Classic Crunchy Tacos (Veggie Style!)

Whenever I feel overwhelmed by my duty to feed my family dinner every damn day, I think of my mom. She worked a full-time job, was single for most of my childhood, had two kids, and still managed to cook dinner every night when she got home from work. Her secret? She kept it simple and relied on repeats. One such repeat was crunchy taco night.
By / Photography By The Naked South | September 23, 2015


You know the boxed tacos with the packet of spices and taco shells you toasted in the oven? That's the one my mom made, and my sister and I loved them. Toasting the shells was the hardest part of that dinner in a box, as they very easily burnt and everyone would be pretty upset about it. No crunchy shells?! Taco night catastrophe!!


Crunchy taco night looks a little different these days than when I was a kid. But the flavors and simplicity are the same. Lots of veggies and warm spices make this a healthy, comforting, and quick dinner. Thanks, Mama, for always reminding me that it doesn't have to be hard or fussy to be good.



  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft.
  2. Add sweet potato and cook until browned.
  3. Add tomato paste, chili powder, paprika, and cumin. Cook until beginning to darken, about 1 minute.
  4. Add zucchini and garlic and cook until thoroughly mixed and garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Add beans and water and stir to combine and heat through. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Fill each warmed taco shell with veggie filling. Top with a little bit of cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and a drizzle of yogurt.



About this recipe

Key Components

Canned beans are a lifesaver for quick, plant-based meals. Beans are one of those foods that actually increase in antioxidants when processed at high temperatures (cooking, that is). Look for cans that say "BPA free" on them, or seek out the pouches and cartons of beans on the market.


A little bit of cheddar cheese is sort of clutch in this recipe. But feel free to omit it (and the yogurt) if you want these to be vegan or dairy-free. I always seek out high-quality and organic cheeses. Dairy is one of the most important foods to purchase organic and from grass-fed cows. It's healthier for the cows, which in turn makes it much healthier for you to consume. Plus, it's better for the planet, and that's always a good thing.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled (or not) and grated (about ⅔ cup)
  • ¼ cup tomato paste (jars are BPA-free)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (reduce for less heat)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 large zucchini, grated (about 1½ cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) BPA-free can black beans, drained
  • ½ cup water
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 organic crunchy taco shells, toasted according to package instructions (plus extra because you know you're going to break some)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving
  • Chopped romaine lettuce, for serving
  • Chopped tomato, for serving
  • Whole fat plain yogurt (or sour cream), for serving
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