Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Chopped Taco Salad with Cilantro Lime Crema Dressing for Cinco de Mayo

Chopped Taco Salad with Cilantro Lime Crema Dressing for Cinco de Mayo (all photos from Deborah Brooks)

Cinco De Mayo has evolved into a holiday for all Angelenos to celebrate Mexican culture and heritage. As we should! Good food and craft tequila cocktails make for a festive time in our melting pot city that is home to the largest population of people of Mexican origin in the United States.

The divine flavors of Mexico are as varied as its people and its terrain. Now bring these flavors to the United States and a fabulous fusion cuisine is born. If only people could get along as well as food.

This Cali-Mex chopped taco salad is one of those fusion recipes. A colorful blend of beans, tortilla chips, chopped veggies and vegan cheese slathered in a bright, herbaceous Mexican Crema style dressing, it serves as a fitting tribute to the marriage of two cultures. It’s crispy, creamy, crunchy and muy delicioso!

A few notes about this recipe:

  • Plan ahead. The vegan crema is made from unroasted cashew nuts, which need to soak overnight for smoothest results. Best to start soaking the cashews two days ahead as the finished dressing is best made a day ahead for flavors to develop. While I prefer the taste of homemade cashew cream, you can substitute plant-based heavy cream, available in the refrigerator section at Whole Foods, for the cashew cream.
  • There are no rules about which vegetables you chop up for this salad. Choose your favorites.
  • I used a plant-based shredded Mexican cheese blend from Daiya. Use whatever shredded plant based cheese you can find. While the Mexican blend has more depth of flavor, cheddar works great as well, and is sometimes more readily available.
  • Serve hot sauce on the side. I find this works best as everyone has a different taste for heat. You can also add it to the dressing. I prefer Cholula for this recipe, for its subtle heat and authentic Mexican taste.
  • Wait to toss the salad at the table so the chips don’t get soggy. You can also serve it with the dressing on the side.
  • I’m addicted to Chicas Chips, a local LA brand.
  • If you’re a cilantro hater, swap out for a fresh herb that you like.
  • You don’t need to wait for Cinco de Mayo to enjoy this salad!

Chopped Taco Salad with Cilantro Lime Crema Dressing for Cinco de Mayo
Serves 4-6: Amounts are an estimate as appetites differ

6-8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 15 oz can black beans rinsed and drained well
1 15 oz can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained well
1 15 can yellow corn, drained well
2/3 pint grape tomatoes cut in half
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced or chopped
2 large firm ripe avocados cut in chunks
1 1/2 cups shredded vegan Mexican blend cheese
1 cup broken yellow corn tortilla chips
1 cup broken blue corn tortilla chips
Cilantro Lime Cashew Crema Dressing (recipe below)

Condiments to serve on the side:
Fresh cilantro leaves
Extra dressing
Lime wedges
Cholula Hot Sauce or hot sauce of choice
Extra broken tortilla chips

On a very large platter create a bed of lettuce with all of the greens. Starting in the center, line up the tomatoes and then line up the other salad ingredients in alternating colors. Play and have fun. Toss with dressing to taste at the table or serve it on the side. Alternatively you can put all of the salad ingredients in a very large and deep salad bowl and toss up. Then add dressing and toss at the table. Serve the condiments on the side for guests to add to their individual salads. Enjoy!

Ingredients for the Cilantro Lime Cream dressing.

Cilantro Lime Cashew Crema Dressing
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Juice of 2 limes
2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
3/4 cup packed cilantro leaves
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup cashew cream (recipe follows)
1 cup plant-based sour cream

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the lime juice, garlic, cilantro leaves and salt until broken down. Scrape down sides. Add the cashew cream and sour cream and process until well incorporated and cilantro is in small bits. Make sure to scrape down bowl as you’re processing. Taste for seasoning and flavor. Add any additional salt, cilantro, garlic and/or lime juice to taste. Best made a day ahead and flavors allowed to develop. Must be refrigerated.

Cashew Cream
Makes 1 1/4 cups

1 cup unroasted cashews
Filtered water

Put the cashews in a large jar and cover with filtered water. Cover the jar and place in fridge overnight to soften. Do not allow them to soak more than 24 hours. Drain the cashews and rinse very well. Add the drained cashews to a high-speed blender with 3/4 cup filtered water. Blend until very smooth with no grittiness from the nuts – about 2 minutes, depending on the strength of your blender. Must be kept refrigerated. It will thicken a bit in the fridge.

Chicas Chips are a locally made brand.
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Deborah Brooks
Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.

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