Direct from the kitchen of The Healthy Cook, Kate Sherwood, the staff of Nutrition Action brings you the tips and tricks from one of our favorite recipes. This post was written by Leah Ettman and photographed by Jen Urban.
Did someone say tacos? We put our spin on this classic crowd-pleaser for a crunchy, saucy, and satisfying healthy dinner.
Here at Nutrition Action Healthletter, the staff tests and tastes all the Healthy Cook recipes before they’re printed. We do this to ensure that each recipe is simple, easy to understand, and easy to make. Luckily, Healthy Cook Kate Sherwood is not only a great chef, but also a great teacher. So if our amateur cooks hit a snag when testing out a recipe, she’s there to talk us through. Kate has taught us all a thing or two about how to adjust our cooking techniques to make our meals even tastier.
However, Nutrition Action Healthletter only has so much space to share these tips with readers, so we’ve created this post to bring you not just the recipe, but behind-the-scenes tricks and techniques that will help take your cooking to the next level.
First up: Chipotle Tofu Lettuce Tacos.
Because who doesn’t love tacos? Traditional tacos are a quick and simple meal that’s perfect for any occasion. Unlike your typical taco, our version swaps the meat for tofu and the tortillas for lettuce. Add some red cabbage, avocado, cilantro, and a couple of our favorite sauces, and you’ve got yourself a healthy meal that’s sure to please everyone.
We know what you’re probably thinking—tofu and tacos? Trust us. Tofu is the perfect blank canvas. It’s incredibly mild on its own, and soaks up any seasoning you add to it, meaning your tofu will shine with whatever flavors you pair it with.
Bonus: Tofu is made from soybeans, so it’s not only low in saturated fat, it’s also a source of the unsaturated fat that helps lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. And it’s plant protein, so it goes easier on the planet (and animals) than meat.
Worried about soy?
The research shows that soy foods don’t seem to increase (or decrease) the risk of breast cancer. Nor is soy a threat to thyroid glands, masculinity, fertility, memory, or anything else. Don’t want soy? Swap in a drained and rinsed can of black beans—make the sauce, then just warm the beans in it.
Tofu first-timer? Here are some pro tricks.
- Tip #1: In order to get your tofu nice and crispy, blot it with a towel after chopping. Contrary to what many people think, you don’t need to press tofu for very long. Just blot well with a clean kitchen towel, and that should do it. Bonus: Blotting after chopping absorbs more liquid than blotting before.
- Tip #2: Don’t fret about the cook time. Tofu is one of the only proteins that is hard to overcook. It doesn’t tighten up and dry out like an overcooked chicken breast does.
- Tip #3: Pan-fry the tofu without sauce first to get it golden brown and crispy. Then add the sauce at the end.
Swap in paprika if you don’t like spice.
Our taco sauce contains just a few ingredients but packs a big flavor punch. Chipotle chili powder is smoky and spicy and the orange juice adds a touch of sweetness to balance out the heat. For the smoke without the heat, just swap the chili powder for smoked paprika.
Note: Be sure you buy chipotle chili powder. The only ingredient should be chipotle peppers (smoke-dried jalapeños). Regular chili powder contains a mix of spices like cumin.
How to get the perfectly pitted avocado every time
Try this trick: Hold the halved avocado gently in your non-dominant hand, and with the heel of a chef’s knife, gently tap the pit until the knife gets stuck in the pit, then rotate the knife ¼ turn. The pit should release easily from the green flesh. Voilà!
The final step: Assembling, saucing, and eating.
Now comes the fun part—assembling your tacos. We used butter lettuce as our taco shell, but feel free to use romaine or green leaf lettuce. Shredded red cabbage, avocado, cilantro, pico de gallo, and cilantro sour cream sauce come together to make these tacos a whirlwind of flavor and texture.
Bonus: each taco is only 110 calories with sauce, so you can chow down on two or three. Taco ‘bout delicious.
Chipotle Tofu Lettuce Tacos
Chipotle chili powder is smoky and spicy. For the smoke without the heat, use smoked paprika instead.
Time: 20 minutes
1 14 oz. package extra-firm tofu, drained
1 Tbs. + 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
½ cup orange juice
½ tsp. kosher salt
10 small-to-medium butter lettuce leaves
1 avocado, chopped
¼ cup cilantro leaves
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 lime, cut into wedges
1. Cut the tofu into ½-inch cubes and blot with a dish towel or paper towel.
2. In a large non-stick pan, heat 1 Tbs. of the oil over medium heat until shimmering hot. Sauté the tofu until lightly browned on several sides, 3-5 minutes. Remove to a plate.
3. Sauté the garlic in the remaining 1 Tbs. of oil for 30 seconds. Add the chili powder, orange juice, and salt. Simmer until reduced to a sticky sauce, 2-3 minutes.
4. Return the tofu to the pan and stir to coat with the sauce. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
5. Serve the tofu in the lettuce leaves with the avocado, cilantro, and cabbage. Serve with lime wedges. Top with Cilantro Sour Cream Sauce or Fresh Tomato Salsa.
Makes 10 tacos.
Cilantro Sour Cream Sauce
Makes 2/3 cup
½ cup low-fat sour cream
½ cup cilantro sprigs, chopped
1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Purée all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.
Fresh Tomato Salsa
Makes 1 2/3 cups
1 pint cherry tomatoes
¼ cup chopped white onion
¼ cup cilantro sprigs
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed (optional)
1 Tbs. lime juice
½ tsp. kosher salt
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until uniformly minced.
Per serving (1 taco with 1 tsp. cilantro sour cream and 1 tsp. fresh tomato salsa):
- Calories: 110
- Total fat: 7 g
- Sat fat: 1 g
- Carbs: 5 g
- Fiber: 1 g
- Total sugar: 2 g
- Added sugar: 1 g
- Protein: 5 g
- Sodium: 210 mg
Enjoy this recipe? Salad Days!—the latest cookbook from Nutrition Action’s Healthy Cook, Kate Sherwood—will help you expand your repertoire with imaginative combinations of greens, vegetables, herbs, whole grains, and proteins. You’ll find healthy variations on classics like Chicken Caesar and Cobb, as well as more adventurous combos like Black Beans & Red Rice with Smoked Paprika Dressing and Sesame Shrimp with Caramelized Shallot Citrus Dressing.