VegetarianFilter: Give me your best veg taco recipes and tips!
December 19, 2009 10:31 AM   Subscribe

VegetarianFilter: Give me your best veg taco recipes and tips!

I've been a vegetarian for several years now and then one thing I really miss? A good taco.

I've tried meat substitutes (boca crumbles) and find the texture rather gross. They always have a gristle taste/feel to them.

I've seen recipes for lentil style tacos - but my lentils always turn out hard. What about tofu?

What else can I try? Open to any and all recipes, suggestions and tips!
posted by pghjezebel to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
Refried black beans (they sell these in cans), with a spoonful of mole sauce (from a jar) mixed in. Heat this in a pan on the stove. Use other fillings (cheese, lettuce, tomato) normally. May work better for burritos, but should work okay for tacos, too.
posted by dilettante at 10:36 AM on December 19, 2009

I was just talking with my sister about this. We were raised kosher, and when tacos were had, we always had Morning Star Farms patties. We crumbled them up, then cooked them like they were ground beef. We would add taco seasoning to them, and cook them just like tacos. I was telling my sister that honestly, I preferred the texture (if not the flavor, which was pretty close) of the patties to that of beef.

She did say that it's available in loose, bagged form now, but I can't vouch for that. The patties, thawed and crumbled by hand we the best veggie food this carnivore had ever had.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:39 AM on December 19, 2009

If you're not vegan, a fried egg or scrambled eggs in the bottom of the taco shell can be a good protein substitute.

If you don't like the fake meat crumbles (I agree about the texture), consider chopping up a veggie burger and using that instead (I like Amy's Kitchen All-American burger for this sort of thing, which has a less chewy/gristle-y than a lot of other veggie burgers, but whatever your favorite is).

You can do tofu, but make sure you drain it and season it well or it will be kind of bland and wet (I've had that happen). I would probably adapt a tofu scramble recipe for this -- just add more taco-y flavors.

I personally just do black beans most of the time -- you could cook your own, but I'm lazy and just get mine out of a can.
posted by darksong at 10:41 AM on December 19, 2009

Best answer: my lentils always turn out hard.
To avoid this, don't add salt or any acid (like tomatoes) until the very end. You can also add a pinch of baking soda to any bean to to get softer skins. Lentil tacos are a good meaty substitute when done right.

Nut-based fillings are also amazing, though probably more work.
posted by susanvance at 10:43 AM on December 19, 2009

Best answer: I make these, and my god are they ever delicious.

I usually just mix a can of drained, rinsed black beans with some salsa and onion, add cayenne pepper and a bit of cumin, and fry the resulting tacos in oil; add cilantro, hot sauce, and queso fresco (a salty, crumbly mexican cheese).

It's the one thing I always end up eating too much of, because of how delicious it is.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:49 AM on December 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have the solution for you! You can find this in the natural food section of almost any store and it's really, really good. It's not grisly at all either. Trust me, you're gonna love it.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:56 AM on December 19, 2009

my favorite vegetarian burrito goes like this: I roast sweet potatoes with chili. Mash them up. Cook black beans with chipotles, or mole, smoosh them slightly. Spread the sweet potato on the tortilla, add some black beans, fold it up and cook it till crisp in a pan. Serve with sour cream. You can substitute yams or kombucha squash, too.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:57 AM on December 19, 2009

Best answer: I like using beans, veggies, rice, eggs, potatoes (sweet and otherwise), and mushrooms. Not all at the same time. Tempeh works well too.
Here's how I would do tofu:
1. Freeze extra firm tofu. This creates a different, chewier texture. You can skip this if you like. Thaw before step 2.
2. Drain and press the heck out of the tofu.
3. Crumble or dice tofu.
4. In a hot pan with oil (probably canola) saute onion and garlic. Add the tofu and brown or crisp it up. Add spices like cumin, paprika, chili powder, taco seasoning, whatever.
5. Sometimes I use the taco seasoning packet so I add that and water and simmer for awhile. That works pretty good at really getting flavors in the tofu.
6. Slap it in a tortilla!
posted by classa at 11:04 AM on December 19, 2009

Best answer: If you have a Trader Joe's near you, try the Soy Chorizo. It is seriously amazing and makes a wonderful filling for tacos. Also great in breakfast burritos and chili.
posted by barnone at 11:12 AM on December 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The secret to tofu is pressing.

