Charred Asparagus Tacos Verdes Recipe

The beauty of a taco is that it can be stuffed with all manner of meats, seafood, or beans, but sometimes it's nice to make vegetables the star of the show. When grilled, many vegetables take on a smoky flavor and slightly charred texture that makes them every bit as tasty as grilled meat. This verdant recipe from developer Patterson Watkins showcases the quintessential spring vegetable, asparagus. Watkins grills big meaty asparagus spears, and she grills the ingredients for a tangy tomatillo salsa, too, to create a symphony of bright and smoky flavors. She tells us, "The garlicky salsa verde, with its bits of smoky char, add vibrant green chili heat and a tart tomatillo bite. Those green chili and tomatillo notes balance the creamy avocado and earthy asparagus. Where the crunchy pepitas and herby sprouts impart some pleasant textures." The whole thing is finished off with crumbly, tangy-savory Cotija cheese.

The serrano peppers Watkins uses to make her salsa give it a medium-high heat level, but this is tempered to some extent by the fact that she removes not only the seeds but most of the white membrane that contains so much of the capsaicin. If you want an even milder salsa, she suggests replacing the serranos with a jalapeño or part of a poblano (¼ to ½, depending on size). You can also cut down on some of the prep work for this dish by using a store-bought salsa verde or green enchilada sauce.

Collect the ingredients for the charred asparagus tacos

The taco shells for this recipe consist of corn tortillas, while the filling is made from asparagus, avocados, and mayonnaise. They are then topped with a green salsa made from tomatillos, serranos, scallions, garlic, olive oil, salt, cumin, chili powder, and lime juice as well as sprouts or microgreens, Cotija crumbles, and pepitas.

Step 1: Fire up the grill

Preheat a gas grill or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

Step 2: Combine the vegetables

Place asparagus, tomatillos, serrano peppers, scallions, and garlic in a large bowl.

Step 3: Oil and season the vegetables

Drizzle the veggies with olive oil and season with salt, cumin, and chili powder. Toss to coat.

Step 4: Put the vegetables on the grill

Place the veggies and place on the preheated grill.

Step 5: Grill the vegetables

Grill for 10-12 minutes, turning frequently, or until the veggies are tender and lightly charred.

Step 6: Set the vegetables aside

Remove the vegetables from the grill and set aside on a plate.

Step 7: Add the tomatillos and cilantro to a food processor

Place the grilled tomatillos, serrano peppers, scallions, garlic, and cilantro in the bowl of a food processor.

Step 8: Make the salsa verde

Add juice from half a lime and blend until smooth.

Step 9: Season the salsa

Season the salsa to taste with salt and transfer to a bowl. (Don't worry about cleaning out the bowl–there will be good flavor in there for our mayo mix).

Step 10: Mash the avocado with mayonnaise

Place mayonnaise and avocado in the food processor bowl and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

Step 11: Spread the tortillas with avocado mayo

To assemble the tacos, dollop about a tablespoon of mayo mix onto the tortillas, spread out evenly.

Step 12: Add the asparagus to the tacos

Top the mayo mix with 3-4 grilled asparagus spears.

Step 13: Add the taco toppings

Top the asparagus with a heaping tablespoon of salsa and finish topping with sprouts, cheese crumbles, and pepitas. Serve with some lime on the side.

What is Cotija cheese and what can I substitute for it?

Cotija is a crumbly white Mexican cheese that, unlike cheddar, Jack, or other popular Tex-Mex taco toppers, doesn't get too melty when scattered over a warm filling. It has a relatively mild flavor, as cheeses go, although it does add some saltiness and what Watkins calls "a little pop of milky twang" to a taco, enchilada, or any other dish to which it's added.

If you don't have any Cotija on hand and don't feel like tracking it down, feta cheese is quite similar both in flavor and texture. Watkins, however, finds it to be somewhat saltier than Cotija, so she advises using a bit less of it. Other possible Cotija substitutes include queso blanco, parmesan, and romano, but you could, of course, go with a meltier cheese such as the aforementioned cheddar if this is more to your taste. You could also either use a plant-based Cotija substitute or just leave the cheese off to make dairy-free tacos. If you want to go completely plant-based you'll also need to omit the mayonnaise in the sauce or replace it with veganaise.

What are some tips for grilling asparagus?

Watkins tells us, "I am a fan of the thicker, meatier asparagus spears when it comes to grilling. You run less of an over-cooking or over-charring risk with larger spears, which grill up to that ideal tender-crisp." Not only are these harder to overcook, but they're also less likely to be lost between the grill grates. "Bigger spears also reduce the risk of losing an asparagus (or two, or three) between outdoor grill grates."

If your asparagus spears are on the thin side, Watkins recommends reducing the grill's temperature slightly or moving the thinner spears to a cooler spot on the grill to avoid burning them. To prevent the asparagus from falling through the grates, she suggests using a grill pan or basket, while a sheet of foil could also do the trick. Yet another idea is to thread the asparagus spears onto skewers or soaked bamboo, a technique that Watkins says can also work for the grilled garlic cloves. Of course, you could also just use a ridged grill pan to cook the vegetables on the stovetop, instead. This last method has the advantage of being bug-free and something you can even do when there's rain in the forecast, plus, as Watkins points out, "This is a great way to get that 'grilling' flavor any time of year (and you have a little bit more control over flame and temperature)."

Charred Asparagus Tacos Verdes Recipe
4.9 from 13 ratings
Meaty grilled asparagus is topped with smoky-tangy grilled salsa verde, creamy avocado mayonnaise, and salty Cojita cheese for the perfect symphony of flavors.
Prep Time
15
minutes
Cook Time
10
minutes
Servings
4
Servings
corn tortillas with green vegetables
Total time: 25 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 bunches asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 4 tomatillos, husks removed
  • 2 serrano peppers, seeded
  • 3 scallions, trimmed (about half a bunch)
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 lime, halved
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ avocado
  • 8 corn tortillas, warmed or toasted
  • 1 cup sprouts or microgreens
  • ¼ cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup pepitas
Directions
  1. Preheat a gas grill or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Place asparagus, tomatillos, serrano peppers, scallions, and garlic in a large bowl.
  3. Drizzle the veggies with olive oil and season with salt, cumin, and chili powder. Toss to coat.
  4. Place the veggies and place on the preheated grill.
  5. Grill for 10-12 minutes, turning frequently, or until the veggies are tender and lightly charred.
  6. Remove the vegetables from the grill and set aside on a plate.
  7. Place the grilled tomatillos, serrano peppers, scallions, garlic, and cilantro in the bowl of a food processor.
  8. Add juice from half a lime and blend until smooth.
  9. Season the salsa to taste with salt and transfer to a bowl. (Don't worry about cleaning out the bowl–there will be good flavor in there for our mayo mix).
  10. Place mayonnaise and avocado in the food processor bowl and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
  11. To assemble the tacos, dollop about a tablespoon of mayo mix onto the tortillas, spread out evenly.
  12. Top the mayo mix with 3-4 grilled asparagus spears.
  13. Top the asparagus with a heaping tablespoon of salsa and finish topping with sprouts, cheese crumbles, and pepitas. Serve with some lime on the side.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 533
Total Fat 41.1 g
Saturated Fat 7.1 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 18.8 mg
Total Carbohydrates 36.3 g
Dietary Fiber 9.7 g
Total Sugars 5.0 g
Sodium 751.4 mg
Protein 11.2 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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