A crispy taco recipe with tempeh or minced meat, grated cheese and salsa

A crispy taco recipe with tempeh or minced meat, grated cheese and salsa

Crispy Tacos With Tempeh

Total time:30 minutes


Total time:30 minutes


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In 2015, the taco was a staple food for millions of people; a morning meal, easy lunch, Tuesday dinner and late night bite – got its own emoji. But that first design, with its yellow, crunchy-looking tortilla, layer of brown meat, grated orange cheese, and red-green pixelated garnish, was the subject of much contempt

“While Emojipedia describes the new character as ‘a Mexican food item,’ the taco portrayed by Apple is not Mexican at all,” Caitlin Dewey wrote in 2015 for The Post. “Crispy taco shell, strips of lettuce, shredded yellow cheese: this is the stuff of American fast food chains, not Mexican cuisine.”

Indeed, Los Angeles taco experts and fanatics were quick to dismiss the emoji, calling it inauthentic and a “gringo taco” invented by Big Fast Food. There was truth in that criticism: Taco Bell put his money and mouth behind the campaign to get a taco emoji so it’s no wonder most taco emoji on the different operating systems still looks like the chain’s signature taco.

A year later, Apple has redesigned its emoji with a soft tortilla and a pleasant melange of fillings. Many people say it is a more accurate representation of the Mexican dish. (The original image, with its crispy skin and orange cheese, generally remains on other operating systems.) But is Apple’s soft taco emoji more authentic?

The tacos I grew up eating were a multicultural mix: My Puerto Rican father would add sazón to the meat mixture and my Iranian mother would thin fries on top of the stewed filling. Herbs, shredded iceberg and orange colby were the main garnishes on tacos built into crispy shells, soft flour tortillas or even squares of lavash

In my twenties, I moved to Southern California, arguably the world’s largest taco capital outside of Mexico. There, among the many taco trucks and gas station stalls, are rich, tantalizing spits and white-hot griddles Mitla Cafe† Since 1937, the small restaurant has served a generous variety of home-cooked Mexican dishes, including chile rellenos, enchiladas, and tamales. Also on the menu? Tacos dorados, or what many north of the border call crispy tacos.

It’s not hard to say that Taco Bell wouldn’t exist as Mitla. hadn’t been there† It was at Mitla in San Bernardino, California, that Taco Bell founder Glen Bell first tasted a crispy, fried taco shell filled with meat, salsa, and shredded cheese. It sounds like a legend, but that’s only because it’s a true story that isn’t told often enough.

My point is: authenticity is a myth. So I’ll always have a soft spot for crunchy tacos of all kinds, whether it’s the puffy tacos popular in San Antonio or the Americanized high school-style hard shell tacos with orange cheese. Golden on the outside and filled to the top of their shell, these taco dorados are proof that Mexican culture is alive and well in the US. Like all different taco emoji, there is a taco for every taste.

This variation on the crunchy taco replaces the meat of crumbled and fried tempeh. It’s a fun party trick, and I think you should try it for dinner tonight.

Crispy Tacos With Tempeh

  • No tempeh? >> See NOTES below.
  • Can’t have corn? >> Use soft flour tortillas or lettuce wraps instead.
  • Avoid onion? >> Skip it.

NOTES: Instead of tempeh, use a 14 ounce block of extra firm tofu, pressed and crumbled, or a pound of lean ground meat. If using ground beef, lamb, or turkey, omit the oil, as the meat has enough fat to cook the other ingredients.

To make your own taco seasoning, for 1 tablespoon: Combine 3/4 teaspoon fine salt, 1/2 teaspoon onion or garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon paprika (any variety), 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper flakes.

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  • 3 tablespoons vegetable or another neutral oil
  • 8 ounces tempeh, grated or crumbled (see NOTES)
  • 1 small onion (about 5 ounces), preferably yellow, finely chopped or coarsely grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning, plus more to taste (see NOTES)
  • 4 to 6 hard corn taco shells or other tortillas, warmed if desired
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheese, preferably colby or a meltable blend, plus more to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce, preferably iceberg
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • sour cream, for serving (optional)
  • Salsa, for serving (optional)
  • Hot sauce, for serving (optional)

Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the tempeh and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste, let it toast lightly and begin to brown and coat the tempeh for about 2 minutes. Stir in the water and taco seasoning. Taste, season and add more water if desired. Remove from fire.

To make the tacos, spoon about 1/2 cup of the tempeh crumbs into each taco shell or tortilla. Divide cheese, if using, and lettuce and tomatoes over each taco shell. Top with the sour cream, salsa, and hot sauce, if desired, and serve.

Per serving (2 to 3 tacos), based on 2

Calories: 811; Total fat: 59 g; Saturated fat: 16 g; Cholesterol: 54 mg; Sodium: 679mg; Carbohydrates: 39g; Dietary fiber: 5 g; sugar: 6 g; Protein: 39 g.

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietician or nutritionist.

From staff writer G. Daniela Galarza.

Tested by Kara Elder; e-mail questions to [email protected]

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Wednesday: Salad of Farro, Tuna and Chickpeas In Lemon

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