The protein-packed vegan snack that this triathlon-loving chef swears by

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Most athletes wrap up their training sessions with a bite that’s quick and protein-heavy—but not necessarily worthy of a spot on their Instagram feed.

But when that fitness junkie is hotshot Los Angeles chef Jared Simons, the post-workout snack in question is bound to be a little bit more elevated. One of his go-to recipes: quinoa tacos with cashew “sour cream” that are 100 percent plant-based and ultra-clean, just like the rest of his diet.

“Growing up, one of my absolute favorite meals was the ground beef taco, and throughout the years this has never left my repertoire,” says the Ironman-in-training. That remained true even when he started competing in triathlons and scrapped meat and dairy from his diet.

So why choose quinoa for the filling, as opposed to protein powerhouses like soy and tempeh? “There are plenty of meat substitutes on the market—both good and bad—that would make fine replacements in the taco,” Simons explains. “But ultimately, [many are still] processed, which I try and limit. I found quinoa to be an excellent replacement, not only for texture and flavor, but nutrients as well—especially protein.”

You won’t find these tacos on the menu at Simons’ monthly plant-based supper club at LA’s ultra-exclusive No Name—to attend the next one on December 18, e-mail—but fortunately, this is one fiesta that’s easy to whip up at home (even if you’re sweating it out in the last session of the night on ClassPass).

Each week we spotlight a healthy-delish recipe that’s truly genius (and easy to make) from someone who’s wowed us in the food world. We’re talking buzzy cookbook authors and Instagram foodies to brilliant chefs. Get more must-try, mind-blowing ideas from the Recipe of the Week archive.

Scroll down for chef Jared Simons’ vegan, protein-packed quinoa taco recipe.

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Photo: Jared Simons
Photo: Jared Simons

Chef Jared Simons’ Quinoa Tacos with Cashew Crema

Yields 4-6 servings

1 cup red quinoa (uncooked)
1 1/4 cup water, plus 1/2 cup
1 large white onion
1 cup of your favorite tomato-based salsa
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
12 corn tortillas
2 vine-ripe tomatoes
1 bunch kale (stemmed and washed)
2 avocados

Cashew crema:
1 cup raw cashews
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

1. Bring one-and one-fourth cup water to a boil. Season with a heavy pinch of salt. Once boiling, add quinoa and reduce heat. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove heat and set aside for five minutes.

2. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the garnish. Cut the tomato into a medium dice. Chiffonade the kale. Slice the avocados.

3. Cut the onion into a small dice, reserving half a cup for garnish. Mince the garlic. Sweat the onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent.

4. Add paprika, chili powder, and cumin to onions and mix on low heat.

5. Add cooked quinoa, half cup water and one cup salsa. Heat mixture through and keep warm.

6. Assemble the tacos! Warm the tortillas over an open stove flame. Add avocado, a spoonful of quinoa, kale, tomato, and onion. Top with your favorite salsa and cashew crema.

For the cashew crema
1. Cover cashews with one inch of boiling water. Let stand 30 minutes to one hour.

2. Drain and reserve the liquid.

3. Place the cashews in a blender with the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, adding the reserved liquid until the desired consistency is reached. (It should look like sour cream.)

4. Chill until cool. Adjust acidity and seasoning with lemon and salt.

Not going home after your sweat sesh? Here are the beauty products to stash in your bag, the post-workout smoothies to bring to the studio… and the reason why you should totally have a glass of wine to reward yourself. 

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