Tacos filling substitutes | Healthy, Vegan & Vegetarian

Tacos are the most popular Mexican dish inside and outside Mexico. It is a versatile, easy-to-make- dish pleasing everybody’s taste.

The simplest definition of taco is a wheat or corn tortilla folded and filled with countless mixtures and topped with tasteful sauces.

Different fillings, sauces, and presentations make tacos a popular dish.

You can put inside each tortilla any ingredient you like, topped with your preferred sauce, and use the tortilla cool, baked, or fried.

How are tacos made?

Tacos consist of three components: tortillas, fillings, and sauces.


Tortillas are the container of the preparation.

Corn tortillas are the ones used for making tacos in Mexico. Its consistency and flavor pair better with the tacos.

However, you can also use flour tortillas for the tacos. This type of tortilla is also known as wheat tortilla and is used outside Mexico.

Corn tortillas are prepared with different types of maize: Blue, white, and yellow.

  • Blue tortilla has an earthy flavor with a pale blue color.
  • White tortillas are the regular types with a thick and solid texture.
  • Yellow tortilla has a more intense maize flavor and bright yellow color.

There are also some substitutes for corn or flour tortillas. These options contain chickpeas, cashew flour, almond flour, and cassava.


Traditional tacos are filled with meat, vegetables, and sometimes cheese.

Meats can be chicken, beef, pork, or fish. Grains like beans and rice are typical fillings as well.


The final touch of any taco is the sauces. They vary in color and taste. Some of them are:

  • Pico de Gallo: A mixture of chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and jalapeno with a dressing of lime, oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Salsa verde (green sauce): It has tomatillos, garlic, cilantro, onions, and jalapeno.
  • Guacamole: It is made with mashed avocado, onion, tomatoes, chiles, and lime.
  • Salsa Roja: Sauce made of tomatoes, cilantro, onions, and serrano pepper.

Tacos variations

The different types of tacos are endless since you make any combination you please. Even some restaurants or street markets offer tacos and you decide what goes inside and out of tortillas.

However, there are classic Mexican tacos recipes that still are people’s favorites. Some of the traditional tacos are:

  • Tacos al pastor (Shepherd style): Tortillas filled with roasted pork, onion, pineapple, and cilantro and served with lime juice and tomatillo sauce.
  • Tacos dorados (Golden tacos): They are also known as flautas.  The name comes from the fact that the tortilla is stuffed and then rolled and fried. The filling can be shredded chicken, cheese, barbecue meat, ground meat, beans, and vegetables. Check the original recipe at mahatmarice.com/recipes/rice-and-beans-tacos-dorados/
  • Tacos de Cabeza (Head tacos): Tortillas are filled with different parts of the cow’s head. This filling is a mixture of steamed brains, cheeks, tongue, lips, and eyes. Other ingredients of the taco are onion, cilantro, green sauce, and lime.
  • Tacos de canasta (Basket tacos): They are tacos with stew fillings that are then bathed in butter. The stews are made of chicharron (fried pork belly), adobo (shredded beef brisket), frijoles, and potatoes.
    • Tacos de Lengua (Beef tongue tacos): The tongue is marinated with garlic and onion, then braised and cut. This preparation goes inside the tortilla with chopped onion, avocado, green sauce, and cilantro.
    • Tacos de Birria (Birria tacos): Birria is a spicy goat-based stew slowly cooked in broth. These tacos also contain guajillo peppers, chipotle peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and Mexican oregano.
    • Tacos de barbacoa (Barbecue tacos): They are made of lamb, goat, or beef cheek roasted until the meat is tender. Other ingredients are chipotle chili, garlic, cumin, cloves, oregano, bay leaves, and lime juice.
    • Tacos de Pescado (Fish tacos): They include fried or grilled white fish filet, cod, or salmon topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, sour cream, cotija cheese, and lime juice.

    Different substitutes for traditional tacos

    Even though tacos recipes are varied and people created their versions according to their taste, there are other options for people who follow some dietary regimes. You can find vegan, vegetarian, and healthy tacos versions.

    Vegan tacos

    A vegan regime involves eating only plant-based ingredients. Vegan tacos include the following ingredients:

    Vegan Tacos filling consists of tofu, vegetables, and more.
    Vegan Tacos
    • Crispy cauliflower tacos.
    • Quinoa tacos.
    • Black bean tacos.
    • Brussels Sprout’s tacos.
    • Crispy tofu tacos.
    • Smoky BBQ bean tacos.

    Vegetarian tacos

    The vegetarian diet is less restrictive than the vegan regime. Vegetarians eat plant-based ingredients and dairy products.

    Some vegetarian taco recipes are:

    • Cheesy roasted butternut squash tacos.
    • Vegetarian tacos with heavy cream.
    • Feta and chickpea tacos.
    • Roasted vegetable tacos with mozzarella.
    • Egg tacos.
    • Scrambled eggs with beans tacos.

    Healthy tacos

    Making a healthy taco does not mean you have to eliminate meat. Instead of taking out the meat in the fillings, prepare it with healthy cooking techniques like steaming, boiling, grilling, baking, or roasting. The ingredients you have to avoid are fats such as oils and butter.

    Healthier tacos comprise:

    • Grilled chicken and avocado tacos.
    • Roasted steak tacos.
    • Pan-grilled shrimp tacos.
    • Spicy salmon tacos.
    • Baked Mahi-Mahi tacos.

    What goes well with tacos?

    No matter what type of tacos you want to enjoy, they always go with some accompaniments. Traditional side dishes may include:

    Cilantro rice is a good choice while serving tacos.
    Cilantro Rice
    • Refried Beans.
    • Cilantro rice.
    • Mexican coleslaw.
    • Pico de gallo.
    • Mexican rice.
    • Corn salad.
    • Sweet potatoes.
    • Chips and homemade salsa.

    Generally, tacos are served with one or more of the above accompaniments and extra sauces, so you can add any of them if you want.

    FAQs on making Mexican tacos

    What type of rice is best for taco fillings?

    Taco fillings must include ingredients with a firm texture, so they can hold together without making a mess when you take a bite. The best rice for tacos fillings is long-grain rice. Its light texture and tenderness help the grains stay separate once cooked.

    How many tacos do you need per person?

    It depends on the person. In general, 2 or 3 tacos are enough. Tacos are a satisfying dish that usually includes various fillings.
    The fillings define if the tacos are lighter or copious. If you include a few components in the filling and topping, you can eat more than 3.

    What type of tortilla is used for vegan and vegetarian tacos?

    Tortillas in vegan or vegetarian tacos are the same as regular tacos. The difference between them is in the filling ingredients. Vegan and vegetarian fillings do not have any meat or dairy products.
    Taco shells are made of flour, corn, or whole wheat. Any of these ingredients are plant-based components allowed in vegan and vegetarian diets.
    For a healthier taco, you can use lettuce wraps instead of tortillas. Lettuce wrap has to be deep and hardy. The best types are Iceberg, Bibb, Boston, or Romain. You can also use butter lettuce but they are smaller.

    Can Tacos be stored?

    Yes, but all the components are in separate containers. Tortillas should store at room temperature without the filling ingredients in an airtight container.
    Fillings with meat and cheese last longer than vegetable fillings. This has to be stored in an airtight container.

    You can save any tacos with fillings that have been left over. You can store it in the refrigerator or freezer. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and in the freezer for 1 to 2 months.
    Tacos must be wrapped with aluminum foil and placed in an airtight container.

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