Chipotle-Sesame Beef Tacos with Cotija, Avocado and Cilantro

El Picosito Copycat

El Picosito Copycat

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and I’m proud to be working with the Beef Checkoff. I would have shared this recipe with you regardless, so the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is a perfect partner (since I already use Beef at home every week). Also, you need to know, that although they did provide me with some tips to share about beef, I’m going to share a bunch of additional health information with you that DID NOT come from them. I’m kind of on a bit of a soap box about proper nutrition lately, and I think beef and fat in particular have been given a dirty name they don’t deserve. Read on and you’ll know why…

First of all, this is my current favorite meal and is relatively easy to make, so I hope you’ll read to the end and actually get to the recipe down there. Take a good look at that beautiful taco and imagine the wonders of Asia coming together with the perfection of Mexican food… and times that by awesome. Then you might be able to get a mental image of how delicious these tacos are. OR – if you’ve ever eaten an El Picosito at Tacodeli in Austin… you might be able to imagine how good these tacos are… because their “grilled beef tenderloin in a spicy chipotle sesame sauce with fresh avocado and crumbled queso fresco” was my inspiration for making this in the first place:

The Original El Picosito

The Original El Picosito at Tacodeli

Mmmm. Look at that drippy beef fat. I swoon.

If you know me, you know I love food. I love to cook it, and I LOVE to eat it. If you know me, you’ll also know that my family has been on a quest to eat healthy this year and we have given up most grains and sugars. Tacos present quite the challenge with grain-free diets… but I don’t think having an organic corn tortilla (yes they are out there) or a gluten-free ancient grain tortilla is going to derail your diet every now and then. For the purposes of this recipe, I used a the latter. Yes, I know there are alternatives to tortillas, and by all means, if you want to deprive yourself, go right ahead… but I’m sticking to my once a week cheat for now. Tryin’ to make it as healthy of a cheat as I can. This is something my family can live with. We are pretty religious about having our ‘Mexican’ flavored meals once a week ’round these parts. { You might imagine this is true if you count how many Mexican Restaurants and Taco joints there are in any given mile within a 30-mile radius around Austin. }

I tried to make this just about a recipe, but there are so many people out there who have bought in to the lie that red meat isn’t healthy and fat causes heart disease; and I couldn’t sleep well if I didn’t try to dispel this myth. Just for kicks (and for the FDA goons out there), I need to tell you I’m NOT A DOCTOR. Most of what I am going to tell you about Beef and Fat will be just blurbs from another site I want to share with you… and maybe a tidbit from the Nourishing Traditions Cookbook by Sally Fallon Morell.

I started eating a diet very similar to the one suggested by the Weston Price Foundation (of which Sally is founding president) back in February of this past year. I tried to cut out as much vegetable oils, refined and processed foods, artificial ingredients, fast foods, fat free foods, and pasteurized foods as I could from our diet. I increased my vegetable intake, my water intake, my protein intake, and my fat intake. I also began to drastically reduce grains and sugars in my diet. Since this time, I’ve lost weight even though I’m eating way more calories and fat – but the main reason I’ve chosen to eat this way is for my health (and my family’s health).

I’d love to share with you a few articles that exonerate beef (and fat in general) and let you discover for yourself that you’ve been lied to by the “Diet Dictocrats”:

The Principles of a Healthy Diet (click to read)

If you clicked over to read that link, your mind is probably blown right now. I know this article would be frowned upon by the modern medical system and nutritional theorists in the western world, but people lived and ate this way for many years prior to the rise of commercially processed, refined, and altered foods.

Excerpt: When Dr. Price analyzed the foods used by isolated peoples he found that, in comparison to the American diet of his day, they provided at least four times the water-soluble vitamins, calcium and other minerals, and at least TEN times the fat-soluble vitamins, from animal foods such as butter, fish eggs, shellfish, organ meats, eggs and animal fats–the very cholesterol-rich foods now shunned by the American public as unhealthful. These healthy traditional peoples knew instinctively what scientists of Dr. Price’s day had recently discovered–that these fat-soluble vitamins, vitamins A and D, were vital to health because they acted as catalysts to mineral absorption and protein utilization. Without them, we cannot absorb minerals, no matter how abundant they may be in our food. Dr. Price discovered an additional fat-soluble nutrient, which he labeled Activator X, that is present in fish livers and shellfish, and organ meats and butter from cows eating rapidly growing green grass in the Spring and Fall. All primitive groups had a source of Activator X, now thought to be vitamin K2, in their diets. ~

Is Beef Good For You? (click to read)

Excerpt: The truth is that in spite of all the propaganda you have heard, the lipid hypothesis has never been proved. In fact, inadequate protein intake leads to loss of myocardial muscle and may, therefore, contribute to coronary heart disease.