Take a block of firm tofu and put it between two plates or trays with a nice flat surface. Put about five pounds of weight on top. The tofu should squeeze and flatten a bit but not tear or smash. I usually put a fork or something under one edge so the whole construction sits with a slight tilt to one side. Set it with the lower side next to the sink. Leave it like this for at least two hours. During that time an amazing amount of water is going to be pressed out of the tofu.

Without pressing, the tofu ends up slimy. Pressed, it takes on a much fleshier texture. After pressing, I like to dice the tofu and put it into a bag with salsa, lime, cilantro, etc. and let it marinate for an hour. The pressed tofu will absorb the flavors nicely.

Broil the tofu on a low oven, maybe 325, until it is browned and firm. Use it like diced chicken. A lot of people won't even realize that the tacos are vegetarian.
posted by Babblesort at 11:15 AM on December 19, 2009 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: So many good ideas! I don't know which to try first! Thank you all!
posted by pghjezebel at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2009

Best answer: I recently served tacos and burritos with Lightlife brand Smart Ground Mexican flavor. This is available widely in the refrigerator section of the grocery store, is not expensive, and has a great flavor. I served it up to my usually-strictly-carnivorous family with other burrito/taco ingredients such as vegetarian refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, etc. My father, who often avoids my veggie substitutes, thought it tasted great.

I can also vouch for Fantastic brand Taco Filling and Gimme Lean (both flavors! the sausage is great!), but I personally hated Soy Chorizo, both the texture and the flavor.
posted by aabbbiee at 11:22 AM on December 19, 2009

Best answer: TVP was pretty much made for this.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:24 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have gotten a lot of milage out of using the "Mexican flavored" SmartGround as a burrito and enchilada fill, but it could work for tacos. Basically:

1 onion, diced -- sweat a bit with 1/2 tsp kosher salt, add
1 poblano pepper, diced -- sweat some more, add
2-3 cloves garlic. add
1 tsp paprika, 2 tsps chili powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, and 1/2 tsp oregano, plus enough cayenne to make you happy, and a little black pepper, stir it around a bit, add
1 package smart ground, mix it all together, add
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes, with chilis is nice if you can get 'em, you can also add some Worcester sauce (or a veg equivalent) Let the whole mass cook for 10-20 minutes.

This is modified from Hot Damn and Hell Yeah, a cheap little cookbook that focuses on veganizing Tex-Mex cooking. I have liked everything from it, although some tinkering is necessary. The flipside cookbook, The Dirty South is not nearly as good (their biscuit recipe omits several critical steps).
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:36 AM on December 19, 2009

Best answer: My favorites:

Seitan Tacos
- marinate some sliced up seitan in lime juice, honey, a bit of oil and some mexican-y spices (like a mix of chili powder and cumin) for a few minutes
- cook seitan in a dry pan (don't add in the marinade, just what sticks to the seitan) over high heat until the seitan starts to blacken, maybe 3-5 minutes
- server on soft corn tortillas with some condiments, I like:
-- quick pickled onions/carrots/jalapenos
-- chopped up cilantro
-- yogurt or sour cream mixed with adobo sauce from a can of chipotles
-- crumbled cheese
-- fresh salsa
-- big sprouts, like sunflower sprouts
-- avocado slices

Rick Bayless also has a few good veggie taco recipes - try his Swiss Chard tacos or mushroom/potato/soy chorizo tacos.
posted by skwm at 11:43 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, check out Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday cookbook. It's got a lot of good veggie recipes, and bunch of meat recipes that can easily be adapted to be veggie-friendly.
posted by skwm at 11:44 AM on December 19, 2009

