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

Grilled Eggplant Street Tacos for Cinco de Mayo

Grilled Eggplant Street Tacos for Cinco de Mayo (all photos from Deborah Brooks)

Cinco de Mayo is a muy delisioso celebration of food diversity for us here in SoCal. The flavors and seasonings of Mexico melded with the foods of the Southwest create an entirely new cuisine that’s bursting with flavor in every bite, wether you go out to a taco bar or prepare a special meal at home.

For those of you staying put on Sunday night to avoid the craziness of restaurants, these Grilled Eggplant Street Tacos will have you feeling included in the celebration. Layers of textures and flavors will ignite your taste buds, from the piquant Tajin laced char of the eggplant to the cool creaminess of the guac to the citrus crunch of the cabbage slaw all rolled up in a bright tomato salsa slathered flour tortilla.

I love using eggplant as a meat replacement as it’s rich and satisfying. Even diehard carnivores will enjoy. I serve the tacos with a simple side of canned black beans cooked with sautéed onions and garlic for a protein boost. Add rice if you so choose.

While there are several elements to these street tacos, each element is simple to prepare. Some are store bought in jars, like the pepita salsa from Trader Joe’s.

Add in a cerveza or a salt rimmed margarita on the rocks and you’ll be dancing in the streets all night!

Chef’s Tips:

  • Make the marinade for the eggplant and the cabbage slaw first. Let them sit and develop flavors while prepping everything else.
  • Tajin is a bright citrus seasoning from Mexico that adds zing to the marinade. Available at local markets.
  • I used Mexican oregano to keep it more authentic. The flavor is more bright and grassy with a note of citrus compared to Greek oregano. Feel free to swap out for Greek if that’s what you have. I do a lot of cooking so have quite the spice drawer! Available at Ralph’s.
  • Pick eggplant that are firm and shiny for the sweetest flavor. No need to salt. Eggplant are now grown to be less bitter. Keep the skin on for grilling or you’ll have a mess.
  • Grill according to your bar-b-cue’s directions for veggies. I heat my Gas Weber grill on a medium setting and then lower to medium low, once I add the eggplant to prevent scorching.
  • For the slaw, I cut the cabbage in long shreds with a sharp knife. Same with the onions. I rough chop the cilantro leaves. The slaw is very textural and is a nice contrast to the creaminess of the other layers.
  • I love Trader Joe’s Petipa Salsa for these tacos. It’s chunky yet creamy with a mild kick. I put the salsa on the tortilla first, like a pizza, so that the dough will absorb some of the flavor. I then layer the eggplant, guac, cabbage slaw and finish with a few mild pickled jalapeños. Feel free to swap out spicy salsa and hot pickled jalapeños for you heat lovers.
  • The tortillas can be heated for about 20 seconds in the microwave in a damp paper towel for a soft bite or thrown on the grill for a crisp exterior. Personal choice.

Grilled Eggplant Street Tacos for Cinco de Mayo

Grilled Eggplant:

3 medium eggplants or 2 medium/large eggplants
2/3 cup mild extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs fresh squeezed lime juice
2-3 tsp Tajin
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Start your grill and give it at least 20 minutes to heat up. See chef’s tips.

Wash and dry the eggplant. Set aside. Make the marinade by whisking together the rest of the ingredients in a small bowl. Let it stand at least 10 minutes to develop flavors. Taste and adjust to your liking. It should seem a bit saltier than a traditional dressing. Eggplant needs the additional salt for flavor.

Remove the stem and bottom ends of the eggplant. Slice the eggplant 1/4 inch thick. Lay them on sheet pans. Generously brush the face up sides of the eggplant with the marinade. Do not turn over yet. Let them sit 5 minutes to absorb some marinade.

Veggies for Street Tacos

Take the eggplant to the grill and lay them marinade side down. Now brush the bare face up sides with marinade. Close the grill and cook until good char marks appear. Flip and add the rest of the marinade to the cooked side up. Close the grill and finish cooking until you get char marks and the eggplant has softened. Be careful not to overcook or the eggplant will fall apart on the grill. It will keep cooking after being taken off of the grill.

Use immediately or let it get to room temperature if you’re busy with other things. Both ways delish.

EZ Guac:

1 very large avocado
1-2 T fresh lime or lemon juice
1 T finely diced yellow or white onion
Good pinch of kosher salt or to taste

Rough mash the avocado with the other ingredients. Taste for seasoning and flavor. Adjust to your liking. Refrigerate covered if not using immediately but best within a few hours.

Quick Cabbage Slaw:

3 cups thinly shaved green cabbage strips
3 T thinly shaved yellow or white onion strips
Big handful of cilantro, stems removed, rough chopped
Juice of a large lime
1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste

Toss all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and stir up to combine. Let sit at least 10 minutes and then taste for seasoning and adjust to your palate. It can sit out for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate for later use. I don’t suggest making too far in advance as you want it bright and crisp.

Putting the street tacos together:

Warm the tortillas to your liking. See chef’s tips.
Smear the tortillas with salsa
Lay one or 2 slices of eggplant, depending on size on the salsa
Top eggplant with a good dollop of guacamole.
Top that with a few spoons of cabbage slaw
Top with pickled jalapeños.
Serve extra salsa, guac, slaw, jalapeños and your favorite hot sauce on the side.
Serve with beans and/or rice on the side

Some of the pantry items for Grilled Eggplant Street Tacos
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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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