Fire up the grill to make these grilled vegetable and quinoa tacos with cilantro pesto! Smoky grilled spears of zucchini and mushrooms are served in corn tortillas with quinoa and a spicy cilantro and pepita pesto. Garnish with crumbled goat cheese! These vegetarian tacos are going to become a favorite!
I went on a trip to Peru about 10 years ago, about the time quinoa was becoming popular among the health food crowds. Quinoa was first cultivated in Peru, and it’s still a huge part of their cuisine, so I had the chance to try it a bunch of different ways. My personal favorites were a traditional quinoa soup enjoyed al fresca on a tiny island on Lake Titicaca, Quinoa was just beginning to get popular when I went on a trip to Peru, where quinoa was first cultivated. It's still a huge part of their cuisine, so I got to try quinoa a million different ways - a traditional quinoa soup enjoyed al fresca on a tiny island on Lake Titicaca, stuffed in spicy rocoto peppers with lots of cheese, and in a vegetarian cannelloni smothered in their famous huancaina sauce. I came back with a full on quinoa obsession.
Now quinoa is on regular rotation in our house. I'm obsessed with it's fluffy texture and nutty taste, and it's such an easy way to add protein to vegetarian dishes, like these grilled vegetable and quinoa tacos. Because even though quinoa is used like a grain, it’s actually a seed, so it’s high in protein. The protein also makes quinoa a great choice for managing blood sugar.
How to Grill Vegetables
These zucchini and mushroom tacos are easy to make on the grill. Grilling adds smoky char to the veggies, and it’s my favorite way to prepare zucchini, which IMHO often tastes soggy when cooked in the oven or stovetop. All they need is a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Be sure to add salt before grilling, as it helps draw out water and concentrate the flavor of the veggies on the grill. The vegetables just need a light coating of oil to prevent sticking. Make sure the vegetables are cut approximately the same size so they grill up evenly.
If you don't have a grill, just roast the vegetables in the oven about 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees F.
Ideas for Cilantro Pesto
The recipe for cilantro pepita pesto makes way more than you'll need. Freeze the rest to make this recipe again, or try it in the following ways:
As a sauce for my cilantro-pesto soba noodle bowl
Stir into simmered beans to add flavor
Toss with roasted vegetables
Use as a sauce for pesto pizza
Make a pasta salad with cucumber, tomatoes and beans
Serve over grilled shrimp or fish
Grilled Mushroom and Zucchini Tacos with Quinoa and Cilantro Pesto
1/2 cup quinoa
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch sticks
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 corn tortillas
2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
3 bunches cilantro
1 cup pepitas, toasted
2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
First, make the cilantro pesto. Rinse the cilantro and shake well to dry. Cut off the leaves and place in a food processor along with the pepitas, jalapenos, and garlic cloves. Pulse until finely chopped, then stream in the olive oil while blending until it forms a creamy sauce. Season with salt to taste. Set aside pesto until ready to use.
Heat 1 cup water and 1/2 cup quinoa in a small pot on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 15 minutes until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed. Leave covered for 5 minutes to finish steaming, then remove lid and fluff quinoa with a fork.
Heat grill to medium-high heat. Place mushrooms and zucchini in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange mushrooms on skewers. Place zucchini and mushrooms on the grill, cover and cook, flipping halfway, until tender and lightly charred, about 7 minutes total. Remove from grill and set aside until ready to assemble tacos.
When vegetables are cool enough to handle, quarter or halve the large mushrooms. Warm the tortillas over a low gas flame. Divide quinoa evenly among the tacos, top with grilled vegetables. Dollop with cilantro pesto and a sprinkle of goat cheese.