Lettuce Leaf Tacos

One time a coworker at the restaurant I work at told me to stop looking for healthy shit to eat because as a cook, you’ll always end up working with things that are fried or cooked with a lot of butter and cream, and that there’s no point in trying to delay the inevitable. I was too polite to tell him to go fuck himself, but it was the reply that shone most brightly in my mind’s eye.

The point of the story is, here’s one of these things that you can make to delay the inevitable. It’s basically like a taco, with the same ingredients of a taco, but with all the proportions switched around a bit.

If you can’t afford real beef, shoot an email to Taco Bell to try to get their beef substitute recipe. 35% beef but tastes like 100%.

Serves 3-4
Prep Time: ~1.5 hours

Taco: 1-2 heads of green leaf/romaine lettuce*

Fresh Salsa:
4 medium tomatoes
1/2 large red onion
1/2 jalapeno or serrano pepper
1 lime
3 tbsp cilantro
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper


1 lb pan-searable steaks**
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp rosemary
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter

4 corn tortillas
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt

1/2 cup mozzarella, for sprinkling

*I went for green leaf because I like the look and width of the leaves. Romaine will give you a better holding vessel though. You will need to disassemble each head of lettuce and remove the leaves that look like they can be used as taco shells. The rest of the lettuce can be used as a salad for something else. You can get maybe 5-8 good leaves per head of lettuce.
**There are several cuts you can use, make sure to use a tender cut of beef that can be eaten after cooking a short amount of time.


The shortest distance between two points is multitasking. Start by pulling out your lettuce heads and your steaks. Leave your steaks out at room temperature for now. Take your lettuce heads apart leaf by leaf and set aside the leaves that are ideal for holding handfuls of diced food. Wash these leaves, gently shake them of excess water, and spread them out somewhere to dry. They will need at least an hour (depending on the humidity where you live) to rid themselves of the moisture.

Leave these leaves resting for now. You don’t want to dilute the flavors of your food by placing them on wet leaves. Lettuce not get a head of ourselves here.

Second task up is the salsa, or pico de gallo. Do a medium dice (about 3/4 cm or 1/3 inch square) on the onions and sit them in some cold water for about five minutes. This will rinse the sting out of the onions (the sulfuric acid) and make the pieces crisp and refreshing. Do the same dice for your tomatoes and hot pepper. Finely chop your cilantro. Drain your onions and mix everything together. Slice your lime in half and squeeze the halves over the salsa. Add salt and pepper, mix again. Cover your salsa and leave it at room temperature to marinate for an hour. Do not refrigerate!

I hope all this herbivore shit isn’t giving you vegetarians false hope. Or maybe it is. I can just imagine your looks of disappointment a few paragraphs down.

Right! Now what is taco without a tortilla component? Preheat your oven to 325F (160C) Take out a stack of about four corn tortillas. Keeping them in a stack, cut them into strips of about 1/2 cm by 3 cm (1/4 inch by 1 inch). Toss them together with oil and sprinkle with salt.

Tortilla Strips, a good name for a latina hooker. If someone reads this and implements this please credit me as “Newbistic from Team Liquid”.

Prepare a sheet pan covered with aluminum foil. Spread the strips out in roughly single layer. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, but peek frequently starting at 10 minutes or so. The chips can burn very quickly. Remove from heat as soon as the chips are starting to turn golden.

Now comes the interesting part. The steaks take about ten minutes in total to prepare, and you want them as warm as possible when you serve. So, wait to prepare them until about 10-15 minutes before you wish to serve.

When you are ready, salt and pepper both sides of your steaks. Pour out oil and butter into your pan on high heat. The butter is for flavor, the oil prevents the butter from burning. When the butter foams up then subsides, place the steaks into the pan. They should start sizzling immediately. If they do not, take your steaks out and wait until the oil is hot enough. Add rosemary into the oil. Cook the steaks on one side until it is browned and about half-way cooked, then flip them over (this takes some experience. At least cook until one side has some brown on it before flipping, try to flip only once). Test the steaks for done-ness by pressing them with your fingertips. If both sides are browned and the steak feels a bit flaccid to your fingertips, it is rare. If it gives a bit of bouncy resistance, it is medium rare. If it gives a lot of resistance, it is well done.

I apologize to any Hindus that might be reading this for the sacrilege. This delicious, succulent, tender, flavorful sacrilege for which I will gladly see a million cows slaugh- err, “slouched” over in peaceful repose in a green meadow. That’s it.

Now, leave your steaks somewhere warm where they can rest for about five minutes before slicing. This step is important because the steaks will be the only warm component to an otherwise cold dish. After five minutes, slice your steaks into cubes.

When you are ready to serve: layer salsa on the bottom of each lettuce leaf, add beef on top, then sprinkle with cheese and tortilla chips. Serve immediately, with rice and beans.

The Result

There are two types of bean consumers: samurai and ninjas. Ninjas are silent but deadly, samurais let their existence known but are just as deadly.

The lettuce leaf is not as structurally sound as a tortilla (especially if you are using a green leaf as opposed to romaine), but it does suffice. It looks (and is) healthier than the standard taco. The tortilla strips on top are instrumental to adding the sufficient amount of crunch to the taco to make the textures interesting. And honestly, it’s not that much more work than a standard taco anyways. Good stuff all round.


The moral of this story is that healthy doesn’t have to mean “tastes like shit”. The next time you are hungrily eying that stick of butter, individually wrapped and ready to consume in the refrigerator, consider expending an hour and a half to make some lettuce leaf tacos instead. Your friends will be impressed. Your mother, doubly so. Your grandmother, well, if her diet included sticks of butter, she’s probably not around anymore. You’ll just have to settle for her rolling over in her grave (if she doesn’t get stuck attempting the roll (“I’m just big boned!”)).

Until next time, don’t show this recipe to your Mexican friends or they might get offended and come after me.

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