Tag Archive for #thuglife

Thug Kitchen: Vegan Tacos


What is it about tacos?? They are the kind of thing you can eat with one hand, and you can pretty much make them with anything. They are a delicious, self-contained unit that includes all four food groups. And you know what else?? They’re really, really fun. There’s a reason many families have “do-it-yourself” taco nights–because building your taco and all the different flavour combinations make it so much fun.

vegan tacos thug kitchen

Any good taco has 5 great parts:

  1. Shell: some folks like the texture of a crispy shell, others appreciate the soft shell
  2. Protein: you can go with pretty much anything here. Traditionally, it’s cheaper cuts of meat, like ground beef or slow-roasted pork shoulder. Fish, of course, is awesome if you live on the ocean. But you can go vegetarian and vegan tacos, quite easily with a product like Yves Veggie Ground Round, or the lentil technique I’m about to show you.
  3. Veggies: veggies add texture and crunch. Traditionally, it’s lettuce, but I like a nice cabbage-based slaw, as well. Again, pretty much anything goes, here.
  4. Cheese: smoothes everything out, gives you that creamy mouthfeel. Easy enough to sub in a vegan cheese like Daiya if you are vegan or lactose-intolerant.
  5. Condiments: salsa, hot sauce, sour cream (if you need to cool it down), you can go as spicy or as mild as you like.

I made two different versions; one vegetarian taco, and one vegan taco. I used the same base recipe, made from black lentils. The vegan version I topped with a crunchy kale, green apple and jicima slaw, and the vegetarian option I topped more traditionally, with cheese, lettuce, tomato and sour cream.

vegan tacos

On the left, Vegan with a kale/jicima/apple slaw, on the right, more traditional toppings, including cheese, lettuce and tomato.

The great thing about this base is that you can let you imagination fly. You could create a tortilla pie (kind of like a Mexican version of lasagne) with it, or make it into enchiladas. It would also be great melted into quesadillas.

Thug Kitchen Vegan Tacos

(adapted from The Thug Kitchen Cookbook)

Ingredients for the base: 

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup black lentils (beluga), rinsed
  • 1 cube vegetable stock (or substitute the 3 cups water for your own homemade vegetable stock)
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped small
  • 1 tbsp soy or tamari (to keep it gluten free)
  • 2 tbsp apple juice or cider
  • 1 package taco seasoning OR use the following spices to your taste: chili powder, cumin, chili flakes, paprika
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • additional water as needed


  1. Bring water (with vegetable stock cube dissolved in it) or stock to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the lentils and stir well. Bring to a simmer and cook, half-covered, for about half an hour, until tender. Drain the excess water off (if there’s any left) and reserve.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat, and then add in the onion. Stir well and allow to soften, about 3 minutes. If you are using fresh spices, and not a taco seasoning mix, now is the time to add them. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and cook until the mushrooms start to lose some of their liquid, about another 3 minutes. Add the lentils, soy sauce, and apple juice. Stir well, then add the taco seasoning, if using it. Add the apple juice and stir well.
  3. At this point, taste for seasonings, and more salt, pepper, chili or cumin if needed. I like to mash mine up a little with a potato masher or a fork so that they aren’t totally uniform. Add more water if you need to, to get the lentils to that stewy consistency.
  4. Serve with soft or hard taco shells, and your favourite toppings.



Thug Kitchen: Vegan Caesar Salad

As a blogger, and someone who works in social media, I pay pretty close attention to trends in blogging. One great trend I’ve been happy to see is when food bloggers get cookbook deals. It happened to my friend Liz, and it’s happened to a bunch of my favourite blogs over the past couple of years. The most recent one? Thug Kitchen.

Now, if you’re not familiar with Thug Kitchen, you really need to head over there right this second and have a look at it. I just have to warn you–the site may be NSFW (depending on where you work).

vegan caesar salad dressing

Thug Kitchen’s brand is built on a couple of things: gorgeous #foodporn photography, and a lot of f-bombs.

The Thug Kitchen Cookbook stays true to brand. Lots of gorgeous photos, lots of swearing. The sections include breakfast, salads, snacks and sandwiches, comfort food (soups and stews), mains, and desserts.

Two things you need to know about Thug Kitchen: they are vegan and, until recently, the identities of the authors were hidden. In fact, you won’t find the authour’s names anywhere in the book. Even in the acknowledgments, they simply use initials. I’m guessing the reason behind this is because they are a couple of young, middle-class white folks, but I’m not really interested in exploring that angle.

I love Thug Kitchen because, yes, swearing is funny, but mostly I love them because they make good food that happens to be vegan. This book is really aimed at the beginner cook–someone who is in their early 20’s, and just going out on their own.

When I was in my early 20’s and went away to university and lived on my own for the first time, I ate A LOT of hot dogs, Kraft dinner, chicken nuggets, and french fries. I know that might shock you, given how you know me today, but I’m not one of those people that grew up in a gourmet household, I only really learned how to cook in the last 20 years or so.

So, simply put, I think this book is awesome, and should be given to any kid who is leaving home for the first time. I’m not saying that they need to be vegan, but learning to cook healthier right from the start is a good place to start. There are tons of basics and tutorials in here to help the beginning chef–even I learned a couple new tips from this book!

I also really love that this cookbook isn’t touted as a Vegan cookbook. It’s vegan, yes, but it’s not sanctimonious and preachy in the way that some people can be. It’s good food. That happens to be vegan. Period. The end.

Which brings us to our recipe. I love me some caesar salad. My son loves caesar salad. Ergo, we eat a lot of caesar salad–sometimes as much as 2-3 times a week.

Now, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you’ll need to leave out the anchovies that normally form the salty base of most caesar salad dressings. You could do a straight-up, simple vinaigrette. But this–this is a creamy vegan Caesar salad dressing. The creaminess comes from almonds–the technique is similar to how you’d make a cashew cheese.

The best part of this dressing? It still has that unctuous, salty base, without the use of anchovies. Capers are what make this vegan caesar salad dressing magic.

By the way, I never buy croutons. What a huge waste of money! I buy a big loaf of french bread at my local grocery store, and take about a fourth of it and let it sit out overnight. The next day, I cut it into cubes, toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic powder, and whatever dried green stuff I have kicking around–basil, parsley, oregano. Lay your cubes out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake in a slow oven for about 20 minutes until they are toasty. I then store them in a mason jar in my cupboard, for instant caesar salads.

vegan caesar salad

Vegan Caesar Salad

(from The Thug Kitchen Cookbook)


  • 1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp dijon
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp capers, drained
  • romaine lettuce
  • croutons


  1. Place the almonds and the hot water in a small bowl, and set them aside to soften, about 15 minutes.
  2. In the mean time, mince the garlic finely. Once the almonds are softened, throw them into a blender with the water they were soaked in. Add the garlic and the rest of the ingredients (except the capers), and blend well until nice and creamy. Taste and adjust seasonings. If the dressing seems too thick, add a little more water and blend again. Finally, add the capers and blend for 5 seconds. Store in the fridge until ready to eat.
  3. To make the salad: wash and spin dry your lettuce. Cut or tear into bite-sized pieces. Place in a big bowl, top with a couple tablespoons of dressing, and toss well. Top with croutons (and vegan bacon bits if you like) and serve.