This is a post from our resident Rebel Chef, Noel Fernando.
So you’ve mastered the art of the push up. You can almost do a handstand. Maybe you’ve even conquered the legendary Paleo Spaghetti.
Dang, you’ve come a long way! Would the “you” from a year ago…heck, a month a go even recognize you now? My friend, you are CRUSHING it. Sounds like it’s time to level up your cooking game.
Enter new opponent: The delicious…the nutritious….PALEO TACOS!
If I could date one food, it would probably be tacos. They’re incredibly tasty, easy to make, super versatile, and every time I make them, I marvel at my own cooking skills.
That’s what I want you to feel when you make these for the first time.
Even Link prepares his own delicious cucco tacos – you can’t save Hyrule on an empty stomach!
Tacos were a staple in my diet of long ago. I grew up in the Southwest, eating enchiladas, tacos, pasole, and green chile. Not all of these things transfer to the Paleo lifestyle, but I’d like to share a couple of them with you today.
We are going to make:
- Tacos – Your choice of meat and veggies wrapped in lettuce for a delicious paleo approved dish.
- Guacamole – A delicious condiment made of smashed avocado and other diced ingredients. In my opinion, guacamole is essential in everyone’s repertoire of recipes. You can mix salsa in it, make it with just some garlic salt, or turn it into a killer Greek-style Tzatziki Guac! Today, though, we’ll be making a southwestern style guacamole to go with our tacos.
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So here’s what you’ll need.
For the tacos:
- 1/2 lb ground beef – My favorite taco meat (though chicken or fish works too!). Try to find organic, grass fed. If you can’t find it or if it is detrimentally costly, that’s fine. Do the best you can.
- 1/2 lb ground pork (optional) – Pork crisps up nicely in this dish, and adds some flavor. If you only want to buy one kind of meat, that’s also fine. Just make sure you buy enough. If you choose to buy only one type of meat, make sure you get 1 pound instead of 1/2 pound. Cooking is like jazz. Do what you feel.
- 1 tsp taco Seasoning – You can find taco seasoning in the spice aisle.
- 1/2 yellow onion diced – Always with the yellow onions. Blame my mother.
- 3 tbsp olive oil – We’ll be cooking our meat and onions in olive oil.
- Juice from 1/2 a lime – Lime is an essential part of Southwestern cooking. Juicing a lime can be tricky, but I’ll teach you how to get the most out of your lime!
- 2 cloves garlic – Garlic forever!
- 1/4 jalapeno pepper (diced) – The pepper in the photograph is a red jalapeno. Jalapenos come in both green and red varieties — feel free to try out both. If you don’t like spicy food, you can use less of your pepper or eliminate it all together.
- 1 head of butter lettuce – Tacos are usually served in a corn or flour tortilla shell. As we all know, grains are a no-no for us paleo eaters, so we need to find an alternative wrapper for our taco meat! You could just skip the wrapper and serve the meat in a bowl. OR you can keep the tradition of a handheld food and have salsa juices dripping down to your elbows by using lettuce as a shell. I’ve found that the best type of lettuce to use is butter lettuce, because the leaves are large, flat, and not too brittle. I have also, less successfully, used romaine lettuce when I couldn’t find butter lettuce. It’s up to you!
- 1 avocado – Also known as an alligator pear. Choosing an avocado can be tricky! To choose a ripe avocado, you’ll want to go for the ones that are black and tender to the touch. If the avocado is green, it’s not ripe yet. And if the avocado is really squishy, there is a high likelihood that the avocado is overripe. Do not buy this avocado! The flesh will be brown and maybe even moldy inside.
- It is okay to buy green avocados if you are going to eat them later. To help them ripen, place them inside a paper sack with a banana. Store this bag outside of your refrigerator. This will speed up the ripening process. *Nerd alert: Ripe bananas release a hormone called ethylene, which makes the fruits around it ripen more quickly. Placing a ripe banana near any fruit will make it ripen very quickly (approximately 24 hours)! So be careful where you put those bananas!
- 1 tbsp finely diced red onion – You can use any type of onion (yellow, red, white, etc.). The ingredients we’ll be adding to the guacamole will be raw, and I like the flavor of raw red onions better than raw yellow onions, so I opt for red in this case.
- Juice from 1/2 a lime
- 1 tbsp finely diced tomato – Any tomato will do. I usually just buy whatever is on sale at the store.
- 1/4 finely diced Jalapeno pepper – Again, if you’re not into spicy food, leave this out.
- 1/2 clove garlic, finely diced
Other fun taco toppings:
- Shredded cheese (if you eat dairy)
- Sour cream (if you eat dairy)
- Salsa – Make sure you read the label of the salsa before you buy it at the store. Be sure it has no added sugars or weird chemicals.
- Diced Tomatoes
1. Heat up your frying pan.
2. While the frying pan is heating, season your meat. Put the meat on a plate or in a bowl and sprinkle the seasoning on top. Done!
