Tacos with a Twist

Recipes and Photos by CINDY COOPWOOD

Fresh flavors and new condiments to elevate your folded favorites


Pickled onions are a flavorful addition to tacos, salads, and sides of all types. Make ahead and keep them onhand!

     A new generation of tacos has forever changed the way we will think about one of our favorite meals. They’re no longer the domain of ground beef and grated cheese—shrimp, fish, and chicken are new standards—and when paired with flavorful add-ons such as pickled onions, tangy slaw, a yogurt lime-cilantro ranch and sweet salsas, they take taco night to the next level!


Inspired by favorite local ingredients, such as catfish, pimento cheese, and slaw and topped with tangy pickled onions and fresh cilantro—delicious! Serves 4.

4 fresh catfish filets
2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
4 tablespoons olive oil

     Drizzle filets with oil, and season generously on both sides. Cook on preheated grill or grill pan over high heat about 4 minutes on each side until firm to the touch.

Pimento cheese

     Make or purchase your favorite pimento cheese.

Lime-Cabbage slaw

2 cups shredded red cabbage
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for topping
2 to 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 lime, juiced
¼ teaspoon salt

     Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Quick pickled onions

1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup white vinegar
2 cups water
cup sugar
2 tablespoons coarse salt

     Place the onions in a jar or container. Heat vinegar, water, sugar, and salt over medium heat until completely dissolved. Allow to cool slightly and pour over the sliced onions. Set aside to cool to room temperature. They will be tender, bright pink, and ready to eat in about an hour.

     To assemble tacos: Char your tortillas on the grill or directly over the eye on your stovetop. Spread the tortillas with a few spoonfuls of pimento cheese. Top with the lime slaw. Add a catfish filet coarsely broken into pieces. Top with the pickled onions and if desired, add a sprinkling of feta cheese.


Garnishes: Mango, peach, or pineapple salsas add an interesting layer of flavor to everyday tacos.


Store-bought condiments and seasoning mixes make this an easy weeknight option for a crowd. Serves 6.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground chicken
½ large onion, chopped
1 8 to 12 packet store-bought taco dinner kit with soft com tortillas (or hard taco shells, if preferred)
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
1 recipe cilantro-lime ranch dressing (see recipe)
1 container store-bought mango or peach salsa

     Drizzle oil in a large skillet and heat. Add chicken and onion, cooking and breaking up meat as it cooks. Add packet of seasoning and about ½ cup of water. Allow liquid to cook out.

     If using tortillas: On a paper-lined sheet pan, lay out tortillas and rub with olive oil. Layer with cheese and chicken mixture, then fold the tortilla in half—a second sheet pan may be placed on top of folded tortillas to keep them flat while they bake, if needed. Bake about 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and tortilla is browned.

     If using hard taco shells: Line the shells up on a sheet pan or in a 9×13 inch baking dish. Bake about 5 minutes. Divide the meat among each taco shell and top with cheese. Bake 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

     Serve the tacos topped with ranch, avocado, cilantro, and a dollop of salsa.

Cilantro-lime ranch dressing

½ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeño, if desired
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder

     Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve. May be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator.


Always make extra roasted sweet potatoes! They are a delicious addition to salads, tacos, and alongside scrambled eggs for breakfast.


We love the rich, peppery flavor of the poblano, blended with the roasted sweetness of the potatoes in these elevated tacos. Serves 6.

Roasted sweet potatoes

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

     Preheat oven to 430 degrees. Place the sweet potatoes on baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with seasonings and toss until evenly coated in oil, and arrange them in a single layer. Bake about 30 minutes turning halfway through, to be sure all sides are caramelized.

Sauteed shrimp and peppers

½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 medium poblano pepper, seeded and cut into strips
2 tablespoons salsa verde
1½ teaspoons cumin
1½ teaspoons chili powder
salt to taste
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 recipe cilantro-lime ranch dressing (see recipe above)
 6 soft tortillas

     While sweet potatoes are roasting, mix shrimp and remaining ingredients in a bowl; set aside a few minutes to allow flavors to blend. Sauté in a skillet over medium-high heat until shrimp are nicely browned and peppers tender.

To assemble tacos: Carefully char tortillas over stovetop flame. Sprinkle warm tortillas with a layer of Monterey Jack cheese. Add shrimp and pepper mixture and a spoonful of potatoes. Drizzle with a dollop of ranch dressing and top with chopped avocado and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro.


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