Sunflower Tacos in Collard Leaves
Let’s celebrate #TacoTuesday with a #MeatlessMonday theme on this #WellnessWednesday. Today I’m unveiling my first official entry for The Recipe ReDux, a monthly recipe contest founded by fellow dietitians. I’m stoked that the first contest is something already in steady dinnertime rotation: tacos!
Tacos are a staple in my house, mainly because they can be whipped up quickly on busy nights. Fish tacos make a weekly appearance. For me, there’s nothing better than stopping at the local fish market and picking up the fresh catch of the day to taco-fy. Throw on some veggies, beans, salsa, and whatever else is in the fridge, and dinner is served!
Although fish tacos would have been my normal go-to for this contest, I decided to challenge myself to recreate a dish from my favorite local vegan restaurant. Since Mr E won’t go with me for vegan food, I often treat myself when he’s out of town. And the best part is figuring out how to DIY the recipe (because freshly made local vegan food has quite the markup). When the spot first opened, they offered these amazing Sunflower Tacos. Although they have since changed over to a Sunflower Burrito format, my heart lies with the taco version. Since Sunflower Tacos are now obsolete at this establishment, I made my own.
The original version was spicy sunflower taco meat with cashew cheese wrapped in a collard leaf. Turns out sunflower taco meat is just soaked raw sunflower seeds blended together with spices – but it took some work to nail down the right spice blend combo. This blend definitely has a kick if you like spicy. You can always scale back on the chili powder and cayenne if spice ins’t your scene.
To help neutralize the spicy, I created two “cream” toppings. One is the aforementioned cashew cheese. I’ve mentioned my fascination of cashew cheese in other posts. And I haven’t been shy about my love of nutritional yeast. Combine them together, and they made a unique cheesy, creamy creation. The best part is when you follow this recipe, you’ll have plenty of cashew cheese left over to make other vegan creations, including mac & cheese, cheddar “burgers”, and caesar salads.
The other sauce is a cilantro cream made with skyr yogurt to replace traditional sour cream. First of all, if you haven’t tried skyr, this staple NEEDS to be stocked in your fridge immediately. Skyr is an Icelandic style of straining dairy to create a thick, high protein creation. Unlike traditional yogurt, skyr does not require as much sugar to ferment the product due to probiotics. It has a creamier texture than Greek yogurt, more bacteria for gut-healthy probiotics, and higher protein content with less sugar, making it the ultimate swap for cream, mayo, and sour cream in recipes. My favorite brands are Siggis and Icelandic Provisions (neither company is compensating me to share my obsessive passion for skyr). If vegan is your goal, you’ll skip this step, but will be missing out on tastiness.
The MVP of this meal is a good quality blender or food processor. I find my Cuisinart Smart Stick does the perfect job with the chopping/pulsing and is so much easier to clean than my big food processor. To protect your chopping blades, soak the nuts and seeds to help soften them. I find it best to soak them overnight by covering the nuts/seeds in water and let them hang out. Drain and keep the water aside – it comes in handy for thinning out mixtures and adds back nutrients that were pulled out in the water.
When it comes to veggies on tacos, pile them on! I created a simple red cabbage and carrot slaw, but get creative with your taco toppers. And if you are into spicy, don’t forget a splash of your favorite hot sauce. Frequent readers of this blog and my social media are aware of my love of our local Jersey Shore hot sauce, Mazi. If you’re lucky enough to nab a bottle, you’ll understand the obsession.
Finally, the Sunflower Taco is not official until it is wrapped up in a collard leaf. Until a few years ago, I only associated collard greens with BBQ and pork was somehow involved. It was not until I had my first sunflower taco that I learned collards actually can be eaten raw. And make a great low carb, high fiber swap for bread products traditionally used in sandwiches, tacos, and wraps. These giant flat leaves are loaded with vitamins K, A, C, calcium and fiber. Not to mention benefits for lowering LDL cholesterol, cancer risk, and inflammation, while promoting digestive health. With all those health benefits, think collard greens may become the new kale?
That’s not all collard greens have in common with kale. Collards also have a tough stem that must be removed. The best way to do this is either snip off the stem with a pair of sharp food scissors, or use those strong hands to break off. Fill that leaf up, and enjoy a healthier Taco Tuesday!
Do you have a Taco Night tradition?
What’s your favorite taco combo?
Ready to try a vegetarian/vegan version?
Share your #TacoTuesday stories in the Comments!
- 4 collard leaves long stems removed
- 1 C sunflower seeds soaked 2 hours - overnight
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- Fresh cracked pepper
Cilantro Cream (can omit for vegan tacos)
- 2 tsp chopped cilantro
- 2 TB skyr yogurt
- 1/4 tsp fresh lime juice
- 1/4 tsp hot sauce
- 1/2 C raw cashews soaked 1 hour to overnight
- 1/4-1/2 C water reserved from soaking cashews
- 1 clove garlic quartered
- 2-3 TB nutritional yeast
- 1 TB white wine or swap with dijon mustard
- 1 TB lemon juice
- Red Cabbage Slaw see Notes for recipe
- Chopped peppers
- Soak sunflower seeds and cashew nuts overnight
- Drain the cashews and reserve the soaking liquid. Place soaked cashews, garlic, nutritional yeast, white wine (or dijon mustard), and lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Blend until all ingredients are combined. Slowly add reserved water 1 TB at a time, until cashew cheese reaches desired consistency. Place in fridge and allow to chill up to 1 hour to allow flavors to settle.
- If preparing Cilantro Cream sauce, mix all ingredients in a small bowl chill up to 1 hour.
- For Sunflower Taco Meat, drain sunflower seeds and combine with all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Pulse ingredients together, stopping frequently to scrape sides. Final product should be fairly chunky with some seeds still intact.
- Build tacos by placing sunflower taco meat in collard leaf, then top with desired ingredients. Finish off with cashew cheese and cilantro cream.
- Preparing batches of the taco meat and cashew cheese saves time to quickly assemble future tacos.
1 taco = 231 calories, 19g fat (2g sat fat), 12g carbs, 5g fiber, 9g protein, 44mg sodium (Source: SELF Nutrition Data)