How to Make Paleo Tacos

You are becoming a jedi master of cooking!

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.

Paleo Tacos

Super_Cucco-findin'_Game

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.

New feature! We’ve added a printable recipe and shopping list at the bottom of this recipe! Scroll to the bottom to print the recipe and dominate the grocery store!

So here’s what you’ll need.

Ingredients:

Tacos_01

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!


For the Guacamole:

  • 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 

Instructions:

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!

Tacos_03

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!

Tacos_02

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.   

Tacos_04

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.

Tacos_05

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.

Tacos_06

7. Clean your pan and reheat it. While it’s heating, dice your onion, garlic, and jalapeno.

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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.

Tacos_08Cut the lime in half and then into quarters.

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Take your lime quarters and cut through the flesh of the fruit in thirds. DO NOT CUT THROUGH THE PEEL!

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The lime is now prepared to be squeezed (wait for it…instructions below!). This will get the most juice out of your lime.

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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).

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11. Squeeze half of the lime into the onion mixture.

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12. Add the meat back into the pan to reheat it.

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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!

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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.

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3. Mash the avocado with a fork. Make it nice and smooth!

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4. Dice up your jalapeno, red onion, garlic and tomato.

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5. Add your diced veggies to the guacamole and stir them together!

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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.

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Now you are ready to assemble your tacos.

Taco Assembly

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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!

-Noel

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Paleo Tacos and Southwestern Guacamole
Recipe Type: Lunch, Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Noel
Serves: 2-4
A delicious adaptation of one of my favorite mexican dishes: tacos!
Ingredients
  • 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.)
Instructions
  1. Heat your pan.
  2. Place your meat in a bowl and sprinkle seasoning on top.
  3. Pour 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil into the hot pan.
  4. Break up seasoned meat into the pan.
  5. Stir the meat frequently. Cook until no pink is visible.
  6. 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.
  7. Wash the pan and reheat it. Or you could use another pan, but why dirty more dishes?
  8. Dice your red and yellow onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Slice your lime into quarters.
  9. Pour remaining 1 Tbsp (15ml) olive oil into reheated pan.
  10. 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).
  11. Squeeze half of the lime into your onion mixture.
  12. Add the meat back into the pan and reheat it.
  13. Now let’s make the guacamole! Cut your avocado in half. Admire the beautiful inside. Then carefully remove the seed.
  14. Spoon the green flesh of the avocado into your bowl.
  15. Mash the avocado with a fork. Do it with feeling!
  16. Dice your tomato and cilantro.
  17. Add your veggies (tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, 1/4 jalapeno and 1/2 clove garlic) to the mashed avocado and stir together.
  18. Salt to taste. Awe yeah. Delicious!
  19. Assemble your tacos! (Scoop meat into clean lettuce leaves and add toppings of your choice!)
Notes
Shopping List for Tacos AND Guacamole:[br]1/2 lb (227g) ground beef [br]1/2 lb (227g) ground pork (optional) – can substitute pork for beef for 1 full pound beef[br]Taco Seasoning[br]Medium Yellow Onion[br]Olive Oil[br]1 Lime [br]1 Avocado[br]1 Medium Red Onion[br]1 Bulb Garlic[br]1 Jalapeno Pepper[br]1 Head of Butter Lettuce (or Romaine)[br]1 Tomato[br]Salsa[br]Salt[br]Pepper[br]Cilantro (optional)

 Photos by: Martin Borjesson: BrintamZelda Wiki: Zelda Cucco

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72 thoughts on “How to Make Paleo Tacos

  1. I’m soooooooo hungryyyyyyyyy now! Might make these for dinner tonight, sounds great!

  2. I think you should mention that there are avocados that are inherently green, like the Fuerte variant that is sold in stores here along with the Hass variant you used in your recipe (which indeed isn’t yet ripe when it is still green).

  3. This is great! Not only because tacos are one of the greatest food groups ever invented (yes, food groups), but because I sat down to read my email with a bowl of leftover Paleo Spaghetti!

  4. There are also paleo “tortillas” made with eggs, milk, coconut flour, coconut oil, and salt (and a TINY bit of arrowroot to keep them pliable — http://againstallgrain.com/2013/01/26/crepes-grainfree-paleo/). I have yet to try these personally but they seem like they would be a welcome addition to taco night (albeit a smidge less nutritious)!

    Also… kimchi tacos (with galbi or bulgogi)?! ‘Scuse me while I /salivate all over myself…
    Great post and suggestions, Noel 🙂

  5. It’s true that avocado oxidizes with exposure to air, but if you really, really want to save your guac for later, you CAN do it by taking that plastic wrap and squishing it down over the top of the guac up to the edges of the bowl so no air is touching it. I’ve been able to save guac this way for up to a day later with no browning and, beyond that period of time, only the top layer of guac will brown and can be scraped off easily.

  6. I make taco salad. Just rip up the lettuce and mix it with the meat. Yum!

  7. Paper towels can also be used to sop up grease from the pan and can be easily disposed after only a few minutes of cooling. Avocados scrape out of their skin more easily and cleanly if you quickly slice the fruit into small squares.

