Vegan Taco Salads with Chickpea ‘Beef’
Vegan Taco Salad with Chickpea ‘Beef’- the ultimate whole food plant-based taco salad! Packed with flavor and 22g of plant powered protein.
Taco salads will forever be my favorite kind of salad because, let’s be honest, Mexican food will always reign supreme in my book. Mostly because of my love for avocado and corn.
This whole food plant-based salad features a homemade chickpea ‘beef’ that is packed with nutrition and flavor. You only need to three ingredients to make it too! It’s perfect for when you’re craving something meaty but want something healthier than processed faux meat.
Taco Salads with Chickpea ‘Beef’ Ingredients + Substitutions
I’ll be the first to admit that these salads require a lot of ingredients but you can make them as minimal (or as maximal) as you like.
For the Chickpea ‘Beef’
- Chickpeas- I typically opt for canned garbanzo beans to save time. Just be sure to drain excess liquid off for best results. While you can sub almost any bean in place of chickpeas, I find that they provide the best texture and flavor.
- Walnuts- Walnuts provide a source of healthy fats and protein while also offering a subtle texture to the crumbles. If you’d like to make it nut-free, sunflower seeds would make a good alternative.
- Taco Seasoning- Using packaged taco seasoning helps simplify and shorten the ingredient list. Just be sure to look for one that doesn’t have added sugar or preservatives. Also, keep in mind the spice level and choose one that suits your liking.
For the Salads
- Romaine Lettuce- Although you could use any green as a base for the salads, romaine is my favorite for it’s light and crunchy texture.
- Tomatoes- This is such a great way to use up summer’s best tomatoes. You can dice whole tomatoes or halve cherry/grape tomatoes.
- Corn- It’s rare for me to have a meal without corn in the summertime. I LOVE IT SO MUCH.
- Black Beans- Adding black beans to the salsa means even more antioxidants and protein. That said, they are not essential if you want to skip them.
- Green Onion- Red or green onions would work wonderful here.
- Lime Juice- Fresh citrus brings everything together like POW, right in your mouth.
- Cilantro- I personally love cilantro but if you hate it, leave it out!
- Bell Pepper- More vitamins, more crunch, but not totally necessary.
For the Crispy Tortilla Strips
- Corn Tortillas- I find that corn tortillas taste the best when lightly baked into crunchy strips. Just spray them with a bit of high heat oil and you’re good to go. If you want to save time, feel free to use broken tortilla chips instead or skip them altogether.
For the Salsa Ranch Dressing
- Salsa- Choose your favorite salsa for the best flavor. Any kind will d0.
- Dairy-free Ranch Dressing- I just love the creamy texture that ranch adds to the dressing when combined with the salsa. I love the ingredients in this one but it is pricey.
How to Make Taco Salad with Chickpea ‘Beef’
- Cut corn tortillas into thin strip. Spray with oil and bake for 10 mins.
- Combine taco seasoning with water.
- Add chickpeas and walnuts to food processor (or mash and finely chop by hand). Add seasoning mixture and pulse until a chunky texture is formed.
- Transfer to baking dish and bake.
- Meanwhile, prepare tomato-corn salsa and dressing.
- Assemble salads. Top with chickpea ‘beef’, crispy tortilla strips and dressing.
Do I Have to Have a Food Processor?
Nope! You can mash the chickpeas by hand using a fork or potato masher and finely chop the walnuts by hand. Then combine in a large bowl with the taco seasoning (mixed with water) and stir until everything is evenly coated in the seasonings.
Prep Ahead Tips
If you’re making all the things, this can be a laborious meal to prepare on a weeknight. You can prep these up to 2 days in advance:
- The tomato corn salsa can be prepped and sealed in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- The chickpea ‘beef’ can be prepped and sealed in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can either store prior to baking and bake the day of OR bake in advance and allow to cool before sealing then reheat the day of.
- Combine the salsa and ranch to make the dressing and store in airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Prepare the crispy tortilla strips as directed, allow to cool and store in airtight container on the counter.
Again, feel free to skip making the tortilla strips and just use salsa or ranch as dressing to help save time!
Vegan Taco Salads with Chickpea 'Beef'
For the Crispy Tortilla Strips
- 4 corn tortillas, thinly sliced
- high heat cooking spray
- fine sea salt
For the Chickpea 'Beef'
- 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup walnuts
- 1.3 ounces taco seasoning, choose preferred spice level
- ½ cup water
For the Taco Salads
- 14 ounces romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
- 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen and defrosted
- 1 bell pepper, cored and finely chopped
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 bunch green onions, finely chopped
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- juice of 2 limes
- 1 avocado, pitted and sliced
- ½ cup salsa, preferred spice level
- ½ cup vegan ranch dressing
Prepare the Crispy Tortilla Strips
- Preheat the oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- Place corn tortillas on a surface for cutting and slice them into ¼-inch pieces, then cut them in half in the opposite direction. Lightly coat with oil or cooking spray, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring them around half way through. Remove from the oven and set aside, then reduce the oven temperature to 400°F.
Prepare the Chickpea 'Beef'
- In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the taco seasoning and ½ cup water. Whisk until smooth.
- Add the walnuts to a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Next, add the chickpeas and the liquid taco seasoning. Pulse until a chunky consistency is achieved (as pictured in post). Make sure not to over process or it will not have the right texture.
- Transfer the mixture to a lined baking sheet and loosely spread it out. Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes, stirring half way through. The mixture should be slightly dried out with clusters formed.
Prepare the Salads
- While the chickpea 'beef' cooks, assemble the salads. In a large bowl, combine the black beans, corn, tomatoes, bell pepper, lime juice and cilantro. Stir until evenly mixed. Arrange the romaine amongst two large salad bowls. Top with black bean salsa and sliced avocado.
- In a small bowl (or squeeze bottle), combine salsa and ranch dressing. Stir together until evenly combined.
- Serve chickpea 'beef' warm on top of assembled salads drizzled with crispy tortilla strips and salsa ranch dressing, and enjoy!