Cheese is a popular taco filling, but it’s not the only option. Here are some quick answers for non-dairy or cheese-free taco fillings:
– Refried beans or whole beans like black or pinto
– Lettuce or cabbage
– Diced tomatoes
– Avocado slices
– Sauteed mushrooms or peppers
– Sauteed onion or fajita veggies
– Sauteed spinach
– Fried tofu or tempeh
– Roasted cauliflower or broccoli
– Mashed sweet potato
– Egg scrambles
– Grilled chicken, steak, pork, shrimp etc.
– Grilled fish like tilapia, salmon or cod
– Ground turkey or crumbles
– Shredded pork like carnitas
– Chorizo or soyrizo
– Queso fresco or cotija cheese (if dairy is okay)
The key is to use flavorful, protein-rich fillings to replace the cheese. Get creative with sauces and toppings too.
Why Consider Cheese-Free Tacos
There are a few reasons why you may want to skip the cheese when making tacos:
Dairy intolerances or allergies
Many people are intolerant or allergic to dairy products like cheese. This includes those with lactose intolerance, milk allergies, or whey allergies. Opting for cheese-free tacos is an easy way to accommodate dairy-free diets.
Preference for plant-based foods
Some people simply prefer to limit their intake of dairy products including cheese. This could be for health, environmental or ethical reasons. Cheese-free tacos allow you to enjoy the taco flavors while sticking to plant-based foods.
Reduce calories, fat or sodium
Cheese is high in calories, saturated fat and sodium. By skipping the cheese, you can reduce the calories, fat and sodium in each taco. This makes it a healthier option if you are watching your weight or blood pressure.
Avoid “taco taste fatigue”
If you eat tacos frequently, you may get bored of the typical cheese filling. Exploring cheese-free options keeps things interesting and prevents taco taste fatigue!
Best Proteins for Cheese-Free Tacos
When developing cheese-free taco recipes, focus on including a flavorful protein source. Here are some of the best proteins to use:
Beans make an excellent taco filling. Favorites include refried pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans or chickpeas. Beans provide fiber, protein and nutrients. Mash or puree them for a cheese-like texture.
Cooked lentils or lentil crumbles have a hearty, savory flavor. Red lentils blend into a smooth, spreadable paste. Green or brown lentils hold their shape nicely when cooked. Spice up lentils with taco seasoning.
Tofu takes on the flavors of sauces and seasonings easily. Fry up cubes of extra firm tofu until crisp. Or use smoked, baked or barbecued tofu for hearty texture. Marinate tofu in taco spices first for extra flavor.
Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans, creating a firm, nubby texture. It can be crumbled or diced and works well in tacos. Marinate it in Mexican spices, chili sauce or mole before cooking. Then saute, bake or pan fry until browned.
There are many excellent meat substitutes that are protein-packed and mimic ground beef or chorizo wonderfully. Try soyrizo, veggie ground crumbles or meatless taco “meat” in the taco filling.
Meaty mushrooms like portobello or brown mushrooms can fill in for ground beef after being diced and sauteed with taco seasoning. Or add mixed mushrooms like shiitake, cremini and oyster for variety of textures.
Young, green jackfruit has a stringy, shredded texture similar to pulled meat. It absorbs the flavor of sauces. Use jackfruit in curries, barbecue dishes, tacos and more. Rinse and cook it well before seasoning.
Sweet Potatoes or Potatoes
Potatoes add heartiness to tacos. Chop and cook them up with onions, garlic, spices and chili powder. Or mash roasted sweet potatoes seasoned with cumin, oregano, chili powder and smoked paprika for taco filling.
Cook up whole grains like barley, farro or quinoa in vegetable broth with onions, garlic and taco seasoning. The grains soak up the flavors wonderfully. Allow to cool before using as taco filling for texture.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds give tacos some crunch. Try toasted pepitas, slivered almonds, crushed peanuts, roasted cashews or pine nuts. Or use nut-based meat substitutes like almond chorizo for heartier fillings.
|Mash pinto, black or kidney beans with onions and taco seasoning
|Cook lentils until tender then season with cumin, chili powder, etc.
|Saute cubed tofu in oil and taco spices
|Saute crumbled tempeh with salsa or mole sauce
|Use seitan strips in place of meat strips
|Saute chopped mushrooms until browned
Cheese Replacements for Texture
While you can leave tacos cheese-free, sometimes a cheese-like texture is nice. Here are some substitutes to consider:
Opt for dairy-free cheese made from nuts, coconut oil, vegetables etc. Popular options are Daiya, Follow Your Heart, Miyoko’s, Violife, Field Roast Chao, etc. Pick a flavor like cheddar or nacho.
Queso Fresco or Cotija
These Latin American fresh cheeses have a crumbly texture. Queso fresco has a mild flavor while cotija is more salty. If dairy is okay, use these to top tacos.
Nut or Seed Parmesan
Grind nuts or seeds into a fine meal then mix with nutritional yeast and spices to make a Parmesan substitute. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, hemp seeds or sunflower seeds all work well.
Bean Flour Mixes
Make a mixture with chickpea flour, nutritional yeast and spices for a cheesy, clumpy texture. Add plant milk or oil to help it all stick together. Sprinkle on tacos.
