Sometimes it’s the middle of January, and you just need a little sunshine in your life. What better way to bring that sunshine in than through bright, Mexican-inspired flavors? Created from a caramelized onion base for depth of flavor, and packed with the nutrient powerhouses of kale and sweet potatoes, these vegan sweet potato and kale tacos are healthy and hearty and SEASONAL. Can it get better than that? Oh wait, it can. You can make a batch of the taco filling on the weekend and have tacos for the whole dang week because, like Jeff Goldblum, they only get better with time.
While recently chatting with a coworker about seasonal produce, she mentioned that it only made sense to eat seasonally because our bodies need the nutrients available during the different seasons. With this idea in mind, I set off to make these tacos with some seasonal produce (that I just happened to have kicking around my fridge).
Winter produce like kale and sweet potatoes are heartier and bulk up our energy and vitamin reserves. These tacos incorporate cilantro and lime, also winter plants, for added seasonal vitamins and great flavor. Avocados aren’t in season in the winter, but they’re just so dang tasty and were on sale, so I couldn’t resist. In lieu of avocados, you could make a cilantro lime crema to add those healthy fats and delicious creaminess.
- 2 aluminum cans from the beans (recyclable)
- 1 plastic film bag from tortillas
- 2 bunch ties from the kale and cilantro (reusable)
- 2 stickers from the onion and avocado
- Onion skins (save to make veggie stock)
- Garlic skin (save to make veggie stock)
- Kale stems (save make veggie stock)
- Avocado skins and pit (compostable)
- Lime peel (compostable)
When I made these tacos, I used canned beans, which are not a great zero-waste option. I don’t have time to soak and cook my beans (an InstantPot is on my wishlist for this particular reason though), so I opted for the convenience of the cans. However, this time tradeoff left me with two aluminum cans to recycle. Thankfully, the plants usually recycle aluminum, unlike most of our plastics. The bag from the tortillas, however, is plastic film, which rarely gets recycled. I haven’t tried my hand at making tortillas because, again, it’s a big time trade-off for me.
In time, I hope to make my own tortillas and cook my own beans, but for right now, in my current situation, a couple cans and a bag is what I can do. And that’s okay! I’m on my own journey, and I recognize my current limitations. Instead of getting caught up in the details of my waste, I’m going to chow down on these vegan sweet potato and kale tacos.
Vegan Sweet Potato and Kale Tacos
Makes 8-10 tacos. Serves 4.
- ½ sweet onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 15 oz black beans (if canned, rinse and drain)
- 15 oz pinto beans (if canned, rinse and drain)
- ½ cup hot salsa
- 1 medium sweet potato, microwaved for 2 minutes and cut into ¼” chunks (for a sweeter flavor, roast the sweet potato until only slightly firm. Leave the skin on for extra nutrients!)
- ⅓ bunch kale, ribboned
- ½ tablespoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon mild chili powder
- Hot pepper flakes, to taste
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- 1 lime, halved
- 1 avocado, halved and sliced
- ¼ bunch cilantro, chopped
- 8 flour tortillas (corn would be tasty too!)
- In a medium saucepan or skillet, saute ½ a sweet onion with 1 tsp. of EVOO over medium-low heat until caramelized.
- After onions are caramelized, add minced garlic and saute until lightly browned and fragrant
- Add black beans and pinto beans. Stir to incorporate beans with onions and garlic.
- Add ¼ to ½ cup of salsa and stir.
- Mix in cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Cook beans over medium heat for 15 min. Add small amounts of water to the pan if the beans look dry.
- Add cubed sweet potato and ribboned kale and mix.
- Cook until kale turns deep green (5-7 min). Add water if mixture looks dry. While the taco filling cooks, warm the tortillas.
- Taste and adjust seasonings. Add hot pepper flakes and squeeze juice of ½ lime into the pot and incorporate.
- Spoon taco filling onto tortillas and garnish with sliced avocado, chopped cilantro, and lime juice.
Enjoy your delicious and seasonal vegan sweet potato and kale tacos! If you make them, let me know how they turned out by leaving a comment below.