Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef Tacos

Revamp taco night with a kick of spice with these Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef Tacos. This flavorful meat is deliciously seasoned and cooked until perfectly tender. Layer it in tortillas with all your favorite toppings your next taco night!

open-faced tacos with beef barbacoa

This post is sponsored by the Northeast Beef Promotion Initiative a subcontractor to the Beef Checkoff. Thank you for supporting brands that make this blog possible!

Did you get gifted an Instant Pot this holiday season? The Instant Pot is a single appliance that does the job of seven (yes, seven!) different kitchen appliances. It can handle the tasks of a slow cooker, electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté/browning pan, and a warming pot. Think of all those appliances taking up space in your kitchen that can be replaced by one.

Don’t be intimidated by this new appliance. Read up on these 7 Things You Need to Know About Your Instant Pot before you get started.

Beef barbacoa in the Instant Pot

What is barbacoa?

Barbacoa refers to the method of cooking meat. Barbacoa is an authentic Mexican dish typically made with a cut of beef head meat, like beef cheek. When cooked long and slow it becomes extra tender. It is traditionally seasoned with dried chilies and spices and slowly cooked.

Barbacoa is now used to refer to a seasoned beef, that has been slow-cooked. 

open-faced beef barbacoa taco on a flour tortilla

Choosing lean beef

Forget about sacrificing taste for nutrition. These lean beef cuts are chock-full of flavor and 10 essential nutrients. Beef can only be claimed as “lean” if the cut of beef is less than 10g total fat, 4.5g or less saturated fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per 100-gram serving.

Beef chuck

Beef chuck is a primal cut that comes from the shoulder area and yields cuts known for their rich, beefy flavor. Beef chuck is ideal for slow cooking to yield tender beef.

beef barbacoa tacos with toppings
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open-faced taco with Barbacoa Beef

Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef Tacos

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Yield: 6
  • Category: meat
  • Method: instant pot
  • Cuisine: mexican

Description

Revamp taco night with these Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef Tacos! This flavorful meat is deliciously seasoned and cooked until perfectly tender. Layer it in tortillas with all your favorite toppings your next taco night!


Ingredients

For the beef barbacoa:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 chipotle peppers (from a can in adobo sauce – reserve sauce), chopped
2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from the chipotle peppers)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 pounds beef chuck, fat trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves

For the tacos:
Tortillas, soft or hard shells
Sliced avocado
Pickled onions
Chopped tomatoes
Chopped cilantro
Lime wedges


Instructions

  1. Press the “saute” setting on the Instant Pot. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil until heated and shimmering. Add the onion and garlic, saute for 1-2 minutes until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper, and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Press “cancel” to turn off the heat.
  2. Remove contents from the Instant Pot into a food processor and add beef broth, apple cider vinegar, and lime juice. Pulse until smooth and set aside.
  3. Press the “saute” setting on the Instant Pot. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until heated and shimmering. In batches, add beef and brown all sides. Be mindful not to overcrowd the pan. Repeat until all beef is browned. Press “cancel” and turn off the heat.
  4. Add all the beef, bay leaves, and reserved sauce in the Instant Pot. Stir well to combine. Close lid securely and set vent to “sealing”. Press “manual”, then press “Pressure” until the light on “High Pressure” lights up, then add 60 minutes of cook time.
  5. When cook time is complete, very carefully, turn the vent to “venting” for quick release, and wait until all of the steam has released.
  6. Remove the lid and discard the bay leaves. Using two forks, shred the beef into bite-sized pieces. Stir shredded beef with the juices so it can soak up all the flavor.
  7. Assemble tacos by layering beef barbacoa on a tortilla and top with avocado, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. Serve with a lime wedge on the side.

Keywords: beef, tacos, barbacoa, instant pot

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Other ways to use beef barbacoa

This Instant Pot barbacoa beef is so flavorful and tender, and it’s so versatile!

  • Tacos
  • Burritos (wraps or bowls)
  • Salads
  • Nachos
  • Quesadillas
  • Enchiladas
  • Or just about any other use, you can think of for spicy shredded beef

Pistachio Crusted Baked Cod

It is recommended to enjoy seafood two to three times per week. The keyword enjoy – don’t keep making the same recipe over and over again. Try this Pistachio Crusted Baked Cod.

