Tacos and burritos have been a staple in my house for years. We seriously love them. And by love, I mean eat at least once a week and keep burrito shells in the fridge. Every time I’ve tried to cut out meat from my diet, tacos call me back. To be precise, I’m talking about ground beef taco meat. I don’t know what it is about taco meat that calls to me but it’s like a drug I can’t get enough of.
Knowing myself, I decided I had to find a recipe that would replace the ground beef. If I didn’t I would just fail on this vegan journey. Before I made the switch to a whole food, plant-based diet, I researched alternatives online. Nothing quite worked for me but I kept looking.
As I delved into research, losing complete track of time, (hello black hole that is the internet.) I learned quite a bit. I was able to pick apart recipes and find the bits that worked for me. Somethings I already knew, like adding mushrooms and tomato paste gives us that “meaty” flavor we miss. Or that browning the onions adds a bit of charred deliciousness you usually only get with seared meat.
But there were knew things to learn as well. Particularly involving the texture of the taco meat. All my attempts ended up mushy without the chewy crumbly deliciousness of the taco meat I remember. I tried chickpeas and lentils. I pureed the mushrooms into a paste and left them diced. Still nothing worked.
Then in my deep delve into recipe research I learned I could just grind up soaked chickpeas without cooking them first. Viola, perfection. It was the trick I needed to get the right texture for my taco meat.
It was everything I wanted and the flavors were perfect. For years I made my own taco seasoning and simply used that to season the mixture. By pureeing the mushrooms, onions, carrots and celery, (I’ve always like hiding veggies in my protein.) I was able to add their flavor without affecting the texture.
The recipe is easy but it’s important to remember to use soaked chickpeas. If you use canned or fully cooked, you won’t be happy with the texture. (it’ll taste fine, but paste like would be an appropriate texture description.) I pureed the mushrooms to hide them in the meat mixture and let the chickpeas stand out as the main texture element. You can play around with your own spice mixture or add a prepackaged taco seasoning packet, but it may not taste as good. I use a dried chipotle powder as my chili powder and it adds a slight smokiness that really enhances the flavor of the filling.
Once you have everything ready, just mix the ingredients, and cook it up like you would browning meat. Couldn’t be simpler! The one downside is that this isn’t a throw together at the last-minute kind of recipe. The soaked beans mean you have to plan ahead for it to work. That isn’t ideal on those days when you really want tacos but don’t have a lot of time. BUT WAIT IT FREEZES! Yes, you read it right. It freezes great. Just thaw it and cook it like you would ground beef, and bonus, because the seasoning is already in the mixture you just fry it up and enjoy.
The mixture will stay good in the freezer for weeks (if you pack it properly) and makes an excellent addition to your weekly dinner roundup. Cook up a bunch over the weekend and freeze it. (I freeze mine in half batches as there is only two us in the house but feel free to freeze as much at a time as you need).
It works great in tacos, burritos, salads, and more. It’s one of the staples in my kitchen and because I made it, I know exactly what’s in it. No more mystery ingredients I can’t pronounce. It’s healthy and packed with flavor and I don’t miss ground beef taco meat anymore.
Do you have a favorite taco recipe? Share it and let us try it.
I am not a nutritionist, dietitian, or medical professional of any kind. I am just a regular person sharing my personal journey on a way to a healthier, more satisfying life. Consult with a medical professional before starting any new exercise or diet plan. Please see full disclaimer here.