Healthy Homemade Chicken Tacos

With summer grilling, it seems easier to eat healthily – especially if you are not the person in charge of the grill! But barbecued fish or chicken night after night can get old… and no one wants to roast vegetables in the oven when it’s 80 degrees.

When I’m tired of grilled dinners and am hankering for a fresh, spicy flavor profile that’s perfect for summer, I turn to my friend Sylvia’s fabulous, healthy homemade chicken tacos.

My friend Sly is from San Diego and growing up, her mother would frequently make what Sly calls a ‘fresh sauce’ and serve it for lunch or afternoon snack atop chicken tacos. Sly made it for me when we were in business school, and I was immediately hooked. At the time, I didn’t know much about cooking and had never considered making a salsa (which is essentially what Sly’s mother’s ‘fresh sauce’ is) from scratch.  Not only is it easy to make and out of this world delicious – Sly’s fresh sauce served on top of just about any healthy protein makes an incredibly healthy dinner.

The fresh flavor of this simple ‘fresh sauce’ is so bright that it just feels like summer. I should make these healthy tacos all year round, but every winter, I forget all about them until I plant my cilantro in the spring.  Then I get happy just thinking about them.

While this dish is incredibly easy to make, it does take a decent amount of time to prepare because there’s a lot of slicing and dicing.  This, actually, is why I probably stop making it once summer is over – because while some love the chopping part of cooking, it’s the part I like least.  That said, even if you’re like me and wielding the chef’s knife is not your favorite thing, these are well worth the effort.

And this dish is incredibly healthy because the ingredients are healthy: just tomatoes, onion, a jalapeño pepper, cilantro, tortillas and chicken – and a dollop of reduced fat sour cream.

To make, all you do is make the ‘fresh sauce,’ warm up a tortilla, put a dollop of sour cream on the tortilla, load the center of the tortilla with cut-up chicken (warmed or cold) and add about 2 tablespoons of the delightful, fresh (and spicy) ‘fresh sauce.’  Roll it up and devour.  Then repeat.

Plus, if you don’t finish off all the ingredients, the sauce saves well for 1-2 days so it’s a great, healthy lunch the next day.

Here’s the recipe for Chicken Tacos Going LoCo Style (thank you Sylvia!).  It should make about 10-12 tacos, enough certainly for 4 people.

A few quick things to note about this recipe:

  • This ‘fresh sauce’ is SPICY – and this from someone who likes vindaloo!  But try it as is, with one jalapeño pepper because when you use this sauce in the taco, it’s the perfect amount of spice, IMHO.  But fair warning: if you try the sauce or dip it with a chip, it’ll be pretty spicy…just letting you know.
  • Personally, I do not like raw onions in salsa (or anything, actually).  But the onions do not taste raw here – maybe because the tomatoes are ‘cooked’ first? I don’t know why, but it just works, even if you do not care for raw onion.
  • Give yourself about 1 hour to make this dish because cutting up a whole chicken and dicing the onion, jalapeño and cilantro takes time.
  • When Sly or her mom makes this, they actually blacken the jalapeño pepper on an open flame – but I find that a bit intimidating, so instead I microwave it as per the directions, but if you like charring peppers on an open flame, have at it!

I made this for dinner last night, and can’t wait to have it again for lunch. Give this recipe a spin for a tasty, healthy, spicy dinner option.

P.S. to Sly and her mom: I can’t remember if your recipe included the sour cream or if that’s my anglicized version of it – apologies if I’ve inadvertently modified your recipe and didn’t mention that (gosh, it’s been a long time since business school – I had a laugh at the date of the recipe, way back in the 1990s!)

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