Pistachio Crusted Baked Cod on a baking sheet

Too many times I hear consumers they only eat fish when they are out to eat because they don’t know how to cook it at home. Fish and seafood are some of the simplest proteins to cook. It’s quick, quite forgiving, and there are so many different flavor combinations to pair with.

Why you should make this Pistachio Crusted Baked Cod recipe

I may be biased, but this Pistachio Crusted Baked Cod is delicious! Plus, the simplicity of it is great for getting dinner on the table during busy nights. The added bonus – eating more fish includes a lot of health benefits.

Why dietitians want you to eat more seafood

Fish literally saves lives. Eating seafood two to three times per week reduced the risk of death from any health-related cause by 17 percent.

Seafood sits among the highest- quality proteins (like eggs, meats, poultry, and dairy) and offers additional health benefits. It can reduce the risk of heart disease, can help during pregnancy to help the child develop a healthy brain, and improve memory and sharpness.

Health benefits of cod

Cod is the leanest protein available, meaning the protein to calorie ratio beats out any other food.

Cod is a low fat flaky white meat fish that is a good source of protein, phosphorus, niacin, and Vitamin B-12. An individual 100 g (raw) portion of cod has less than 90 calories, less than one gram of fat, and 17 grams of protein.

pistachio crusted cod with spinach and orzo on a white plate

Tips for baking fish

Medium-to-fatty fish with a firmer texture and richer flavor (like cod, salmon, or swordfish) are perfect grilling, baking or broiling because they can withstand the heat.⁠

Lean, mild-flavored fish with tender, white or pale flesh, such as sea bass, flounder or grouper are usually delicate, so this cooking method works well.⁠

When do you know when fish is done?

Many types of fish are delicate and tender, so you want to avoid overcooking them. The best way to tell if a fish is done is by testing it with a fork. Insert the fork at an angle, at the thickest point, and twist gently. The fish will flake easily when it’s done, and it will lose its translucent or raw appearance.⁠

Pistachio Crusted Baked Cod on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper

Using pistachios as the crust

Poor pistachios. I feel like they are a totally underrated nut. Pistachios are versatile in the kitchen and just as many nuts can be used with both sweet and savory applications. The caution for using nuts as a crust is they have a tendency to burn. Since the cooking process for fish is usually shorter and this Pistachio Crusted Baked Cod recipe is baked vs. seared, it will not burn.

Health benefits of pistachios

The green and red-purple hues in pistachios come from antioxidants. Pistachios are known for their fiber and protein content. Nearly 90% of the fat in pistachios are from heart-healthy (good-for-you) fats.

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piece of pistachio crusted baked cod with orzo and spinach

Pistachio Crusted Baked Cod

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 14
  • Total Time: 24 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: seafood
  • Method: baking
  • Cuisine: american

Scale

Ingredients

4 cod fillets (about 6 ounces each), or other firm white fish
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup whole-grain Panko breadcrumb
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon olive oil


Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place cod on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the cod fillets with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.

In a food processor, pulse pistachios, panko, garlic, and remaining salt, for about 10-15 seconds until a crumbly texture is reached.

In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, mustard, and lemon zest. Using a pastry brush or mini spatula, evenly spread the yogurt mixture in top of each fillet. Evenly, gently press the pistachio mixture on top. Drizzle olive oil over the fillets. (Alternatively use and olive oil cooking spray.

Bake until fish is opaque throughout, approximately 12 to 14 minutes.


Keywords: cod, pistachio, fish, dinner

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Sources:
https://www.seafoodnutrition.org/
https://www.seafoodhealthfacts.org/

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Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak

This post is sponsored by The Beef Checkoff. Thanks for supporting brands that make this blog possible!

For the novice chef, cooking beef can sometimes be intimidating. What cut to choose? What cooking technique would work best? Is beef healthy to serve my family?

I’m here to help answer many of these questions for you, but you can also utilize the resource Chuck Knows Beef. Powered by Google Artificial Intelligence, Chuck is the new virtual go-to expert on all things beef. Chuck can be easily accessed at ChuckKnowsBeef.com or by simply enabling Chuck Knows Beef with Amazon Alexa or Google Home Assistant devices. You will have a beef expert on hand whenever you need it!

