A weeknight winner, Roasted Cauliflower Tinga Tacos are simple to make, and packed with flavor. These vegetarian tinga tacos are freezer friendly and ready in about 30 minutes! Serve with your favorite Spanish Brown Rice and other inspired sides. This recipe is vegetarian or vegan, easily gluten free.
This recipe was first published Dec. 2017 and updated Jan. 2023 with additional recipe notes and tips. The recipe remains unchanged.
A Weeknight Win! Vegetarian Cauliflower Tacos
Weeknight taco night is lookin’ soooo good! Loads of flavor, tinga style, in a tasty vegetarian taco, this cauliflower tinga tacos recipe is:
- quick to pull together and feeds a small crowd
- nourishing and plant based
- meal prep ready
What is Tinga?
You may have heard of Chicken Tinga Tacos (tinga de polo), but did you know you can achieve a similar tasty flavor profile in a vegetarian version? Tinga is a Mexican recipe where onions are sautéd, then simmered in a zesty tomato and chipotles in adobo sauce – sauce. The chipotle in adobo sauce is *key* for smoky flavor and heat in this recipe. It adds SO much flavor!
Ingredients You’ll Need
For the Tacos:
- Cauliflower: just one medium head of cauliflower cut into bite size pieces.
- Vegetable Oil: I like olive or avocado oil.
- Red/Purple Onion: diced medium helps flavor the tinga sauce.
- Seasonings: simply season with ground cumin and sea salt.
- Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce: offer an authentic tinga flavor. You can add more or less depending on heat/flavor preference. Leftovers freeze with ease!
- Fire Roasted Tomatoes: adds to the smoky flavor of these vegetarian cauliflower tacos.
- Prepared Salsa: this will be added to the tinga sauce, so keep in mind, if your salsa is spicy, your cauliflower tinga sauce will be extra spicy! If making homemade salsa, you can adjust the heat to taste.
- Tortillas: use corn, flour or a corn/flour mix. Cauliflower tinga filling is also delicious in crunchy tacos too!
For the Chili Lime Slaw:
- Purple and Green Cabbage: a mixture for color and flavor!
- Fresh Jalapeños: adds a bit of heat to the slaw.
- Cilantro: for freshness and authentic flavor.
- Fresh Lime Juice: adds a bit of acid to the tacos and ties the slaw together.
Quick Guide: How to Make Cauliflower Tinga Tacos
- First, toss the cauliflower with avocado or olive oil, then roast the cauliflower.
- Next, while the cauliflower is roasting, saute the onions, then sprinkle in the spices, minced chipotle peppers and adobo sauce (this is the secret!).
- Last, to finish the tinga sauce, add your favorite salsa (homemade if you like) and fire roasted tomatoes. Stir in the roasted cauliflower and warm through for about five minutes.
While the cauliflower is roasting, whip up the vegetarian tinga sauce and chili lime slaw. Once the cauliflower tinga is done, keep it warm on the stove and whip up something creamy, like guacamole or pepita crema. Simple yet, so delish!
Variations on Cauliflower Tinga Tacos
There are many ways to personalize these tacos, but the key is to serve them with something creamy. Just smear any one (or two) you choose on the bottom of the tortilla, then pile on the cauliflower tinga and slaw. Here are a few ideas:
Pepita Crema: This vegan tinga pairs deliciously with Pepita Creama. It’s super creamy, plant based, and delicious! We love it as a “cheezy” dip too! It requires a high speed blender for best texture (I use Vitamix). It’s perfect for meal prep and whips up in no time!
Avocado Crema: Easy to whip up in a blender or food processor. All you need is a large avocado, a few tablespoons of sour cream, cilantro, a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lime. Drizzle in a little water to bring the mixture to desired consistency.
Sour Cream: Sour cream is fabulous on these cauliflower tinga tacos as well offering a bit of tang and creamy (and doesn’t require any pre-planning or making).
Refried Beans: For a boost of flavor and protein, my favorite is Black Refried Beans.