3. Once your pan is heated, pour about 2 tbsp of olive oil into the pan. If the oil shimmers and moves quickly on the pan, the oil is hot and the meat is ready to go in. You’ll want the pan and the oil pretty hot. Make sure that the olive oil is not so hot that it is smoking, though. You do not want to start a fire in your house!
4. Break up your meat into the pan. This will help it cook more quickly. You want to brown the meat and make it a little crispy on the outside. This is best done by cooking the meat with haste at a high heat. If you heated your pan enough before hand, your meat will cook just fine.
5. Stir the meat frequently. Once it is cooked, if it is beef, it will turn brown. Other meats will also darken. The key here is that you want none of the meat to be pink. Pink means raw.
6. Once the meat is cooked we need to drain it the left over oil to keep it from getting soggy. If you have a mesh metal strainer or metal colander, you can place a bowl underneath and dump the meat in. The bowl on the bottom will catch the oil and the metal strainer will catch the meat.
Do not pour the oil down the sink! It will solidify at cooler temperatures and clog your sink. If you don’t have a strainer or metal colander (hot oil will melt plastic), get a lid for a pot and carefully pour the excess oil out of the pot into your bowl, using the lid to stop the meat. If some of the meat falls out into the bowl of oil, that is okay, as you can pick it out after.
7. Clean your pan and reheat it. While it’s heating, dice your onion, garlic, and jalapeno.
8. Prepare your lime. To get the most juice out of a lime, you’ll want to have it at room temperature. If it was in the fridge, that’s okay too.
Roll the lime around under your palm on the counter. Squish it gently to massage the juices inside.
Cut the lime in half and then into quarters.
Take your lime quarters and cut through the flesh of the fruit in thirds. DO NOT CUT THROUGH THE PEEL!
The lime is now prepared to be squeezed (wait for it…instructions below!). This will get the most juice out of your lime.
9. Once the pan is heated, pour 1 tbsp of olive oil into it. Make sure the oil is hot, just like last time.
10. Put your onions, garlic, and jalapeno in the hot pan with the oil. Stir it around and cook until the onions are translucent (approx 3 minutes).
11. Squeeze half of the lime into the onion mixture.
12. Add the meat back into the pan to reheat it.
Now your meat is ready! Set it on low or take it off of the heat for a bit. We’re going to make guacamole!
Guacamole is best when it’s fresh. The fruit oxidizes very fast, which makes it turn a yucky looking brown color if it is left out for an hour or so. Moral of the story? Make it fresh and eat it fast! *No, you cannot save guacamole with plastic wrap or a refrigerator. If air is touching it, it is going to turn brown. Consider it a reminder to live in the moment!
1. Use a knife to cut your avocado in half. Carefully remove the seed. You can do this with a spoon or knife. Only use the knife if you promise to be careful.
2. Spoon the green flesh of the avocado out of the skin and into a bowl. A spoon makes this easy because it is curved as is the fruit! Generally it will all come out in one lump.
3. Mash the avocado with a fork. Make it nice and smooth!
4. Dice up your jalapeno, red onion, garlic and tomato.
5. Add your diced veggies to the guacamole and stir them together!
Done! Now you know how to make an awesome condiment that you can put on eggs, in other wraps, dip sweet potato fries in, or eat with a spoon. Because it’s just that delicious.
Now you are ready to assemble your tacos.
There are no hard and fast rules here. Make the tacos YOU want! Feel free to experiment with different ingredients or different wraps. Here’s how I make mine:
1. Remove some of the leaves from the head of butter lettuce. Wash and dry them.
2. Spoon some hot, meaty taco filling into each of the leaves.
3. Top with salsa, guacamole, and whatever else you want! Delicious!
4. Make an incredible mess with your food while you eat it! Tacos are an inherently messy food.
Make it your own!
I think we can all agree that tacos are easily in the top 5 best foods ever. They are delicious AND it is virtually impossible to make a terrible taco.
You can put just about any of your favorite fresh ingredients in a taco shell and it will almost always turn out mind blowingly awesome. Unlike most traditional recipes that can be more demanding and strict about what goes into a dish, tacos are flexible. Want to make Korean inspired pulled pork and kimchi tacos? DO IT.
Feeling vegetarian friendly? Why not cook up some sweet potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and zucchini and toss those in a shell? All you have is store bought sausages? That’ll work for taco filling, too! Muster up some courage, choose your ingredients, and let your nerd flag fly.
What foods from your pre-leveled up life would you like to see adapted to your new lifestyle? Leave us a message in the comments and we’ll make your healthy cooking dreams come true!
- 1/2 lb (227g) ground beef
- 1/2 lb (227g) ground pork (optional) – can substitute pork for beef for 1 full pound beef
- 1 tsp (5ml) taco seasoning
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp (15ml) finely diced red onion
- 3 tbsp (45ml) olive oil, separated
- Juice from 1 lime, split (we’ll use half for the taco meat and half for the guacamole)
- 2 1/2 cloves garlic, diced, (2 cloves for taco meat, 1/2 clove for guacamole)
- 1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced and split in half for tacos and guacamole
- 1 head of butter lettuce
- 1 avocado
- 1 tbsp (15ml) finely diced tomato
- 2-3 leaves Cilantro, chopped (optional)
- Salt to taste
- Other toppings of your choice (chopped tomatoes, salsa, etc.)
