Meal prep is an aspirational goal for many healthy eaters, but often it remains just that. Without a legit, mapped-out plan, it can be easy to fill your time doing something else on Sunday rather than figure out what you're going to eat during the week. To make life a little—scratch that, a lot—easier, Well+Good offers you our series Prep School. Each month, we’ll focus on a different eating style, with four weeks of different delicious plans to try at home. This month is dedicated to plant-based eating, with each week focusing on a different type of cuisine. First up: healthy Mexican food.
Todo Verde founder Jocelyn Ramirez has many passions, but delicious Mexican food and wellness both rank pretty up there. A chef, former college professor, and a yoga teacher, she started researching the connection between plant-based eating and health after her dad was diagnosed with cancer for a second time. After seeing the positive impact a plant-forward diet had on his health, she made it her mission to help make these types of foods more widely available, particularly to people living in low-income areas or healthy food deserts.
Through Todo Verde, Ramirez's catering business, she shares healthy, affordable meal ideas inspired by her own Mexican and South American roots. She is also the author of the upcoming cookbook La Vida Verde, which is full of her fave nutrient-rich, Mexican meals. Ready for a taste? Here, Ramirez gives the recipes for two plant-based staples that can make the foundation for a whole slew of healthy Mexican food ideas.
Keep reading for everything you need to master a week’s worth of easy, plant-based Mexican dinners:
Ingredients to buy for your plant-based Mexican dinners:
- 1 avocado
- 1 jalapeño
- 1 tomato
- 2 lemons
- 1 orange
- Red onion
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 20-oz. cans of jackfruit in brine or water
- 1 can low-sodium black beans
- Brown rice
- Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili flakes
- Nutritional yeast
What you'll need from your pantry/fridge:
The 2 recipes to cook on Sunday for a week's worth of healthy Mexican food:
Recipe 1: Jackfruit "carnitas"
Meal prep tip: Cooked jackfruit is similar in texture to pulled pork, making it a super versatile plant-based staple—especially when you spice it up. This is going to be one of your core foods to use in your other dinners throughout the week, which is why the recipe below makes four to six servings; it's enough for you to enjoy jackfruit carnitas for dinner tonight and have enough leftover for your other recipes later in the week. Store the leftover jackfruit in an air-sealed container in the fridge for up to a week.
Yields 4 to 6 servings
3 20 oz. cans of jackfruit in brine or water, drained and rinsed
Juice from one orange
3/4 cup canola oil (or other neutral oil)
2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp oregano
1/2 Tsp chili flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Toppings of choice
Corn tortillas (for serving)
1. Remove the non-shreddable core from the shreddable part of the jackfruit with a knife. Remove any seedpods from the shreddable parts and add them to the pile of cores. Add the shreddable jackfruit to a medium bowl.
2. Mince the cores and seedpods with a knife until they are a similar texture to the shreddable jackfruit. Shred the jackfruit in the bowl, and add the minced jackfruit.
3. Add the oil, half of the orange juice, cumin, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to the bowl of jackfruit and mix until fully incorporated.
4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add the jackfruit to the skillet. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the jackfruit is seared and brown on all sides. You may need to add more oil as the jackfruit cooks. The skillet should have enough oil to help sear and brown the jackfruit. Add the remaining orange juice to the skillet.
5. Serve one serving on top of tortillas with chipotle salsa and topping of your choice. Store remaining servings in a glass container to use later in the week.
Recipe 2: Walnut ground "meat"
Meal prep tip: Beef crumble-esque walnut "meat" is going to be the other plant-based staple that gets you through the week. Just like meat, walnuts are a good source of protein, and they also have omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for brain health. Up the protein in your Sunday night jackfruit "carnitas" by enjoying one serving of your walnut ground "meat" as an extra topping. Then, save the other three servings to use later in the week. Seal in an air-tight container and keep in the fridge for up to one week.
Yields 4 servings
3 cups raw walnuts
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp raw sugar
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp nutritional yeast
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup cooking oil, plus 2 Tbsp
Salt, to taste
1. Use a food processor to break down the walnuts to small pieces similar to the size of ground beef pieces. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a blender, and blend the walnuts one cup at a time. Add the ground walnuts to a bowl and set aside.
2. Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl of warm water for ten minutes, or until rehydrated. In the blender, place the rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes (reserve the hydrating water), soy sauce, sugar, cumin, paprika, chili flakes, nutritional yeast, garlic, half cup of the oil, half cup of the water used to rehydrate the sun-dried tomatoes and salt. Blend until completely smooth and add the mixture to the bowl of ground walnuts. Mix until the walnuts are fully incorporated.
3. Coat the bottom of a sauté pan with two tablespoons of oil, and preheat over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the walnut mixture to the pan. Sauté for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mixture slightly darkens, the walnut pieces soften and the flavors meld together. Taste for seasoning, adding more as needed.
4. Store leftover three servings in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Other meal prep staples to make ahead of time:
Cilantro brown rice: Rice is another Mexican staple that's helpful to make in a batch and use it in various meals throughout the week to up your fiber in any meal. I like to add cilantro to mine for extra flavor. Make a cup to use in a couple different meals throughout the week.
Here’s how to use these recipes to make easy, plant-based Mexican dinners all week long:
Monday dinner: jackfruit bowl
Leftovers: 1 cup jackfruit carnitas, 1/2 cup cilantro brown rice
New ingredients: 1/2 cup canned black beans, 1/2 cup chopped kale, 1/4 avocado, 1/2 jalapeño, and 1/4 lemon
For an easy Mexican-inspired bowl, mix your cilantro brown rice, jackfruit, and black beans. Then, add your other ingredients: chopped kale, sliced avocado, minced jalapeño, chipotle salsa, and a squeeze of lemon. This easy meal is hits all the flavor notes.
Tuesday dinner: tacos
Leftovers: 1/2 cup walnut "meat"
New ingredients: 2 corn tortillas, 1/4 cup sliced red onion, 1/4 avocado, 1/3 cup minced cilantro
The walnut meat will be a great taco filling packed with flavor, texture, and protein. Heat up your leftover walnut meat and then heat the tortillas on a griddle or your stove's open flame. Layer the walnut meat over each tortilla and top with avocado slices, red onion, and minced cilantro.
wednesday dinner: jackfruit and guacamole tostadas
Leftovers: 3/4 cup jackfruit carnitas
New ingredients: 2 corn tortillas, 1/2 cup canned black beans, 1/2 cup massaged kale, 1/3 cup guacamole
Make DIY tostada shells by lightly drizzling your tortillas with oil then baking in a 350˚F oven for 10 minutes until crisp. While the tortillas are cooking, add the black beans to a blender with a little water until they are a smooth, paste-like consistency. Smear the black bean smash on your tostadas, and top with reheated jackfruit, massaged kale, and guacamole.
Thursday dinner: "Beef" bowl with Pepitas and veggies
Leftovers: 1/2 cup walnut meat, 1/2 cup cilantro brown rice
New ingredients: 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 lemon, 1/4 cup toasted pepitas, 1/4 avocado, 1/3 cup chopped tomato, 1/3 cup minced cilantro
This quick meal is ready in minutes, and adds a punch of protein and flavor. Add your cooked cilantro brown rice to a bowl and toss in olive oil and lemon juice. Warm up your walnut meat to add on top. Layer on toasted pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds), sliced avocado, chopped tomato, and minced cilantro.
Friday dinner: jackfruit chilaquiles
Leftovers: 1 cup jackfruit, 1/2 cup black beans
New ingredients: 2 to 3 cups tortilla chips, 1 cup chipotle salsa, 1/4 cup non-dairy sour cream, 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves
Chilaquiles is a common breakfast dish made with eggs, but you can reinvent it as a yummy dinner using jackfruit instead. Add your chipotle salsa to a pan and when it starts to simmer, add your tortilla chips, gently mixing them together. Then, add your black beans and jackfruit until everything is warmed through. Turn off the heat and plate it, then top it all off with a little non-dairy sour cream and cilantro leaves.
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