Tacos with a twist: Cauliflower stands in for fish in this Baja-style vegan dish

The battered cauliflower bites in these Baja-style vegan tacos get a tropical flavor from coconut milk and shredded coconut.

Daniel J. van Ackere/America's Test Kitchen via AP

A true Baja California experience requires sunny, breezy patios and a plate of tacos. We aimed to re-create the feel of a Baja-style fish taco in our home kitchen, instead bringing veggies to the forefront.

We thought that battered cauliflower bites, drizzled with a cool and creamy vegan sauce, were the perfect stand-in for the fish. We wanted to avoid the mess of deep-frying, so we cut the cauliflower into large florets and roasted them.

To boost their flavor, we dunked the pieces in canned coconut milk seasoned with garlic and spices and then rolled them in a mixture of panko breadcrumbs and shredded coconut. Not only did this add richness and the flavors of a cabana-shaded getaway, but it also mimicked the crisp exterior texture of batter-fried fish.

A bed of crunchy slaw with juicy mango and spicy jalapeño provided the perfect balance of sweetness and heat. For a spicier slaw, mince and add the jalapeño ribs and seeds.

By using equal parts vegan mayonnaise and dairy-free sour cream, plus cilantro and a bit of lime zest, we were able to whip up a vegan crema to top it all off.

Just add cerveza and sunshine. And lime wedges.

BAJA-STYLE CAULIFLOWER TACOS

Start to finish: 40 minutes

Servings: 4-6

3 cups (71/2 ounces) coleslaw mix

1/2 mango, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (3/4 cup)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon minced jalapeño chile

Salt and pepper

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 cup canned coconut milk

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 head cauliflower (1 pound), trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

8-12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed

1 recipe cilantro sauce (recipe follows)

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Combine the coleslaw mix, mango, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeño and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Cover, and refrigerate.

Spray a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray. Combine the coconut and panko in a shallow dish. Whisk the coconut milk, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne and 1 teaspoon salt together in a bowl.

Add the cauliflower to the coconut milk mixture; toss to coat well. Working with 1 piece cauliflower at a time, remove from coconut milk, letting excess drip back into bowl, then coat well with coconut-panko mixture, pressing gently to adhere. Transfer to prepared sheet.

Bake until cauliflower is tender, golden and crisp, 20-25 minutes, flipping cauliflower and rotating sheet halfway through baking.

Divide slaw evenly among warm tortillas, and top with cauliflower. Drizzle with cilantro sauce, and serve.

Nutrition information per serving: 376 calories; 173 calories from fat; 19 g fat (12 g saturated, 1 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 381 mg sodium; 46 g carbohydrate; 7 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 8 g protein.

CILANTRO SAUCE

Makes about 3/4 cup

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

1/4 cup dairy-free sour cream

3 tablespoons water

3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.

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