For busy families everywhere, there is nothing more challenging than getting a balanced meal on the table each night. A simple marinated skirt steak is a flavorful and quick dish that can be whipped up any night. Pair with a side of your favorite veggie and grain for a complete meal.

The purpose of a marinade

First, what is your marinade for? There are two purposes for a marinade – to infuse flavor and/or to tenderize the cut of meat which all comes down to the time the cut of meat is being marinated.

Just looking to add flavor? Marinate for 15 minutes to 2 hours. Looking to tenderize cuts? Marinate for 6 to 24 hours.

ingredients for Balsamic Marinated Strip Steak recipe on a marble slab

What is the most affordable cut of beef? How do I cook it?

Aside from ground beef, the cuts that are typically most affordable come from the end meats – chuck and round. These are also typically less tender cuts and benefit from slow cooking with moist heat. Roasting, stewing, braising, etc.

Head over to Beef It’s What’s For Dinner for more information.

computer graphic with information about affordable beef cuts for families

Besides ground beef, which cut of beef is the easiest to work with that is “forgiving” for a novice chef?

Slow roasting end cuts from the chuck or round can be a simple starting point for those just starting to cook beef. If grilling a steak, be sure to choose a cut at least ½ inch thick to avoid overcooking with high heat. Sirloin steak and strip steaks are both forgiving and economical cuts, to begin with.

What are the temperatures for rare, medium-rare, and medium for my steak? Should I pull it from the grill before that since it still cooks after it is removed?

The USDA cooking guidelines are as follows: For medium rare the temperature should read 145°F, the temperature for medium steaks should read 160°F, and well done is 170°F. Ground beef should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F. Steaks and roasts will continue to cook and rise 5ºF to 15ºF after removing from the cooking source.

Here is more information about cooking temperatures

Balsamic Marinated Strip Steak with green beans on a white plate

Why does my beef always come out dry?

Usually, the reason for dry beef is overcooking. Thinner cuts of beef tend to cook more quickly so consider reducing the heat and the time over the heat for thinner cuts. Overcooking roasts in a crockpot or oven, even when adding liquid, can also cause the meat to be dry. Another good tip is to match the cut of beef with the appropriate cooking method. End cuts from the chuck and round will usually benefit from moist cooking methods while well-marbled middle meat cuts from the rib and loin can be cooked with dry heat.

Not sure what cooking method is best? Ask Chuck or see more information here.

What’s the difference between grass-fed and organic beef?

Organic beef means the cattle meet the strict guidelines set forth by the USDA for the type of feed they consume and the supplements/medications they are given (or not given). The feed must be certified organic but that could include both grasses and grains. Organic beef is never given antibiotics or administered hormone implants.

Grass-fed beef is harder to define as the USDA no longer recognizes an official certification for grass-fed/finished cattle. Therefore, the definition can vary depending on the adopted standards of the beef producer. In general, grass-fed (technically grass-finished) beef is raised solely on grass feed stuffs without the addition of grain. Grass-fed is not necessarily organic but often is.

Learn more about beef labeling here and utilize this infographic for more details.

How do I reheat leftovers without causing the beef to become tough and chewy?

Reheating beef can be challenging – especially if it was prepared to medium-well or well done, to begin with. Microwaving beef is typically not recommended. Steaks and roasts can be reheated in the oven at a lower temperature of 200 – 250 degrees. An alternative to reheating a roast or steak is to consider slicing it thin and enjoying over a salad or as a sandwich.

Balsamic Marinated Strip Steak with green beans and almonds on a white plate

I have high cholesterol. Is it still okay to eat beef?

Research shows that a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle that includes lean beef, even daily, improved cholesterol levels. About half the fatty acids found in beef are called monounsaturated fatty acids, the same kind found in olive oil, and, as part of a heart-healthy diet, can reduce cholesterol levels.

I’m unsure to feed my family beef because of the hormones. What is the truth?

All hormones used in beef production must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  It starts with a comprehensive, multi-step scientific review process. If a product fails even one test or step in the process, it will not be approved.

