Photos by Emily Caruso
There are recipes where you look at them and think, “Oh, that looks good.” And there are recipes that make you feel excited. The recipes that fall into the latter category for me are ones that use ingredients in ways I hadn’t thought of before. Cookie Monster Cooking’s Crockpot Barley and Bean Tacos is one of those recipes. Because who would think to use barley as a taco filling?! But it makes so much sense—whole grains like barley, steel-cut oats, farro and wheat berries have a nice, chewy texture that makes them a great substitute for ground beef; because they’re whole grains, they have protein too.
Using Ashley’s idea as inspiration, I decided to try using farro as the “meat” for this vegan taco salad. My little shortcut taco filling is black beans simmered in salsa—because why bother with tomatoes and onions and garlic and jalapeños when a jar of salsa has all those things? So after cooking the farro, I added mild salsa and taco spices like chili powder and cumin. I went back and forth about the amounts of spices quite a bit (which means we ate a lot of taco salad for a few weeks—those were a glorious few weeks), but settled on the quantities below—before adding the farro to the salad, the taco “meat” tastes a little bit over-seasoned, but eaten as part of the salad, it’s perfect.
Like any salad recipe, this one is highly customizable—make it your own! I wanted this to be a meal salad, so I added fire-roasted corn, black beans and tortilla chips. If you don’t have time for soaking the cashews, a simple olive oil and lime juice dressing will work or use a store-bought ranch dressing if you’re not vegan. (But if you have the time, make the Creamy Lime Dressing—it’s so good!) You can serve this with the farro warm or cold and if you’re making it for lunches, it will last several days in the fridge.
The Ultimate Vegan Taco Salad
Farro replaces the ground beef in this vegan taco salad. Creamy Lime Dressing adapted from Hello Natural’s Vegan BLT Salad.
- Prep Time: 40 minutes
- Cook Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 4 big salads
For the Farro Taco Meat:
- 1 cup farro, cooked according to package instructions and drained (about 2 1/2 cups cooked)
- 1/2 cup mild salsa
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Salt to taste
For the Creamy Lime Dressing:
- 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 4-8 hours and rinsed
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt to taste
For the salad:
- 2 medium heads romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1 large tomato, diced or 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup frozen fire-roasted corn kernels, thawed (regular frozen corn is fine if you can’t find fire-roasted)
- 1 cup broken tortilla chips
- 1/2 cup sliced green onions
- Cilantro, lime wedges, salsa and/or guacamole for serving, if desired
To make the Farro Taco Meat:
- Combine the farro, salsa, chili powder, cumin, paprika and cayenne in a medium pan over medium heat. Cook about 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring often, then season to taste with salt. Set aside.
To make the Creamy Lime Dressing:
- Place ingredients in a mini-blender or food processor. Blend until completely smooth.
To assemble the salad:
- Divide the lettuce onto 4 plates, then top with the tomato, black beans, corn, farro, tortilla chips and green onions. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and add the optional garnishes if you’re using them.
Prep time includes time for cooking farro.