The most likely causes of increased heart disease in America are the other changes in our diets—huge increases in consumption of refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils, particularly hydrogenated vegetable oils; and the decline in nutrient levels in our food, particularly minerals and fat soluble vitamins—vitamins found only in animal fats.

What a shame we have demonized red meat because this is one modern food, enjoyed by almost everybody, that is rich in nutrients. Red meat provides complete protein, including sulphur-containing proteins like cysteine. Beef is a wonderful source of taurine and carnitine, needed for healthy eyes and a healthy heart. Beef also provides another key nutrient for the cardiovascular system—coenzyme Q10.

Pemmican [Eaten by American Indians], a highly concentrated travel food, was a mixture of lean dried buffalo meat and highly saturated buffalo fat. (Buffalo fat, by the way, is more saturated than beef fat.) Less than two pounds of pemmican per day could sustain a man doing hard physical labor. The ratio of fat to protein in pemmican was 80% to 20%. As lean meat from game animals was often given to the dogs, there is no reason to suppose that everyday fare did not have the same proportions: 80% fat (mostly highly saturated fat) to 20% protein—in a population in which heart disease and cancer were nonexistent.

The beef industry has been forced to be apologetic about its product because it’s very difficult to get the fat out of beef. ~

But is fat really bad for you like the lipid-hypothesis suggests?

Excerpt: In addition to vitamins A and D, fat contributes many important fatty acids, including palmitoleic acid, an antimicrobial fat that protects us against pathogens in the gut. If you want to be sure that you don’t get foodborne illness from your hamburger, use full fat ground beef.

Fat also provides a substance called conjugated linoleic acid or CLA, at least it does if the animals have been on green grass. CLA is a substance that protects us against cancer and that promotes weight loss—that’s right, fat can make you thin, if it’s the right kind of fat.

And the right kind of fat is also saturated fat which, in spite of what we’ve been told, plays many important roles in the body chemistry. The scientific literature delineates a number of vital roles for dietary saturated fats—they enhance the immune system, are necessary for healthy bones, provide energy and structural integrity to the cells, protect the liver and enhance the body’s use of essential fatty acids. Stearic acid and palmitic acid, found in beef tallow and butter, are the preferred foods for the heart. As saturated fats are stable, they do not become rancid easily, do not call upon the body’s reserves of antioxidants, do not initiate cancer, do not irritate the artery walls.

In fact saturated beef fat is one of the most useful fats in the culinary repertoire. As it is very stable and doesn’t go rancid when heated to high temperatures, it’s perfect for frying. While we don’t recommend a lot of fried foods, we know that our children and grandchildren are going to eat them. Fast food outlets used to fry their potatoes in healthy stable beef tallow. They were crisp, tasted delicious and provided many important nutrients. But the phony cholesterol issue has forced these outlets to switch to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is known to cause a host of chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, bone problems, infertility and autoimmune disease. ~

I could go on and on with quotes, but I’ll let you read the website. Just want you to know that fat isn’t your enemy. Lies are the enemy – and they’ve been killing untold amounts of Americans in a health system that makes up a huge percentage of our economy.

Meat Broths and Why they are So Important (click to read)

Excerpt: Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain. ~

Nourishing Traditions Beef Bone Broth (click for recipe)

“Good broth will resurrect the dead,” ~ South American proverb

Take a look at what you are missing if you don’t eat beef:

Power of 10 - Beef

Not to mention, you’re missing out on these tacos. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss out on these beefy tacos. They’s good, y’all.

Have I convinced you yet? Well – if so, you can visit Beef It’s What’s For Dinner and check out their Interactive Butcher Counter to help find the right cut at the case (available on mobile or web). You can get info on cooking methods, recipes, savings tips, nutritional info, storing and freezing tips, and more on this website.

And now for the recipe!

Tacodeli has another taco called the Frontera Fundido Sirloin that has “grilled sirloin glazed with Monterey Jack cheese and garnished with sautéed poblanos and onion rajas”. Whatever rajas are, the Fundido tastes pretty spectacular (my daughter’s favorite). I added their sautéed peppers and onions to the last batch of these tacos I cooked up and it fit perfectly in to the recipe. Using peppers, onions, poblano peppers and even slices of jalapeños if you can stand the heat is a great way to stretch your meat, too. I sometimes make this dish with only 2 large steaks and it feeds our family of six!

Marinating Beef

Marinating Beef, onions and peppers… Mmmm!

I make this all the time for our family now and I change it up and add things we have on hand. Feel free to add whatever you love when you make them yourself.

To get an idea of what strip of meat to use, check out this descriptive post by Serious Eats.