The FDA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversee the safety of food products. The FDA sets a tolerance on hormone residue levels that can be found in food. The USDA conducts random sampling of beef to check for residues.

Extensive research shows that supplemental hormones are metabolized quickly and clear an animal’s system before entering the food supply.  Furthermore, decades of research have looked at the effect of using hormones in livestock production, but none have found any human health impact.

Learn more about hormone usage in cattle ranching.

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piece of skirt steak on a white plate with green beans

Balsamic Marinated Skirt Steak

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: beef
  • Method: grilling
  • Cuisine: American

Scale

Ingredients

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
1 teaspoon salt, divided
½ teaspoon ground pepper, divided
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, cut crosswise into 24 equal pieces
1 tablespoon avocado oil


Instructions

  1. In a resealable plastic bag, combine vinegar, sugar, garlic, rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add meat to marinade, and turn to coat. Let marinate at room temperature at least 15 minutes, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.
  2. In a grill pan over medium-high heat, add oil. Remove steaks from marinade, allowing excess to drip off. Grill steaks 2 to 3 minutes then flip and cook another 2-4 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest 5 minutes.

Keywords: beef, steak, skirt steak, dinner, beef checkoff, heart-healthy

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For more information, visit:
https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/
https://www.nybeef.org/

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Blueberry Chia Jam

This Blueberry Chia Jam has now become a staple in my refrigerator. With just four simple ingredients you have a delicious and flavorful jam without excess sugar. Mix and match or combine different berries for a variety of flavor combinations.

Blueberry Chia Jam in a small mason jar with a wooden spoon

HOW TO MAKE CHIA JAM

You might see a few variations of chia jam recipes floating around the internet, but after testing this recipe a few times, here are some tips I’ve gathered.

STOVETOP METHOD

Simply heat frozen berries and water over low-medium heat and gently simmer for the berries to defrost and their natural sugars begin to breakdown. Avoid using high heat as the berries will not defrost evenly and the natural sugars of the berries will scorch the bottom of your pan.

Using a potato masher or the back of a fork, mash the blueberries so they burst. The jam may look still very liquidy at this point. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, chia seeds, and sweetener, if using. The chia seeds thicken the jam as it rests and begins to cool.

MASHED VS. BLENDED

Simply leave the jam as is, mashed and chia seeds fully intact if you enjoy the texture and a chunkier jam. Or opt for a smoother consistency and pulse in a food processor or blender until you reach the desired consistency.

Blueberry Chia Jam on a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter

HEALTH BENEFITS OF WILD BLUEBERRIES

All blueberries are not alike! By nature, wild ones have a more intense flavor, deeper blue color, and 2x the antioxidants than their regular cultivated blueberries.

Ever wonder why you can only find wild blueberries in the frozen department? Wild Blueberries are frozen fresh within 24 hours of harvest when their flavor and antioxidant goodness are at their peak. In fact, tiny, potent wild ones contain less water than regular blueberries, so they freeze better than ordinary, larger blueberries.

FLAVOR VARIATIONS

Utilize this recipe as the base and mix and match with other berries or berry combinations. Try a mixed berry combination using blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries or go for a bold combination of a mixture of cherries and blackberries. Thinking about going tropical and using pineapple or mango? I would recommend using white chia seeds vs. black chia seeds.

ADJUST FOR SWEETNESS

This is a much lower sugar jam than those found on the grocery store shelves. Highlighting the fruits natural sugars is the star of this recipe, but an optional sweetener can be added in if desired.

Blueberry Chia Jam in a small mason jar

HOW TO USE CHIA JAM

Use this jam anywhere you would typically use any jam or jelly. Spread on toast, top on oatmeal, or swirl into yogurt.

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Small mason jar filled with blueberry jam

Blueberry Chia Jam

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 12 minutes
  • Yield: 10 1x
  • Category: dip/spread
  • Method: stove top

Description

A few simple ingredients and you can whip up this jam in no time. Mix and match with different berries for a variety of flavors.


