Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tacos - beef, chicken or vegetarian/vegan (in 30 minutes!)

Beef tacos
We just got home from a week in Orlando with friends and family.  As you can imagine, it was a fairly hectic, rushed (incredibly fun) week.

We have a timeshare there so we always make sure that we have a place with a kitchen.  It's important to us to still have a couple of meals together at "home" when we are vacationing for many reasons, not the least of which is that it's a lot less expensive (and tastes better) if we do.

It is also important when we choose these meals that they be relatively quick and easy to prepare simply because you are working with less than ideal pans/knives/etc.

I'm explaining all of this just to say that this recipe is easy.  It fits our criteria for a vacation meal that we are preparing: everyone likes it, it's inexpensive and simple to prepare but tastes great.

I actually made both chicken and beef tacos while we were in Florida this week but when I'm at home I frequently also make vegetarian/vegan tacos as well for my wife. I'm going to include recipes for all three here but much of the recipe will be the same whichever one(s) you decide to make.

The other adults that were there with us this week liked them so much they asked me for the recipe so I think I can safely say it was a hit!


  • 1 pkg taco seasoning
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 bottle salsa (whatever type you like - I generally get whatever's on sale and mild, but any kind will work)
  • chili powder (to taste - optional)
  • garlic powder (to taste - optional)
  • cumin (to taste - optional)
  • salt (to taste - optional)
  • pepper (to taste - optional)
  • Taco shells (you can use hard or soft - we always do both because different folks in the house have different preferences)

TOPPINGS   These are all optional.  This is the fun part, especially for the kids.  They get to build their own tacos, using whatever toppings you have (and whatever ones they like)
  • tomato (diced)
  • onion (chopped fine)
  • lettuce (shredded thin)
  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream
  • salsa
  • taco sauce
  • guacamole
  • avocado
  • refried beans

  • 1 1/2 pounds hamburger for beef tacos   OR
  • 1 whole chicken for chicken tacos, cut up (you can use all dark or all white instead if you prefer)  OR
  • 1-2 packages frozen Boca ground crumbles for vegetarian/vegan (Boca is the brand that I know is vegan, but use whatever brand you like).  I say 1-2 packages simply because it depends on how many people you are trying to feed



  1. Brown hamburger
  2. Just before the hamburger is done, add the onions and garlic and cook until they turn soft
  3. Drain the hamburger


The shredded chicken
  1. Add enough water to a large pan to just cover the chicken by at least half an inch
  2. Bring the water to a boil
  3. Turn down to a simmer and let cook for one hour
  4. Remove the chicken until cool
  5. Once cooled, remove the the chicken from the bones, being careful to get ALL of the small bones out
  6. Shred the meat  (if you want great chicken stock, put the bones back in the water you just used, and cook, covered, for another couple of hours.  You can add any herbs/seasonings you like to it - I generally use bay leaf and garlic powder.  At this point, if you wanted a heartier stock, you could also add some carrots and celery to it.  After it's cooked for a couple of hours, strain it, and you have some awesome stock!)  You can cook the chicken a day or two before you actually make the tacos - that's what I did to save some time.  If you do this, just keep it in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it.
  7. Add a small amount of olive oil to a skillet and cook the onions and garlic until just getting soft, then add the shredded meat
  8. The chicken has obviously been cooked at this point, so just heat it until it's hot.  If it starts to dry out, add some of the stock


The Boca crumbles before adding other ingredients
  1. Add a small amount of olive oil to a skillet
  2. Add the onions and garlic and cook until just getting soft
  3. Add the crumbles to the pan with the onion and garlic (the crumbles can be frozen or thawed - it will simply take a little longer if they are frozen)
  4. Heat until the crumbles are cooked through


  1. Add the salsa to the pan with your hamburger, chicken or crumbles and stir well (if you want a "saucier" taco, add more salsa or taco sauce)
  2. Add the package of taco seasoning and stir in
  3. Add any additional seasonings you may want (chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt, pepper) to taste
  4. Let cook for ten to fifteen minutes to meld the flavors
  5. Follow the directions on the package to heat up your shells/tortillas
  6. Dig in!
That's all there is to it - it may look like a lot but it really isn't.  It typically takes around a half hour to cook (with the exception of cooking the chicken - that I always do a day or two before so that the day I make them it DOES only take a half hour).

These are also very versatile.  If you want nachos, throw some chips on a plate, top with some of the beef/chicken/crumbles and some cheese and throw it in the oven for a few minutes.

Likewise if you want quesadillas, use your beef/chicken/crumbles plus some cheese. For burritos, put some of it on a tortilla along with some cheese, roll it up and put it in the oven. I use this same basic recipe when I do enchiladas as well.

Timesaving tip:  You can double (or triple) this recipe and freeze whatever you have left so all you have to do is throw it in the microwave and have a five minute meal!

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