- Heat your pan.
- Place your meat in a bowl and sprinkle seasoning on top.
- Pour 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil into the hot pan.
- Break up seasoned meat into the pan.
- Stir the meat frequently. Cook until no pink is visible.
- Place mesh strainer inside a bowl. Pour cooked meat into strainer. (The bowl will catch the excess grease from the meat and the strainer will catch the meat). **Note, if you don’t have a strainer, you can scoop the meat out of the pan then pour the grease out.
- Wash the pan and reheat it. Or you could use another pan, but why dirty more dishes?
- Dice your red and yellow onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Slice your lime into quarters.
- Pour remaining 1 Tbsp (15ml) olive oil into reheated pan.
- Put your diced veggies in the pan (yellow onions, 2 cloves garlic, and 1/4 jalapeno). Cook until the onions are translucent (approx 3 minutes).
- Squeeze half of the lime into your onion mixture.
- Add the meat back into the pan and reheat it.
- Now let’s make the guacamole! Cut your avocado in half. Admire the beautiful inside. Then carefully remove the seed.
- Spoon the green flesh of the avocado into your bowl.
- Mash the avocado with a fork. Do it with feeling!
- Dice your tomato and cilantro.
- Add your veggies (tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, 1/4 jalapeno and 1/2 clove garlic) to the mashed avocado and stir together.
- Salt to taste. Awe yeah. Delicious!
- Assemble your tacos! (Scoop meat into clean lettuce leaves and add toppings of your choice!)
Photos by: Martin Borjesson: Brintam, Zelda Wiki: Zelda Cucco
73 thoughts on “How to Make Paleo Tacos”
Thank you for your recipe… looks yum yum yummy!
Made these for the first time on Friday night and my mind was blown! Also… I then ate it for the next 3 days… I think I may be addicted. Thanks so much for the awsumazing recipe 🙂
Wew! A rocket science of amazing flavors! Boom! I like your recipe coz its not traditional and extra nutritious than usual tacos. Another mouth watering innovation in the culinary industry. Just a perfect recipe to add up in the flavour of your life. And just to add up/help, i would simply share this http://ilivetoinspire.com that helps us to balance the flavour of our life.
Romaine lettuce makes a great “shell” since they are long and already shaped like a taco shell anyway. I make mine with tri-tips or flank steak, you can cut it into strips and grill it up real quick, cut it into cubes after its cooked. It comes out kind of like Chipotle steak.
It does help, you can also store half an avocado for a couple of days by sprinkling it with lime, or lemon juice and covering with plastic wrap.
Okay, A: One of the “selling points” for this lifestyle change (not full-on paleo, but my best attempt) was that tacos were still on the menu. And B: It is hardly the end of the world when guacamole goes brown, guys. Sometimes, to the extra-sensitive, it may taste ever-so-slightly more sour, but it has not “spoiled” or anything gross like that! Only the very top layer is affected, especially if you’re making an effort to keep air out, with plastic wrap and such, so just stir it in and voila, no sad useless wasted guacamole in the trash. 🙂 Not like it should last all that long anyway!
PS: Great suggestion, to use the butter lettuce leaves. I know that should have been an obvious option, but…it just wasn’t, okay??
sir i had doubts, doubts i say! tasty tacos without crunchy shells?! i call shenanigans! but i just made this (with my personal taco recipe) and it was awesome! i’m totally using this as my brownbag lunch since i can just mix it all in like a salad. i just may have to give this paleo thing a shot.
If you are trying to be careful about chemicals watch what taco seasoning you use. Some have pretty yucky ingredients! I use onion powder ,garlic, red pepper flakes and parsley as a replacement. Thanks for a good recipe!
can you use something other than butter lettuce
I made this tonight for my wife and I. We’ve been trying quite a few paleo recipes and I thought this sounded good… and easy to prepare. I wanted to stay away from other taco salad recipes, that use Catalina dressing. While I’m sure it’s good, we are avoiding, what you might consider prepared foods. This taco salad recipe was outstanding. The seasoning mix added just the right amount of taste and heat to the ground beef. I tasted it before adding it to the browned ground beef, to make sure. The mixture of salsa and sour cream was also tasty. I will make this again in the future.
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I’m just coming into cooking professionally again and will be cooking for 6 for a week soon. My client follows the paleo diet, and your site has given me some great ideas and jumping off points. Thanks so much! Definitely making either these, or some fish tacos for diiner! ?
Also, leaving the avocado pit in the unused portion helps keep it from browning.
Sorry guys this is not and never will be
mexican I suggest calling it mexican inspired because this is about as taco bell I would love to try cooking some traditional mexican fare with a paleo twist such as chiles rellenos rolled in almond flour or pork in Chile verde