Cojita Cheese: A little sprinkle adds a salty cheesy component to these mouthwatering tacos.
What to Serve with Vegetarian Tinga Tacos
Fresh or pickled jalapeños, chopped cilantro and/or diced avocado are delicious accompaniments for tacos, but these sides help round out the meal:
A Few Recipe Notes
- Taco Shells: warm soft corn or flour tortillas on a gas stovetop or in a cast iron skillet. Toasting or charring the tortillas brings out their best flavors. This vegetarian tinga taco recipe is also delicious stuffed into crunchy taco shells.
- Meal Prep: If meal prepping, the pepetia crema, salsa, refried beans (if using) and tinga sauce can be made up to two days ahead.
- Make it a Bowl: Cauliflower tinga is delicious in bowls! Layer in the tinga, Mexican Black Beans, Spanish Rice, cheese if desired, chopped romaine lettuce, something creamy like avocado crema and salsa with tortilla chips crumbled on top.
- Freezer Friendly? Yes please! The vegetarian tinga cauliflower freezes with ease and is perfect for meal prep!
More Vegetarian Taco Recipes to Love
- Tacos Rancheros
- Creamy Corn, Zucchini and Poblano Tacos
- Rancheros Tofu Scramble
- Harissa Chickpea and Cauliflower Tacos
- Black Bean and Quinoa Tacos – from Foolproof Living
- Mexican Inspired Tofu Tacos with Chili Lime Slaw
Roasted Cauliflower Tinga Tacos with Chili-Lime Slaw Recipe
For the Tacos:
- 1 Head of Cauliflower* (see note) chopped into small bite size pieces, about 1 3/4 pound (790 grams)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil or avocado oil, divided
- 1 cup (110 grams) Purple Onion chopped, about 1 medium
- 1 teaspoon Fine Sea Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Cumin ground
- 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons Chipotle Chilis + Adobo Sauce mince the chilis and mix with adobo sauce – omit or reduce to 1 tsp adobo sauce for a much milder tinga! Look for gluten free if needed.
- 1 cup (274 grams) Fire Roasted Tomatoes + its juices, leftovers may be frozen
- 1/2 cup (135 grams) Prepared Salsa I like homemade
- 12-14 6 inch (15 centimeters) Corn or Flour Tortillas
For the Chili-Lime Slaw:
- 3 cups (150 grams) Purple and Green Cabbage shredded, loosely packed
- 1 tablespoon Fresh Jalapeno seeded and chopped fine, or to taste (add more to take the spicy up!)
- 1/2 cup (20 grams) Cilantro chopped
- Juice of Two Limes
- 1/2 teaspoon Fine Sea Salt
For the Tacos:
- Set oven rack to center of the oven and preheat to 425F (218C). Line a sheet pan with silpat or parchment paper.
- Toss the cauliflower with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and roast for 15-20 minutes, tossing and flipping the cauliflower once while roasting. When done, it should still be firm, yet lightly golden around the edges. Set aside.
- While the cauliflower is roasting, heat the remaining 1 Tbs olive oil in a large saute pan until it shimmers. Add the onion and saute on medium low for about 5-8 minutes, or just until softened. Sprinkle in the salt and cumin and add the chipotles + adobo sauce. Stir to coat the onions. Add the tomatoes, salsa and roasted cauliflower. Stir to warm through, about 5 minutes. Adjust salt to taste. Remove from heat and put a lid on it until ready to serve.
For the Chili-Lime Slaw:
- In a medium bowl, mix the red and green cabbage, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice and sea salt. Set aside or rest in the refrigerator until ready for service.
- Warm tortillas on a low open flame on the stove top turning with tongs a few times to lightly char or warm in a cast iron skillet. To hold them warm, place the tortillas in foil and into a warmed toaster oven on low heat.
- Store the leftover cauliflower mixture in the fridge in a lidded container for up to three days or it may be frozen for up to a month. Thaw in the fridge overnight and warm gently on stovetop with a splash of water.