Scale

Ingredients

1 cup frozen wild blueberries
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds
optional sweetener: 1 tablespoon maple syrup or sugar


Instructions

  1. Add frozen blueberries to a small saucepan and heat over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once the berries have thawed and started to break down, use a fork or potato masher to break them down further. 
  2. Stir in vanilla extract, chia seeds, and sweetener of choice, if using. Remove from heat and allow jam to cool and thicken for about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Spoon into a mason jar as is and store in the refrigerator. (Alternative method: Add jam to a food processor or blender and puree until desired consistency is reached. Spoon into a mason jar and store in the refrigerator. 

Notes

Store jam in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

Keywords: blueberry chia jam, jam, chia, blueberries, wild blueberries, low sugar

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Green Bean Potato Salad

Gearing up for picnics and barbecues this summer? Add this Green Bean Potato Salad to the menu.

Green Bean Potato Salad in a wooden bowl

One of my jobs during summers at college, I was working at this outdoor catering company, where we prepared food on-site at graduation parties, barbecues, picnics, etc. When working in catering, you have to prepare recipes in large quantities to feed the masses. One of my least favorite things to prepare is the potato salad.

Green Bean Potato Salad in a wooden bowl

Traditional potato salad is dressed with mayonnaise. That is one condiment that I just never enjoyed. Now, just imagine preparing potato salad for 100+ people at one time. The amount of mayo I had to scoop daily was unreal.

Since I don’t personally enjoy mayonnaise, I wanted to create a non-mayo based dressing for potato salad with an added twist by adding green beans and corn. Don’t be afraid to switch up a classic and bring something new to the table, like this Green Bean Potato Salad.

Why use red bliss potatoes for this Green Bean Potato Salad

Red potatoes have smooth thin skin. Its skin is edible, so it’s not necessary to peel or remove it after cooking. Like many waxy varieties, red potatoes are low in starch and won’t produce a light, fluffy texture. They are best used for boiling and roasting and work well in dishes that would benefit from a potato that holds its shape, even when sliced and diced, like for this Green Bean Potato Salad.

Health benefits of potatoes

Poor potatoes have a bad reputation in some people’s eyes. “Oh, I can’t eat potatoes because they are too starchy” Yes, potatoes are starchy because they are carbohydrates and carbohydrates give us energy. Also, there are many nutritional benefits that potatoes provide our bodies. They are high in potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. When enjoyed in moderation and prepared in a healthy way, potatoes can be a nutritious addition to your diet.

Culinary term: blanching & shocking

The word blanch refers to a cooking technique in which food is briefly immersed in steam or boiling water, usually followed by shocking, which is rapidly cooling the food in an ice bath or with cold air.

When you blanch food for the right amount of time it helps maintain flavor, color, texture, and nutritional value. No one wants limp and soggy green beans.

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green bean potato salad in a wooden bowl

Green Bean Potato Salad

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 40
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 10 1x
  • Category: side dish
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: American

Scale

Ingredients

1 pound red bliss potatoes
2 ears of corn, shucked
1 pound French green beans, cut in half
1 lemon, juiced (or 2 tablespoons lemon juice)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste


Instructions

  1. In a large pot add potatoes. Fill with water and bring to a boil and season with salt. Cook potatoes until fork tender, about 20 minutes (depending on the size of your potatoes).
  2. Using tongs, carefully remove the potatoes and let cool. Add corn to the boiling water. Cook for 10 minutes, or until corn is tender.
  3. Using tongs, carefully remove the corn and let cool. Add the string beans to the boiling water. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until green beans are tender. Drain green beans and immediately put them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. When cooled drain green beans and let dry. 
  4. When potatoes are cooled, dice into cubes. Cut corn off the cob. (see notes below for a tip to do this easily)
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and olive oil. Add potatoes, corn, and green beans. Toss to coat.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  7. Let the potato salad sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to let all the flavors marinate.

Notes

Tip to cut corn off the cob.

Substitution tip: Don’t have corn on the cob? Swap for sweet canned corn or frozen corn kernels. 

Keywords: potato salad, green beans, corn, potatoes, side dish, recipe

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This recipe was originally posted in July 2013. The photos and content of the post have been updated.

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Tomato Cucumber Salad

With just five simple ingredients, this Tomato Cucumber Salad will become a regular side dish to serve up with any spring or summer recipe.