Chipotle-Sesame Beef Tacos with Cotija, Avocado and Cilantro
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Asian and Mexican flavors mingle in this fantastic beefy taco - topped with fresh avocado and cotija cheese crumbles. This is my all-time favorite taco flavor combination!
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4
Taco Ingredients:
  • 3-4 Rib-eye or Top Serloin strip steaks, sliced into 2-3 inch strips for marinating
  • Julienned Onion and yellow bell pepper (optional)
  • Cotija cheese
  • Fresh Cilantro (I even used the flowers - they are gorgeous)
  • Shredded red leaf lettuce
  • Julienned slices avocado
  • El Lago Gluten Free Tortilla (or any kind you like)
  • Organic Black Beans (or you can serve them on the side)
  • Butter or oil for sautéing
Meat marinade:
  • Dash Pepper
  • Dash Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Sea Salt
  • Pinch Cayenne (optional)
  • ¼ tsp Cumin
  • ¼ tsp Sumac
  • ¼ tsp Wood Smoke Salt (optional)
  • ¼ tsp San Antonio Chili Powder
  • ¼ tsp Turmeric
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Chipotle Chili
  • ¼ tsp Ground Thai Chili (optional)
  • 1 tsp Coconut Palm Sugar (optional, but yummy)
  • 2 Tbsp Water
  • 1 Tbsp Sesame Seed
  • 1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  1. Mix all marinade ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to blend flavors.
  2. Carve your beef, making sure to leave some fat for flavor.
  3. Marinade meat for at least 45 minutes to an hour as you prepare the rest of the meal.
  4. Chop your onion and bell pepper, cilantro and lettuce.
  5. Set Cilantro and lettuce aside in a dish for serving at the table (or keep in fridge until meal time).
  6. Sauté your onion and bell pepper and toss in marinated beef strips when onion begins to wilt.
  7. Pour on extra marinade and continue cooking until beef is done to desired wellness.
  8. Pan fry your tortillas in butter or oil and keep covered so they stay warm.
  9. Crumble your cotija cheese into a small serving bowl.
  10. Slice Avocados and place in small serving bowl.
  11. Serve meat and onions along with avocado, cilantro, lettuce, beans, and cotija cheese at the table.
  12. Stack your taco and enjoy!

We serve this with a copycat version of Chipotle’s cilantro and lime infused brown rice and black beans usually. I like the beans on the side rather than in the taco (unlike the image pictured at top). That was my very first time to make this dish, and the cilantro was fresh from my yard and blooming when I made it, so I decided to use that photo. These tacos make a great meal just by themselves, too. When I eat at Tacodeli, I usually get three tacos and a kombucha – no beans and rice required.

I hope you’ll eat more beef now that you know it isn’t bad for you… and I hope you enjoy this delicious taco recipe, too.

Tacodeli Queso Magic

Tacodeli Queso Magic

Fortunately, I am happy with my recipe and don’t venture in to Austin quite as often any more… Sorry Tacodeli!

In a side note: Their cheese dip is to die for – “Roberto’s Brazo Fuerte Dip” has queso, guacamole, pico & Akaushi ground beef” (and you’ll have to fight for your portion of it if my teenagers are eating lunch with you, just an FYI).

Tacodeli Love

Tacodeli Love

Oh – and as a non-sponsored side-note: please do stop in at Tacodeli if you are ever in Austin. Just because you can now make a similar taco at home to one on their menu does not mean they are any less amazing and shouldn’t be on your “lunch date” venue list. I probably wouldn’t have been forced to start making a copycat of their tacos at home if I didn’t have so many taco-lovers to feed in my family (read: 6 mouths to feed $) and if Tacodeli wasn’t such a drive for us. { HINT: please expand northward! } Send them some love and stop in for lunch. Just be sure to get there before 3PM because that’s when they close for the day!

Oh, and just a heads up – their Doña (green) and orange sauces are hot!

FTC Disclosure: There’s an Amazon link under the cookbook mention. Buy it from clicking over and I’ll get a few pennies of compensation. This post was sponsored by the Beef Checkoff – which basically means they compensated me to write it (and might share my recipe on their site if they love it). Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers… like beef, and tacos, and Sally’s cookbook.


  1. Russell says

    Thanks for posting, the El Picosito is my favorite! And although I have a Tacodeli down the road (and we go enough to support several of their employee’s salaries I’m sure) this will be a blast to try and I’ve been wanting a recipe for a while now as I switched to Paleo. BTW going carb-free other than veggies has absolutely changed my life. I think if more people just tried this for even a few weeks they’d realize the damage being done to their bodies by all the carbs they’re consuming.

    • says

      Yeah – those empty carbs full of bleach and sugar will getcha! 😉 Let me know how you like this recipe? This one is a bit sweeter, but I have come to like it better – if that is even possible! I’m one of Tacodeli’s biggest fans.

  2. Chris says

    Heather, I’m really excited to try this. I’m addicted to the Pocosito at Tacodeli. The flavors are so rich and deep. In fact I need to head there now!