I’ve come to rely heavily on cauliflower when I’m sharing vegan food with family and friends. It seems to be a universal crowd pleaser: nutritious, a gluten-free option for the dinner centerpiece, and everyone is pleasantly surprised at how versatile the vegetable is, whether it’s whole roasted, cut into “steaks,” folded into a zesty pasta dish, or whipped into a smoky appetizer dip. These crispy cauliflower chimichurri tacos are my latest favorite use for the many-sided crucifer, and I can’t wait to share them with friends as the weather gets warmer.
When I made these tacos over the weekend I had just been thinking about ways to streamline my cooking as final exams heat up. I prepared the cauliflower and chimichurri sauce a day in advance, which meant that on Sunday, when it was time to make the tacos themselves, nearly all of the heavy lifting was done. At that point, I just toasted my tortillas and threw together the lentil/cabbage slaw.
The tacos have it all: a combination of textures, smoky, spicy, and slightly sweet flavors, plus a hint of garlic and herbs from the chimichurri. This chimichurri sauce is thicker than other versions I’ve tried at home, which were probably more authentic and traditional, but I really love how almonds give it substance. The sauce itself doesn’t have to be used on tacos: you can also use it in a vegan bowl, as an accompaniment to grilled tofu or seitan, or with veggie kebabs in the summer (yum).
1medium or large head cauliflowertough stem removed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1tablespoonneutral vegetable oilsuch as grapeseed or avocado
1teaspoonground chili powder
Crushed red pepper flakes
For the almond chimichurri:
1/2cuproasted almondssalted or unsalted is fine, but if you use salted you may wish to reduce the salt in the sauce slightly*
1/4teaspoonfreshly ground black pepperor to taste
1cuptightly packedfresh parsley
1tablespoonfreshly squeezed lemon juice
2tablespoonsred wine vinegar
2tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil
For the tacos & slaw:
3cupsshredded purple or green cabbageor a mix
1cupcooked lentils or black beans
3/4cuppackedfresh chopped cilantro
2-3teaspoonsextra virgin olive oil
1tablespoonfreshly squeezed lime juice
Drizzle agave or maple syrupoptional
Salt and pepper to taste
8 6-inchflour or corn tortillasuse 100% corn for a gluten-free option
Preheat your oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Toss the cauliflower with the oil, cumin, chili, smoked paprika, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste. Spread the cauliflower on the baking sheet and sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until the cauliflower is getting crispy and browning at the edges.
While the cauliflower roasts, place the almonds in a food processor fitted with the S blade. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper. Process until the almonds have been broken down into a coarse meal. Add the cilantro, parsley, lemon, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and 2 tablespoons water. Process until the mixture is bright green and evenly mixed; it should resemble a pesto. You may wish to add 1-2 extra tablespoons water, one at a time, to thin the sauce if it's very thick.
In a mixing bowl, toss together the cabbage, lentils or beans, cilantro, extra virgin olive oil, lime juice, and agave or maple syrup (if using). Season to taste with salt, pepper, and an additional drizzle of lime juice or oil, if needed.
To prepare the tacos, you you can toast your tortillas over an open gas burner set to very low flame for about 1 minute per side—this will give you a slightly browned, crispy texture. You can also reduce the oven heat to 300F after you roast the cauliflower, wrap all of the tortillas in foil, and allow them to warm up for 10 minutes before you assemble the tacos. To assemble, fill all of the tacos with about 1/2 cup (each) slaw and cauliflower, then drizzle with the chimichurri sauce.
*For a tree nut free version, try using toasted pepitas or hulled sunflower seeds in place of the almonds.
In place of the lentils in the slaw, you can use black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, or even black eyed peas. Either red or green cabbage works, and if you don’t have either of those, you can also use finely chopped romaine lettuce leaves. Folding some chopped avocado into the slaw—or piling some slices into the tacos—wouldn’t hurt, either!
This is a fun vegan Cinco de Mayo dish, if you plan to cook up something celebratory, but it’s also a great dish for summer gatherings or warm weather suppers at home. Regular readers know that I really love tacos/tostadas for breakfast; I usually make a super simple version with vegan refried beans and rice, plus a handful of veggies and avocado or whatever sauce I have lying around. The leftovers of this dish are definitely more colorful and festive than my usual, and I’ve been enjoying them so much for breakfast in the last few days.
See you over the weekend, with the usual roundup of recipes and reads.