  8. if you added a bit of lemon juice to the guac would it keep it from turning brown so fast? I know lemon juice is good for keeping things from oxidizing sometimes, like apples, but I know next to nothing about avocado because the taste of avocado makes me gag hardcore >_< (took forever for me to figure out that was the reason I couldn't eat sushi, I always thought it was the seaweed until I made sushi for some friends of mine for a con and ate a bit of the avocado… worst. idea. ever!)

  9. I don’t think the lemon trick works on guac. I usually cover mine with plastic wrap and smoosh all the air out. Even doing that, it only keeps for a day, two if I’m lucky.

  10. Any advice on alternative condiments for those of us who are deathly allergic to avocado? I love sour cream, but I want something non-dairy with a creamy texture for these.

  11. Removing the seed of the avocado is easy if you use your big knive: take the half with the pit in one hand and whack your blade into the unsuspecting pit. Then gently twist it out of the flesh and discard.

  12. Thanks for the tip on butter lettuce! We’re having chicken tacos (made in the slow cooker – so easy) tonight and I was debating on if I wanted to splurge on the shells or keep it primal.

  13. I make tacos all the time, but I am going to have to try this recipe because it sounds better than mine!

    I want to comment on something you said: “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.” I am SO glad you added the part about if it is detrimentally costly, do the best you can. I eat nutrient dense foods (not completely paleo, although I don’t eat a lot of grains, but we cannot afford organic, grass fed beef, nor can we afford organic fruits and veggies. I have never been one to let “rules” dictate what I do so when I started eating more healthy foods I bought what I could afford and although it is not ideal, it is better than the other stuff I used to eat (cookies, cake, fried foods, fast food, etc.). Some people though, aren’t as rebellious in nature as I am and would look at the “rules” and say, “Well, I can’t do that so I might as well not try.” Thank you for adding that bit of info so that those who want to do better but can’t follow the “rules” 100% aren’t dissuaded.

  14. Looks delicious! I’d love to see a good vegetarian version as well, though. :9 Noel, do you make veggie-friendly dishes as well?

  15. Oh wow! I had no idea some avocados were green when they are ripe. I’ve never seen any like that. Awesome! Thanks for letting me know.

  16. Totally, Aquilah! With some spice/sauce modifications, these would make awesome Asian lettuce wraps! Maybe I’ll do that next time. 🙂

  17. ShanChan, I’ve always wanted to make paleo “tortillas”, but I’m usually either too lazy or too hungry/impatient to make them. I’ll definitely have to have to try it sometime.

    And yes, I’m totally obsessed with korean-themed tacos. Ever since I had them out of a food truck last summer. AMAZING!

  18. Awesome suggestion. I’ve never been able to save my guac. Maybe I’m just not pushing all the air out of the top. 🙁

  19. I totally do this too if I don’t feel like getting salsa down to my elbows. Great suggestion!

    Sometimes I mix the taco meat with eggs and pour salsa over it in the morning too. Tacos for every meal!

  20. Oy vey. You and me both Spiderkc. I don’t tolerate dairy AT ALL though, so cheesy pizza is a lost cause for me, I think. So sad.

  21. Exactly, Rebecca. But whenever people do this in front of me, I am terrified that they are going to miss the seed and chop off their fingers (though I’ve never actually seen it happen). Maybe I’ve just cut myself with big knives too many times in my cooking career…

  22. Oh man. Slow cooker chicken tacos sound great! Butter lettuce is definitely my favorite paleo option.

  23. Exactly why it’s always important to read the ingredients! I usually buy seasoning that comes in a shaker (like Italian seasoning) that is clean.

  24. It’s important to do the best you can. I am usually only feeding myself, so I’m lucky to be able to afford the good stuff, but I understand that many people reading this are feeding a family and have other major financial responsibilities. (Seriously, I have no idea how my parents were able to afford raising 3 children. It’s so expensive!)

    I applaud you for getting healthy in your own way Teri!

  25. Try hummus! You could even get fancy and make your own hummus with ingredients inspired by whatever type of meal your making. Want a Tex-Mex flavored hummus? Whip up some roasted garlic hummus, and add a pinch of cumin, chili powder, and cayenne – yum!

  26. I can make veggie-friendly dishes, though I have some serious blood sugar issues, so, personally, I honestly need the protein and fat that animals provide. I’ll definitely try to get a vegetarian recipe up here in the coming months.

    I was a veg all through college, but then I realized that I couldn’t fix my health issues with just plant-based sources. Everyone is different, though. If your body can thrive on plant based foods, I’m jealous! I had to learn to like meat again, get over my fear of food borne illness and make compromises with the way meat is produced (I buy from local sources where I know the animals are treated humanely. The meat sourced from places like this is cleaner, more nutrient dense, and tastes better.) Sorry. Meat rant. Done now.

    Anyway, when I used to make veggie tacos, I’d saute mushrooms, onion, zucchini, and yellow squash with taco seasoning and shell them up with too much salsa. I think sweet potato home fries and sauteed bell peppers would be great in there too!