Tomato Cucumber Salad in a wooden bowl

Why I love this Tomato Cucumber Salad recipe

Who says salads have to start with a bed of lettuce? We’ve chatted before about how salads don’t have to be boring! What I love the most about this recipe is simple its ingredients, taking less than 10 minutes to put together, and can turn into so many new variations. (see below)

Using mini cucumbers is key

While any kind of cucumber can work in this recipe, I urge you to seek our mini cucumbers, because I think it really makes the recipe. No need to peel the skin. The skin of mini cucumbers is tender and delicate. Just simply slice into coins and they are ready to go.

When I develop a recipe, I always think about the perfect bite. When slicing mini cucumbers into a coin, it takes the same shape and size of the cherry tomatoes so you are able to get everything all in one bite. Plus, it’s more time consuming to peel, seed, and quarter a regular cucumber.

Recipe Tip

If you are using a conventional cucumber, I recommend removing the seeds. Why? Because they are bitter and don’t want any bitterness added to the dish. For a conventional cucumber, peel, scoop out the seeds, slice and cut in quarters for this recipe.
For other cooking tips, go here.

Tomato Cucumber Salad in a wooden bowl

How to make this Tomato Cucumber Salad

  1. Chop vegetables.
  2. Whisk together dressing.
  3. Toss together.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
    It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Storage Tip

Keep this Tomato Cucumber Salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Tomato Cucumber Salad in a wooden bowl

Variations

Additions

Chickpeas: Drain and rinse a can or two of chickpeas and add to the mixture. This will add different textures, plus a good source of plant-based proteins

Feta cheese: I love feta cheese. Hold off on seasoning with salt and pepper at the end after tasting with the feta cheese. Feta cheese will add salt to the dish, so maybe a little sprinkle of pepper will be fine. Also, if making this dish in advance, add feta just before serving.

Red onions: The key is to thinly slice red onions, so they don’t overpower the whole dish. If you are looking for something a little sweeter or more tang, try adding my Quick Pickled Onions.

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baby cucumbers with cherry tomatoes in a wooden bowl

Tomato Cucumber Salad

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Total Time: 10
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: salad
  • Method: no cook
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Light and refreshing salad to compliment any spring or summer dish. 


Scale

Ingredients

3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
8 mini cucumbers, sliced into coins
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and ground black pepper, to taste


Instructions

  1. Add cherry tomatoes and cucumbers to a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and red wine vinegar. Drizzle over cucumber and tomatoes. Add basil.
  3. Toss everything to coat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Notes

Variations:
– Add chickpeas
– Add feta cheese

Keywords: cucumber, tomato, salad, no cook, vegetables, low carb, recipe

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Do you have an overabundance of zucchini from your garden or the farmer’s market? Turn it into this delicious Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread. With only a hint of sweetness, this can be enjoyed with any meal or snack.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread on a marble slab

Do you enjoy cooking or baking more?

I tend to enjoy cooking more as you can adjust the taste as you go and have more control throughout the process of a dish during the cooking process. For me, baking (especially when developing a new recipe), is much more intimidating. Why? Because you measure, mix, pour into a pan… and then hope for the best! Once that timer goes off you find out if it’s a win or a flop.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread sliced on a marble slab

This quickbread a little denser than regular quick bread, as I used half whole wheat flour. When I bake I try to squeeze in whole grains where I can. My favorite whole grain flours to bake with are whole wheat flour and oat flour. I’ve also been experimenting with almond flour and coconut flour too, which totally throw you for a curveball because they have very different baking properties.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread on a marble slab

Want to add your own twist to this chocolate chip zucchini bread? Turn it into a banana chocolate chip zucchini bread by swapping out the applesauce for mashed banana. Enjoy more texture? Try adding walnuts into the mix! Remember – recipes are just a guide. Always feel free to add your own twist.

