Avocado Chicken Tacos
What do you cook when you don’t feel like cooking?
When I lived in Japan and would come home exhausted and starving from work, I would either pick up some food from a convenience store on the way home (<== much better food than in convenience stores here in the states, but still…) or I would chop up one tomato and one avocado, toss them in a bowl, give them a healthy drizzle of Sriracha, and call it Dinner.
Now that I live in a country where I can afford salad greens again (!), my no-cooking lazy summer evenings often just involve “fridge salads.” A handful or two of arugula, spinach, or baby romaine, decorated with sliced peaches or strawberries—along with a crumble of goat cheese and a scattering of almonds or pine nuts—or even my trusty old tomato-avocado combination.
There are also nights when we cook real food, which leads to subsequent nights when we can heat up leftovers. (Leftovers are the best!)
Other nights we just have guacamole for dinner. Don’t judge.
Paula usually wants a little more protein, though. Sometimes a handful of chickpeas and feta cheese scattered over a salad just won’t cut it. Her go-to meal is one that she mentioned in her recent Peppered Turkey Scones guest post: chicken in a tortilla. (Paula adds, “with Tapatío!”)
Apparently she lived off chicken, tortillas, and Tapatío before she met me.
At some point, she also (recovered from her sad, sad aversion to avocados and) started to smash up some avocado onto the warmed tortillas just before topping it with chicken, thus creating this recipe; I can’t take credit for that.
The avocado—in my opinion—is what MAKES the meal. Avocado, along with its requisite topping of a squeeze of fresh lime juice, adds so much flavor and freshness to the tacos, it could perk up even the blandest, driest taco chicken and make you feel like you’ve just eaten a fresh, green salad instead! Well, not quite, but you get the idea.
And speaking of dry, bland chicken tacos (which are my second-most hated disappointingly bad menu item at mediocre Mexican restaurants, right after slimy guacamole), you don’t have to worry about that when you take on chicken tacos at home.
The chicken here gets tenderized by the lazy man’s marinade: beer.
First, I call it a lazy marinade in part because you only really have to marinate it for 20-30 minutes, if that. (Don’t long marinating times just SHUT DOWN all of your grand plans for certain recipes when you’ve popped open a cookbook too late in the evening slash you’re already hungry?) Second, it’s extra do-able because you’re having Avocado Chicken Tacos for dinner, so there’s a good chance you’re also having beer.
This chicken marination process is really just an excuse to open up one of those beers a little early, while you chop the cabbage, or snack on some appetizer guacamole, or… nope, there’s really no other prep for this recipe!
Cabbage, by the way, is strictly optional. It does bulk up and health-ify the tacos a bit, plus it adds a subtly sweet crunch, but it’s definitely not the star of the show.
(I used to hate cabbage for its blandness, for everything it wasn’t, and for its ubiquity in Japanese side salads served with mayonnaise and corn, but lately I am really enjoying the fresh, watery crunch and even the flavor of cabbage! What is happening to me I wonder… I know adulthood manifests in mysterious ways, but in the enjoyment of cabbage? That was unexpected.)
As far as the choice of hot sauce goes, I would like to quote a recent smitten kitchen blog post: “Always Tapatío, don’t even ask.”
So at long last Paula and I are sharing with you our beloved go-to, quick, easy, weeknight, fallback, back-up plan, last resort dinner, which we purposely resort to about once a week.
It’s simple, it’s satisfying, and it’s stress-free. I hope you’ll try it out, busy weeknight or not.
Of course it requires that you have a few of these ingredients around the house—corn tortillas, boneless chicken (could be defrosted from frozen), a ripe avocado, and a lime—but after that it’s the simplest dinner that you could ask for.
The kind of non-cooking cooking that I think we can all get behind.
Print this recipe. (PDF)
Avocado Chicken Tacos
Marinade Ingredients (optional):
~ ⅓-½ of a bottle of beer
~ ¼ tsp. each of ground cumin, paprika, and chipotle
~ salt and pepper
~ squeeze of fresh lime juice
~ 1 lb. boneless chicken, preferably thighs, roughly chopped
~ 1 Tbsp. olive oil
~ 2-3 corn tortillas per person
~ 1-2 ripe avocados (1 large avocado should cover 4 corn tortillas), sliced
~ cabbage, finely chopped (optional)
~ fresh lime juice, to taste
~ hot sauce (Tapatío), to taste
How to make it:
1. Optionally combine marinade ingredients in a bowl and marinate the chopped chicken for 20-30 minutes (even 5 minutes in a small amount of beer will keep it from being too dry).
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Discard the marinade and add the chicken to the skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 min. or until cooked through and just browning. (If you skipped the marinade, at least season with salt and pepper.)
3. Meanwhile, warm tortillas on a comal or directly over a burner. Arrange warmed tortillas on plates, add sliced avocado to the tortillas, and mash with a fork.
4. Optionally sprinkle cabbage onto the smashed avocado, then give it a good squeeze of fresh lime juice. Next top with the cooked chicken. Give it a final squeeze of lime juice, drizzle with hot sauce, and serve immediately.
Print this recipe! (PDF)
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|Layered Chicken Enchiladas||Roasted Tomatillo Guacamole||Mole Poblano||Christmas Tamales with Chicken and Poblanos|