Call these kinds of dishes what you will — Tex-Mex, Southwestern, Mexican. I call them easy, flexible, and crowd-pleasing, even if they’r not 100% authentic. This collection of vegan Tex-Mex recipes might just become your family’s favorites.
Many of these are nearly-instant tortilla-centric meals that need only one central, uncomplicated preparation. For example, with fajitas, quesadillas, or tacos, you need only focus on a filling (which can often be made ahead of time), and most of the embellishments go on the table, allowing everyone to assemble their individual tastes.
In many of these dishes, the protein, veggies, and even salad-y elements mingle companionably and are almost the entire meal in themselves, so completing the menu simply is the way to go. Accompaniments that go well with tortilla dishes include leafy greens, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, bell peppers, chili peppers, and tomatoes.
When I'm asked how people can ease into a more plant-based life, I suggest making vegan versions of dishes and meals you and your family already like. These easy and delicious sizzling tofu or tempeh fajitas are a case in point. Fajita dinners are so much fun that those you’ve made dinner for will hardly notice that for the most part, they’re actually making their own meal, right at the table.
We can think of quesadillas as a Mexican/Southwestern grilled cheese sandwich. In our case, of course, that would mean vegan cheese. Made with flour tortillas, they’re less bread-y than their sandwich counterparts. And you can slip all manner of veggies into them. Quesadillas can be the centerpiece of a meal if they’re loaded up, or more lightly filled, they go well with soups and salads.
These fully loaded vegan nachos can serve three purposes: they make a great appetizer for a small crowd a game day snack for sports watchers; and they can even function as an emergency dinner. Piled with corn, beans, vegan cheese, and veggies, these tasty nachos that can be made with pantry and refrigerator staples in a matter of minutes, nachos are fun fare no matter what.
Two high-protein foods team up to make a tasty walnut and tempeh taco filling. A cousin to vegan burger crumbles, this recipe goes a long way, so you may be lucky enough to wind up with leftovers. Use them to boost protein and add texture to bean dishes and stews. Or, you can freeze half of the yield for a future taco dinner.
I’ve been making a version of this vegan enchilada casserole for ages. Filled with Southwestern flavors, and making a generous amount, it’s my favorite in-a-hurry casserole. It involves throwing together a lot of convenient ingredients like canned beans, tomato sauce, and frozen corn, Yet it’s unbelievably good when you need an inexpensive, tasty dinner that everyone devours.
Tostadas are crisp tortillas layered with a variety of toppings — the standards include beans, lettuce, and salsa.
Everyone can construct their own tostadas, making it easy on the cook. Case in point, these easy vegan black bean tostadas. Tostadas make a quick weeknight meal for the family or fun fare to serve to company.
The tasty, high-protein filling in these super-crazy-easy lentil tacos consists of just two ingredients — canned lentils and bold-flavored chipotle salsa. Then, all you need are a few traditional toppings, and you’ve got a fun meal in minutes. If you’d like, you can serve with store-bought or homemade guacamole and some extra salsa or picante sauce.
There are many ways to make this classic southwestern soup. One constant is the addition of corn tortillas, cut into strips and cooked on the stovetop or baked until crisp. The finished soup is either ladled over or garnished with them, which is what gives it a major yum factor. This vegan tortilla soup (many traditional versions aren’t, alas!) can be enjoyed most any time of year.
Choosing good tortillas
Not surprisingly, a key to making successful tortilla recipes is to use good-quality tortillas, whether corn or wheat. As good as some of the products are in the Mexican foods section of supermarkets, I’m sorry to say that the flimsy corn tortillas and white wheat tortillas found there don’t do it for me. The corn tortillas especially are tasteless and dry, and often splinter and fall apart under least amount of heat or manipulation.
Eons ago, after falling in love with Southwestern cuisine on a trip to New Mexico, I was disappointed to return to the northeast and find no resources for good tortillas. Fortunately, that’s changed, as whole-grain and even organic tortillas are readily available in natural food stores.
Wheat tortillas, too, are open to more interpretation and include multi-grain, sprouted, and even tomato- and spinach-flavored varieties. Finding gluten-free corn tortillas isn’t be too difficult, but be aware that not all corn tortillas are necessarily be gluten-free; some varieties are mixed with a little whole wheat.
My favorite brands for tortillas include Vermont Tortilla Company, Sonoma, and Maria and Ricardo’s. Some good brands are available only regionally, so keep exploring, because good tortillas are, obviously, essential to making great tortilla dishes!