Mashed or pureed avocado has a creamy, velvety texture like melted cheese. Add some lime juice and cumin or chili powder for flavor. Use it as taco filling.
Hummus made from chickpeas has a rich, smooth texture.Flavor it with cumin, paprika, oregano, garlic, onions, etc to give it a Mexican twist. Use in place of cheese.
|Choose brands like Daiya, Miyoko’s, Follow Your Heart
|Mild, crumbly fresh Mexican cheese if dairy is okay
|Finely ground nuts with nutritional yeast and spices
|Bean flour mixes
|Chickpea flour, nooch, spices make “cheese”
|Creamy, smooth avocado puree with spices
Maximum Flavor Boosters
It’s easy to make delicious cheese-free tacos with the right combination of spices, sauces, toppings and sides. These flavor boosters make tacos pop:
Load up the taco filling with bold Mexican spices. Options include cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, ancho chile powder, ground coriander, garlic powder, onion powder and oregano.
Take your pick of hot sauces, salsa, enchilada sauce, mole sauce or creamy cilantro dressing to drizzle over cheese-free tacos. This adds moisture and vibrant flavor.
Quick Pickled Veggies
Quick pickling onions, jalapenos, radishes or carrots in vinegar, salt and sugar punches up the flavor. Add their tangy crunch to tacos.
Top with chopped cilantro, parsley, mint, basil, epazote or chilipepe. Let these fresh, aromatic herbs shine without cheese competing.
Add texture with shredded lettuce or cabbage, diced onions or shallots, chopped tomato, sliced radishes, crispy fried onions, pepitas or crushed tortilla chips.
Accompany cheese-free tacos with flavor-packed sides like Spanish rice, charro beans, elotes, guacamole or roasted veggie sides for a filling meal.
|Cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder
|Salsa, enchilada sauce, hot sauce, cilantro dressing
|Onions, radishes, jalapenos, carrots
|Cilantro, mint, parsley, basil
|Lettuce, onions, radishes, tortilla chips
Creative Cheese Substitutes for Tacos
Don’t limit yourself to the basics like beans, salsa and guacamole. Get creative with unique cheese substitutes and flavor combinations in your tacos. Possibilities include:
Barbecue Jackfruit Tacos
Shredded, seasoned jackfruit makes a tangy, slightly sweet taco filling. Add barbecue sauce for color and sweetness. Top with pickled red onions, lettuce, tomato and almond parmesan.
Korean Bulgogi Mushroom Tacos
Saute a blend of mushrooms in a bulgogi marinade of soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. Fill tacos with the mushrooms plus kimchi, scallions, lime wedges, cilantro and gochujang mayo.
Thai Red Curry Tempeh Tacos
Marinate baked tempeh strips in Thai red curry paste and coconut milk. Saute tempeh until caramelized and glazed with the sauce. Fill tacos with the tempeh, basil, cabbage, bean sprouts and peanut sauce.
Carnitas Jackfruit Tacos
Saute seasoned, shredded jackfruit in olive oil until golden and crispy on the edges. Fill tacos with the jackfruit “carnitas”, pico de gallo, guacamole and pumpkin seed parmesan.
Potato and Poblano Tacos
Saute cubed potatoes and poblano peppers together until browned and tender. Add onions, garlic, cumin and chili powder. Top with avocado puree, queso fresco, lettuce and tomato.
|Pickled onions, lettuce, tomato, almond parmesan
|Kimchi, scallions, lime, cilantro, gochujang mayo
|Red curry tempeh
|Thai basil, bean sprouts, cabbage, peanut sauce
|Pico de gallo, guacamole, pumpkin seed parmesan
|Potatoes and poblanos
|Avocado, queso fresco, lettuce, tomato
Simple Steps for Cheese-Free Tacos
Follow these easy steps for building tasty cheese-free tacos at home:
1. Choose the base
Pick your taco style – hard corn or flour tortillas, lettuce wrap shells or bowls. Warm tortillas in a dry skillet or wrap in foil and heat in oven.
2. Prepare the filling
Saute, simmer, bake or roast your main taco filling ingredients like beans, tofu, tempeh, veggies, etc per recipe. Season well.
3. Cook any extras
Make salsas, guacamole, nut parmesan etc to go along with the main filling. Quick sautéed veggies like peppers and onions also work.
4. Finish with toppings
Set up topping bar with items like lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, quick pickled veggies, cilantro, lime wedges, hot sauce.
Pile filling into tortillas, lettuce wraps or bowls. Add desired toppings and enjoy!
|Choose taco base: tortillas, lettuce wraps, bowls
|Prepare main filling: beans, tofu, tempeh etc
|Make extras: salsas, guacamole, sautéed veggies
|Prepare toppings: lettuce, tomato, avocado etc
|Assemble tacos with filling and toppings
Tacos don’t need cheese to be flavorful and satisfying. With the right plant-based fillings, seasonings and toppings, cheese-free tacos can be just as crave-worthy. Beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, jackfruit and veggies all make excellent fillings. Load them up with bold Mexican spices, zesty salsas, bright herbs and crisp lettuce or cabbage for maximum flavor and texture without the dairy. With a little creativity and these simple tips, you can enjoy incredible tacos minus the cheese.