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Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread on a marble slab with a knife and napkin

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 12 1x
  • Category: baked goods
  • Method: oven
  • Cuisine: American

Scale

Ingredients

3 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 cups shredded zucchini (about 2 zucchinis)
1 cup chocolate chips


Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Shred zucchini. Using paper towels press as much moisture you can from the zucchini.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, applesauce, brown sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Fold zucchini into flour. This will help zucchini being dispersed throughout the bread vs. clumping together.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, a little at a time, mixing until well combined.
  6. Fold in the chocolate chips until they are evenly distributed throughout the batter.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle and comes out clean.
  8. Remove the bread from the oven, and let it cool for 10-15 minutes before taking it out of the loaf pan. Cool completely before slicing.

Keywords: zucchini bread, zucchini, chocolate chips, baking, whole grain,

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This recipe was originally posted in 2013. The recipes, images, and content have been updated.

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Sesame, Carrot, & Cucumber Salad

Ribbon sliced vegetables in an Asian dressing is light and refreshing. This Sesame, Carrot, & Cucumber Salad is perfect for warmer weather and also a delicious change from a traditional salad.

Sesame, Carrot, & Cucumber Salad via Chef Julie Harrington, RD @ChefJulieRD - refreshing and light Asian inspired salad. #saladsthatdontsuck #carrot #cucumber #salad #Asiandressing #lowcarb #healthy #recipe

Utilize your vegetable peeler a little more than just removing the skin. No need for a fancy spiralizer. Simply continue to peel using your vegetable peeler to create delicate vegetable ribbons.

What are English Cucumbers?

I specifically used English cucumbers in this recipe. Why? Because English cucumbers (also known as burp-less, seedless, or hothouse cucumbers) taste is less bitter than conventional cucumbers, are milder and almost have a hint of sweetness. You can find them in the produce aisle wrapped in plastic. Conventional cucumbers are waxed protecting their skin, whereas English cucumbers are not and have a thinner more delicate skin that is protected by the wrapping.

Switch it up from your traditional lettuce-based salads and try something new! This quick and easy Sesame, Carrot, & Cucumber Salad is perfect to switch up your salad game in the warmer months.

Want to turn it more into a meal? Try adding shrimp on top.

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Sesame, Carrot, & Cucumber Salad in a white bowl with a vegetable peeler

Sesame, Carrot, & Cucumber Salad

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Total Time: 15
  • Yield: 46 1x
  • Category: side dish
  • Method: no cook
  • Cuisine: Asian

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Ingredients

  • 2 English cucumbers
  • 2 large carrots, peeled 
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel carrots and cucumbers into ribbons. Combine the cucumbers and carrots in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Toss the cucumbers and carrots with the dressing. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Chill for 20 minutes before serving.

Keywords: sesame, cucumber, carrot, salad, no cook, side dish, healthy, low carb

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Peanut Butter Oat Bars

These Peanut Butter Oat Bars are soft, chewy, and subtly sweet to add to a balanced breakfast or enjoyed as a snack.

homemade oat bars on a black slate

Dear future children, please do not have a peanut allergy. Your future peanut butter addict’s mom will be very sad. Peanut butter is a staple food in my diet. I can confidently say I enjoy peanut butter pretty much every day.

Did you know?

It takes about 540 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter. (source)

Health benefits of peanut butter

Replacing saturated fat with similar amounts of unsaturated fats may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving of dry-roasted peanuts (30 grams) contains 12 grams of unsaturated fat, only two grams of saturated fat, and no trans fat. 

Peanuts are an excellent source of (20% of the Daily Value):

  • Niacin: Niacin is an important B vitamin that helps to convert food to energy, aids with the digestive and nervous system, and helps the skin.
  • Manganese: Manganese is important for processing cholesterol, and nutrients like carbohydrates and protein.
    (source)
homemade snack bars on a black marble slab

Just one bowl, these bars are easy to whip up. Pair with a piece of fruit and/or yogurt for breakfast, or enjoy alone as a snack. If you are peanut butter obsessed like me, I even added a smear of peanut butter on top.

Peanut Butter Oat Bars stacked on top of each other

I kept this Peanut Butter Oat Bars recipe simple, but of course, you can add your own twist. Stir in chocolate chips, some nuts or seeds. I’m even curious to try tahini in place of the peanut butter.

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close up image of peanut butter oat bars

Peanut Butter Oat Bars

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Baked Good
  • Method: Baking

Description

These Peanut Butter Oat Bars are soft, chewy, and subtly sweet to add to a balanced breakfast or enjoyed as a snack.