    Are you paleo and a vegetarian? I’m curious. It sounds like quite a challenge to be both. Do you eat eggs? Fish? Tell me more. I love to hear about the way people eat.

  27. I honestly am not sure. I have heard of people making a nut-based cream (ie. cashew or almond) as a creamy topping for dishes. Are you allergic to nuts? I’ll do some research for ya. Anyone else have suggestions?

  28. I am not allergic to nuts, thank goodness. Just avocado. Makes living in So Cal and being from a very large Mexican family very… ‘interesting’.

  29. A co-worker of mine made a huge batch of guacamole for a party we were having. He made it several hours before the party and it was fine. He added a splash of milk to it. He said he learned this trick when he was traveling abroad.

  30. I’ve made the tortillas from Against All Grains several times and use them for tacos, hamburgers, peanut butter and jelly, etc. I find that if I make them ahead of time (the day before) they work best. I make a batch of them and put a paper towel between each one. I store them in a zip bag in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

  31. This might not suit anyone else but I like my guac lime-heavy so I actually put a layer of lime juice over the top before the plastic wrap and refrigeration. Might help? Great tips on getting the most juice out of limes, btw!

  32. I’ve done this too, but the meat tends to get cold and greasy faster in my experience. It’s alright for small portions.

  33. I’m not lactose intolerant but I just don’t like cheese. Unfortunately, cheese is used as a binder in SO many substitute items.

  34. Great advice, Teri, thank you! 🙂 I love that they’ll keep that long in the fridge! That makes it WAY more appealing when I can make it ahead. It’s doubly perfect since I also like/miss breakfast burritos.

  35. Hi a great trick to keep the guacamole from turning brown is to leave the avocado pit in the bowl with the guacamole , works every time cheers Lil

  36. Nooo, don’t throw out any guacamole! You can put leftover guac in a container, spread the top nice and flat, and put a tiny layer of water on it (and then seal it!). The water layer will help keep it from getting brown, and you can just stir the water in when you go to eat it again.

    And even if it turns a little brown…it’s still perfectly fine to eat. 🙂 It’s just reacting to the air, doesn’t mean it’s going bad or anything. Just stir it all up and you won’t even notice!

  37. No, I totally get the meat rant! 🙂 I’ve been paleo for a couple years, and have just been transitioning to a vegetarian diet lately, to see if my body *can* thrive on it or not. So far, it’s been going well! Since I’m so used to paleo though, I actually am some weird hybrid Primal-vegetarian; I eat eggs and some fermented dairy, along with select grains/legumes on occasion (like white rice, chickpeas and buckwheat). It’s definitely a bit of a challenge!

    I may consider adding in additional legumes at some point (like lentils), but we’ll see. Those tacos ideas sound great! I like the mushroom idea. Those might go really well with grilled poblano peppers and goat cheese too; now you’ve got me all inspired!

  38. Oh my. That does sound “interesting”. I had an idea for you. I have yet to try this, so don’t quote me on it, but I’ll try it myself next time I make tacos and see if its palatable. Take the cream from the top of a can of coconut milk (put it in the fridge over night so it separates and solidifies first.) Peel and dice a cucumber super finely, add that to your coconut cream with the juice from one lime and salt to taste. Mix it together or blend it up in a blender or food processor. See if that works for you.

    This is a modified version of the way I make dairy free tzatziki sauce (greek yogurt dill sauce).

  39. Oh, wow. That sounds fantastic. Please let me know how it tastes for you, and I’ll do the same. 😀

  40. Oh man. Grilled poblanos and goat cheese sounds awesome. Looks like you’ve got a pretty good handle on flavor combinations.

    I think eggs (and dairy if you can handle it) are super important if you’re going for a primal-vegetarian method. Get a lot of dark leafy greens too! They have a surprising amount of protein. Hemp protein is also awesome if you can stand the fact that it doesn’t dissolve in anything ever. (It took me a while.)

    Have you read this? (you probably have) http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-paleo-diet/

    It’s a super helpful resource for people who are trying both the paleo and veg thing.

    Truthfully, I eat a lot of the same veggies in dishes. Roasted broccoli and cauliflower are two of my favorites (roasting veggies ahead of time is super easy since I pack all my lunches). I also eat a lot of sauteed kale and spinach. Tomatoes are a necessity in my life also. Roasted eggplant and tomatoes with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and feta cheese (since you tolerate dairy) is magic. I used to eat a lot of the combination I suggested for the tacos (zucchini, summer squash, and mushrooms), but i got sort of burnt out on that. What are some of your favorites?

    If you have any questions or need any help, you can always shoot me an email: noel [at] nerdfitness.com

    I’ll be interested to see how your primal-veg hybrid lifestyle shakes out! What made you want to go veg in the first place?

  41. I love making taco salad, which is just the taco meat and seasonings, onion, guacamole (a MUST), cheese etc… on a bed of lettuce and spinach. But having grown up on tacos in corn tortilla’s I’ve missed the crunch and flavor the corn tortillas added, until I found Nut Thins a totally paleo friendly cracker. Crush a few of these nut based crackers on top of the salad, and you have the best salad ever.

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