I use tempeh most often - just crumble it up and simmer in a skillet with about a half cup of water and whatever seasonings you like until the liquid is almost gone.
posted by something something at 11:45 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm 2nding (I think) the soy chorizo (which you can get other places than TJs if you don't have one) and the SmartGround (either mexican or not). I've had many a taco made with both.
posted by grapesaresour at 12:20 PM on December 19, 2009

When I make vegetarian food for my daughter that requires ground "beef", I do this:

Get an equal amount of raw onion, mushrooms, carrots, celery, any other vegetables that you have. Peppers, zucchini, cabbage, cauliflower, whatever. Avoid the starchy ones like potatoes and squash. About a half cup each, to make up to about 2 cups total.

Use one of those slap-chop type choppers to chop them all up into tiny little crumb-looking pieces. I don't have a food processor, but that might work too. You want it to end up looking as if you cooked ground beef, so make tiny little pieces. You shouldn't be able to recognize the individual bits, except for color.

Saute in olive oil until softened. Season with powdered boullion - the kind that is supposed to taste like fake beef flavor. Pour in some good beer (1/2 to 1 bottle) and simmer until it is reduced.

Once you have that, you can season the same as your recipe - tacos, chili, sloppy joes, lasagne, shepherd's pie, whatever.

It is NOT a protein substitute, but the flavor is really good. The rest of my family now prefers our chili made this way instead of ground beef.
posted by CathyG at 12:29 PM on December 19, 2009

Best answer: I made tacos with eggplant for some kosher friends of mine. I used the taco seasoning mix, but you could use the spices of your choice, and sauted in olive oil, added water, and then added the seasoning.
posted by lemonwheel at 12:51 PM on December 19, 2009

Best answer: I'm pretty big on coincidentally meatless tacos/tostadas/tortas. People in Mexico eat a whole lot of stuff that isn't meat, and the meat they do eat is almost never ground beef mixed with cumin and chili powder. There's a million taco fillings you can mix and match, and when you have a huge flavorful taco spilling over with dankness I don't miss the meat.


Winter greens (chard, kale, spinach, or maybe collard/dandelion if you're really badass and don't mind a bit of bitterness) sauteed or braised with onion. This has the advantage of being more seasonal than lettuce if it's winter where you are right now.

Soy chorizo is the only meatless-meat product I like because "real" chorizo is so oddly textured that it is easy to replicate with soy protein. Like barnone says, Trader Joe's has a good brand that's only $2. I'm not crazy about the Yves brand chorizo, it's twice as expensive and not as good, but if can find the brand "Soyrizo" it's amazing.

Roasted root vegetables are very filling and savory. I cube things like winter squash, potatoes, beets, and carrots and toss them with a mixture of olive oil, chipotles in adobo, and herbs/spices.

Roasted cippolini onions are pure unami. I prepare them the same way I do the roasted root veggies, but I wanted to mention them seperately because they do an AMAZING job of filling the savory role meat usually does. Cippolinis are smaller and sweeter than regular onions and a nice roast in olive oil turns them into caramelized oniony morsels that melt in your mouth.

Avocado. Nuff said.


Puree a bunch of cilantro with sour cream, lime juice, and queso fresco in a blender. It's a bright green, fresh, tangy sauce and everyone always asks me if I put crack in it.

Put chipotle in everything; in the beans, in the salsas, in the soyrizo. Seriously. I just buy super cheap cans of pureed chipotles in adobo at the mercado because I sneak spoonfuls into everything. Put cumin in everything, too.

