Cinco de Mayo: A Healthy Taco Recipe

Recipe provided by Juan Antonio Sempere

Cinco de Mayo is here, and you’re probably thinking of the caloric pitfalls lurking on the menu of your chosen Mexican restaurant during this holiday: greasy fare, drowned in melted cheese and topped with a thick dollop of cream and fatty guacamole. Add a couple of sugar-saturated Margaritas and you’ll be facing at least a couple of weeks of intensive workouts just to burn off the indulgence.

But there’s a cure for the common Mexican entreé. These delicious tacos are one of the best kept secrets in Mexican gastronomy, combining a few simple ingredients into a colorful and tasty treat that’s also loaded with nutritional benefits. Avocados provide you with healthy mono-saturated fats that are great for the heart and the skin while beans are sources of fiber and protein, which help you to keep you full longer. And the chilies, particularly the compound that gives its intensity capsaicin, has been shown to moderately increase the metabolism.

The traditional recipe calls for refried beans and deep-fried tacos, but this version relies on mashing the beans with slightly sautéed onions to save on the fat, and the tacos are baked instead of fried. The original Taco de Pardo is prepared with a variety of avocado that has a smooth, shiny, black and extra thin skin that is also edible, bearing a herbal, anise-like flavor, but your regular avocados will work fine if you can’t find them (just leave the thick skins out). Enjoy…and don’t overdo it with the margaritas!

Tacos de Pardo (serves four)

8 white corn tortillas
2 ripe avocados
1/2 lb queso blanco (a good mozzarella will do in a pinch)
1 can red, pinto or black beans, drained
1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 can of chipotle chilies
8 leaves of romaine lettuce
salt to taste

1. Sauté the onion until it starts to brown. Then add the beans and mash it all together. Add salt to taste.
2. Smear each tortilla with a spoonful of the mashed beans mix, and add a strip of cheese, a slice of avocado and as much chipotle as you can handle. Roll up the tacos and keep them closed with a toothpick so they don’t open up during baking.
3. Place your tacos on a non-stick baking tray. Rub each one of them lightly with salty water (this will help them become crispier). Bake at 350˚F for about 10 minutes, or until the tortillas start to become toasty and crisp.
4. Serve each taco over a romaine lettuce leaf.

Suggestions: Chipotles should be spicy enough for this dish, but don’t be afraid to make them hotter with a dash of your favorite salsa. It’s a holiday, after all!

Marta Montenegro, who is Venezuelan, inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.