Scale

Ingredients

1/2 cup natural peanut butter, melted
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 small ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup finely ground flaxseed (see notes)


Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat an 8×8 baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together peanut butter, coconut oil, banana, maple syrup, eggs, and vanilla extract until well combined.
  3. Stir in cinnamon, rolled oats, and flaxseed, until well combined.
  4. Pour into the prepared baking dish and spread in an even layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes until edges are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  5. Cool for 15 minutes before slicing into squares. 

Notes

I used Manitoba Milling Co. Smooth Whole-Milled Flaxseed, which is more of a powdery/flour texture. 

Add chocolate chips or nuts, sprinkled on top or folded into the batter, as desired.

Keywords: peanut butter, oats, bars, breakfast, snack, whole grain,

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Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats (+ Freezer-Friendly Tip)

Make mornings easier by meal prepping a batch of Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats for the week and follow a simple freezer-friendly tip to enjoy steel cut oats in just minutes.

steel cut oats in a small white bowl with blueberries and sliced almonds

Who has time to make a fresh batch of steel-cut oats in the morning? If you do, more power to you, but like many, I prefer extra sleep vs. waking up earlier to make breakfast from scratch.

I previously talked about the differences between steel-cut, rolled, and quick oats. Steel-cut oats take the longest to cook. Why? Because the outside layer of the whole grain, the bran, is fully intact. A longer cook time penetrates through the bran creating tender, yet a chewy texture that retains much of its shape even after cooking.

steel cut oats in a metal measuring cup

Instead of spending time each morning making a serving of steel-cut oats meal prep a large batch for the week. Steel-cut oats can easily be made over the stovetop, but I love using the Instant Pot to make steel-cut oats because just add your ingredients, press a few buttons, and done! You don’t have to keep an eye on them, stirring often, to make sure they are not sticking to the bottom of the pot or bubbling over.

steel cut oats in a white bowl with toppings on a marble slab

I prefer to make the batch of steel-cut oats pretty plain because then there is the flexibility to add different toppings to create different flavor combinations. I do enjoy adding a cinnamon stick to the pot and the cinnamon flavor infuses into the oats. (This can easily be done with a few shakes of ground cinnamon too.)

frozen steel cut oatmeal in a jumbo muffin tin

Sometimes the idea of batch cooking can be too repetitive eating the same thing over and over, but instead, utilize this steel-cut oat freezer-friendly tip that can help continue to make steel-cut oats ready in minutes in the morning.

Freezer-Friendly Tip:

After making a batch of these Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats, spray a jumbo muffin tin with cooking spray and scoop about a cup of oats into each muffin tin well. Then add your favorite topping combinations.

Once hardened, dip the bottom of the muffin tin in warm water to help remove the single-serving steel cut oat portions and freeze in a container or bag for later use.

Then, simply add a single-serving portion of oats to a microwave-safe bowl with a few drops of water, and reheat in the microwave.

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Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats in a white bowl topped with blueberries and almonds

Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats

  • Author: Chef Julie Harrington, RD
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 6
  • Total Time: 11 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Instant Pot

Scale

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups steel cut oats
7 cups water
2 cinnamon sticks (or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)


Instructions

  1. Add steel cut oats, water, and cinnamon sticks to the Instant Pot and stir to combine.
  2. Secure Instant Pot lid and close the vent. Set Instant Pot on the manual setting for 6 minutes.
  3. When Instant Pot beeps, allow the pressure to naturally release for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove lid, discard cinnamon sticks, and stir oats to incorporate any water that has risen to the top.
  5. Serve with your favorite toppings. (Combination recommendation: blueberries, sliced almonds, and honey)

Notes

Leftover oats can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or utilize the freezer-friendly method.

Freezer-Friendly Method:
Spray a jumbo muffin tin with cooking spray and scoop about a cup of oats into each muffin tin well. Then add your favorite topping combinations. Once hardened, dip the bottom of the muffin tin in warm water to help remove the single-serving steel cut oat portions and freeze in a container or bag for later use.

Keywords: oatmeal, Instant Pot, steel cut oats, breakfast, cooking tip, oats

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