes until slightly crisp and fork tender.
- For dressing, add all ingredients in small jar and mix well.
- To layer your salad, make a bed of lettuce, mix in chopped cilantro, add your veggies, then protein and avocado.
- Drizzle with dressing.