Cooking with Lauren: The ultimate snack...taco cupcakes

By Lauren Hallow Published:

All right, I'm going to have to give myself a pat on the back for this one.

Taco cupcakes.

Yep, it’s a real thing and it’s delicious.

Unfortunately, I can’t claim this idea as my own  -– I stumbled upon these little beauties on a cooking blog titled “The Girl Who Ate Everything.”  

I come across a lot of cute finger foods as I peruse my cooking blogs, but they’re usually too cutesy. Like cheesecake-stuffed strawberries or seven-layer rainbow Jello shots … things that look way too perfect in the picture so I don’t even try to attempt them in fear of feeling like an inadequate child playing chef in my grandma’s kitchen.

But I have a bachelorette party coming up next weekend, and I felt I needed to step up my snack game.

One of my college roommates is getting married next month and for some reason, she picked me as a bridesmaid. 

This is my first real wedding that I get to be in, so this is also my first time being involved with planning any wedding events, like the shower and the bachelorette party, and I’ve come to realize that it’s all a lot more complicated than I thought. 

I was asked to help make food for the wedding shower in March, so I put together a “dip buffet” with hummus, store-bought cheese and veggie dips and my homemade Buffalo Chicken Dip. The maid of honor suggested “chicken salad on a croissant,” but I thought my dip buffet was a tasty but inexpensive appetizer – perfect for a shower where the bride is still in college.

However, when I got to the shower, the spread consisted of fruit, tomato soup, veggie trays and cucumber sandwiches.

Apparently I didn’t get the memo that shower buffets have to cater to those with the appetite of a rabbit.

So unfortunately, my dips were underappreciated.  But I learned my lesson. 

With the bachelorette party, the maid of honor asked us to contribute snacks again. I knew I needed to bring something “cute” and somewhat healthy, but I also wanted to bring something with substance. Something that a real human being would find appetizing … no way was I bringing anything similar to a cucumber sandwich. 

So when I came across these taco cupcakes, I thought they were perfect. The phyllo shells are relatively low in calories, the recipe is easily adaptable to make my own and the cupcakes make for a visually appealing snack. And can you really go wrong with tacos?

Here’s what you need:

Taco Cupcakes (makes 18)

1 pound of ground meat (I used ground turkey, but feel free to use ground beef or chicken)

1 packet of taco seasoning

1 can of black beans

¼ cup of diced jalapenos (optional)

1 tsp of dried cilantro (or 1 tbs of fresh cilantro)

½ cup shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend that I found at the store. Use something with a kick, like Pepperjack or Colby Jack)

Phyllo sheets or wonton wrappers

18 tortilla chips

Nonstick cooking spray

Salsa

Sour Cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a cupcake tin with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

Brown your meat and drain. Return back to skillet and mix with taco seasoning (check the packet directions to see how much water you need to add), jalapenos (leave this out if you don’t want spicy cupcakes) and cilantro. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Now here’s where it gets a little tricky. I had never worked with phyllo sheets before, and apparently, they tear very, very easily. Each sheet in the package I bought was about 5x5 inches, but I couldn’t get the sheets out of the package without accidentally ripping them into strips. It was at this point that I thought I failed and was preparing to tell Phil Case to just make Kay Harrod the full-time cooking writer because I was a crock. 

But I continued on with the ripped sheets and just folded the strips in half and shoved them in the tins, trying to scrunch them in a circle to cover the entire cupcake well. Each strip was about 1-2 inches wide and 5 inches long, and I used two strips per well.

Once your cupcake wells are all filled, add a spoonful of beans to each one. Sprinkle one crushed tortilla chip (just make a fist and crush it in your hand – it’s a nice stress reliever) on top of the beans, then add a spoonful of the meat and jalapeno mixture.

Stick in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and sprinkle a little cheese on top of each cupcake, then put it back in the oven for 6-8 more minutes, or until the phyllo sheets are golden brown.

I cannot tell you how excited I was when I took these out of the oven and they actually looked appetizing. I was even more excited when I added a little salsa on top, took a bite and my mouth went to heaven. 

I was really worried when I was working with the phyllo sheets. It looked so silly, and as I got closer to filling my tins, I worried 1-2 sheets wasn’t enough so I kept adding more. But I discovered after I took these out of the oven that 1-2 sheets were the perfect amount. I had one of the cupcakes where I used about four sheets as my base and it was too thick and cakey. 

I tried a couple of stores before I found the sheets in the freezer section near the piecrusts. The original recipe called for wonton wrappers, but I just grabbed the phyllo sheets because that’s what the store had. (If you want to know the store, email  or  call me).

If you’ve ever worked with phyllo before, then these should be a piece of cake for you. If not, you’ll probably feel like me and get discouraged during the part where you have to make the cupcake shell.   But don’t let that stop you from trying this recipe. If I can do this, anyone can.

I topped mine with salsa, but feel free to add a dollop of sour cream or some more shredded cheese. These were so fun to eat and surprisingly not messy. I took some to my neighbor and he approved. 

Cute, fun and healthy snack for next week’s bachelorette party? Mission accomplished. 

I have a feeling these will blow those cucumber sandwiches out of the water.

 

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