Puree avocado, lime juice, unsalted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, olive oil, cilantro, and salt in a blender. It's thick and the avocado and nuts are both amazingly fatty-in-a-good-way. It's kind of like a Mexican pesto with all the cilantro and olive oil and nuts, and it's also great as a salad dressing.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:56 PM on December 19, 2009 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I use diced yves veggie chicken burgers sauteed with onion, garlic, chipotle and taco spice. it's really good.

and here's a recipe for the best guacamole ever:

start by chopping 1/2 a small onion really finely, and then letting that soak in the juice of 1/2 a lime and a bunch of salt while you chop everything else - this takes the edge off of the raw onion

2 avocados, halved, pit removed; gently score the flesh into cubes, and scoop it out with a spoon

2 roma tomatoes, seeds removed, finely chopped

a handful of cilantro, no stems, leaves finely chopped

pepper and chipotle powder

mix until it's mostly smooth but still with some lumps, and add salt to taste.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:24 PM on December 19, 2009

Best answer: Dude, yes, soyrizo and potato tacos, and I'm a meat eater.
posted by ersatzkat at 3:24 PM on December 19, 2009

I hope I'm not too late for this question. In addition to the soyrizo and potato tacos mentioned above, we like these Crispy Tacos. This is original. I came up with it after I had to do something with some bland casserole leftovers. I've been making this since we went veg, so 10 years or so and it's one of my go-to recipes for omnivores, especially with the quinoa.

Crispy Tacos

1/2 cup quinoa or white rice
1/4 cup kasha (buckwheat groats)
1 7-oz can corn
1 envelope taco seasoning
18 taco shells, or 12 taco shells and 6 flour tortillas
lettuce, guacamole, cheese and salsa to top tacos

Bring 1 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa or rice and kasha and cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain liquid from corn into a measuring cup and add water to make 1/2 cup. Add corn, taco seasoning and liquid to rice (this will be less than the water called for on the taco seasoning packet). Simmer and stir over medium heat until liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes.

Crisp taco shells according to package directions and serve with taco toppings.

Leftover filling is good in burritoes and you can freeze it.
posted by zinfandel at 7:04 PM on December 19, 2009

Field Roast Italian (less spicy) or Mexican Chipotle (spicy) sausages or Meatloaf (even less spicy) can all be crumbled up to replace ground meat in any recipe, including tacos. IMHO, they have a better flavor and texture than most meat substitutes.
posted by cheerwine at 7:04 PM on December 19, 2009

shredded zucchini and oinion, stir-fried and drained. Add toppings of your choice.
posted by eleanna at 8:01 PM on December 19, 2009

Never made them myself, but I've been itching to try out Jackfruit Carnitas. They sound fantastic.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:03 PM on December 19, 2009

Seconding the Field Roast sausages - I made minimalist tacos for my meat eating boyfriend with these and he went back for several helpings. Yum.

I've never cooked the Jackfruit Carnitas, but the blog linked is right - Pure Luck does a really great veggie take on carnitas with jackfruit. The meat-eating boyfriend also was convinced by these.
posted by soleiluna at 11:12 PM on December 19, 2009

nthing Rick Bayless's "Mexican Everyday". A lot of his recipes use potatoes, eggs, zucchini, swiss chard, mushrooms, radishes, etc. for tacos. The book is worth getting for the salsa sauces alone, which go great on the tacos. Note that the vegetarian recipes are often variants, or he simply says you can not include the meat.

From his website:

Potatoes and Green Chiles

Mexico City-Style Quesadillas with Cheese and Chile or Mushrooms

Chipotle Salsa with Pan-Roasted Tomatillos (great on tacos)

Tips I learned:
- Boil your potatoes until softened, then mix with your sauce. This hot potatoes really soak up the sauces.
- Blend some adobo chiles for a fast spicy marinade.
- Add a quarter cup of lime juice to your onions and saute until the lime juice thickens. You'll get great lime taste in your tacos.
posted by xammerboy at 11:21 PM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

i've had jackfruit tacos in a few places before and they were more than exceptional. trouble is, i can't find non-syrup-packed, canned jackfruit at our store, but maybe you'll have better luck.
posted by phoeniciansailor at 7:32 PM on December 20, 2009

nopales! I am not vegetarian, but I will order a burrito, taco, whatever with nopales over any kind of meat, if its available.

Can't believe nobody has mentioned this yet.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:58 PM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just an update...Trader Joes Soy Chorizo is amazing.
posted by pghjezebel at 1:47 PM on January 27, 2010

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