I don't use the word "best" lightly, but this vegan taco meat truly deserves the title! Protein-rich soy curls (or TVP) and walnuts combine to create an exceptionally meaty and satisfying alternative to beef. Soy curl taco meat is perfect for tacos and burritos and for topping salads and grain bowls. This recipe is gluten-free with oil-free and nut-free options.
Why You'll Love It
I really think you're going to love this combination of ground Butler soy curls and walnuts. It's textural, firm, filling, and generously spiced! Best of all it comes together in about 35 minutes. Pulsing the soy curls in a food processor creates amazing texture that perfectly mimics taco meat.
Speaking of soy curls, if you're not familiar with this awesome vegan meat substitute, check out this post, 19 Vegan Soy Curl Recipes + Soy Curl FAQs.
This vegan taco meat recipe was a happy accident. I was working on a breakfast sausage recipe and had trouble getting one of the test batches to hold together.
So I just tossed the crumbled soy curls into a pan and sautéed until golden. The result was so meaty, delicious, and versatile that I decided to put the sausage recipe on hold, switch up the spices, and create a flavorful vegan taco meat instead.
And guess what... it's now one of our favorite recipes on the blog!
- Soy curls - made from just one ingredient, whole, non-GMO soybeans, Butler soy curls can be ordered directly from the Butler Foods website and from Amazon. Sometimes you'll find them in local stores, but unfortunately this product is not widely distributed to chain groceries. To learn more, be sure to check out this guide to soy curls.
Tip! Can't get soy curls where you live? No problem. Use textured vegetable protein (TVP) instead.
- Walnuts - these add nice richness to the taco meat since soy curls are not very high in fat. If you follow a low-fat diet feel free to omit the walnuts. Raw sunflower seeds make a perfect nut-free option.
- Onion, jalapeno and garlic - these add so much flavor and depth to the taco meat, so I don't recommend skipping them!
- Salsa - any traditional-style salsa you like is fine here. It adds nice moisture and acidity to the dish.
- Spice blend - don't be intimidated by the number of ingredients in the recipe. It's mostly just spices! If you don't have smoked paprika, regular sweet paprika may be used instead. Oh, and chili powder refers to the blend commonly found in stores, not a specific chili.
See recipe card below for amounts and full instructions.
How to Make Vegan Taco Meat
- First, rehydrate the soy curls in broth. While they soak, preheat a large sauté pan, and cook the onion, jalapeño, and garlic.
- After 15 minutes drain the soy curls in a colander. Then pick up large handfuls, and squeeze them over the sink to remove some of the moisture. Now they're rehydrated but should look fairly dry (see below).
- Toss the soy curls into the pan with the veggies, and cook until they develop a bit of color. Add salsa and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more. Set aside while you create the spice blend.
- Now it's time for the food processor. Process the walnuts until crumbled. Then add the spices, and pulse several times to blend.
- Add the soy curl mixture to the food processor and pulse until the soy curls are mostly chopped. Drizzle with tamari, and process until it until uniformly ground.
- Preheat the same sauté pan again over medium heat, and cook the vegan taco meat until hot and slightly browned. You may want to drizzle in a bit of water for moisture and to prevent sticking.
More Ways to Use Soy Curls
- Vegan Bacon Bits
- Air Fryer Soy Curls
- One-Skillet White Chili Casserole
- Vegan Ground Beef
- Slow Cooker BBQ Soy Curls
- Healthy Vegan Pot Pie
- Instant Pot Red Lentil Curry
- Instant Pot Millet With Vegetables
I've also made the recipe with ¼ cup almond flour instead of the walnuts. It adds nice richness, but if you have both on hand, I tend to prefer the flavor of walnuts.
For a nut-free option, either omit the walnuts or use ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds. They provide great nutrition, added crunch, and richness.
Store leftover vegan taco meat in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It's also freezer-friendly. Thaw and re-heat before serving.
You might like
I hope you enjoy this deliciously versatile Vegan Taco Meat! If you give it a try be sure to leave a comment and a star rating below to let us know.
The Best Vegan Taco Meat
- 4 ounces Butler soy curls (half of a bag) - or sub TVP, see Notes
- 2 to 3 cups salty vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, optional - Omit for oil-free.
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 large jalapeno, seeded and diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅓ cup salsa
- ½ cup raw walnut halves - Reduce or omit, if desired. See Notes for nut-free option.
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast, optional
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
- Place soy curls in a large bowl, and cover with broth to rehydrate. Add a bit of water to the bowl if needed so that the soy curls are mostly submerged. Set aside to soak for 15 minutes, then drain in a colander.
- Preheat a large saute pan over medium heat, and add the oil, if using. Stirring occasionally, cook the onion for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the jalapeno to the pan, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan, and cook for about 1 minute.
- One handful at a time, pick up the drained soy curls and squeeze them over the sink to remove some of the moisture. Add the soy curls to the pan, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until they begin to brown and are hot. Add salsa to the pan and stir to combine. Remove from heat.
- Place walnuts in a food processor, and pulse into coarse crumbs. Next, add the spices to the food processor: nutritional yeast, chili powder, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne. Pulse to combine.
- Transfer the soy curl-onion mixture to the food processor and pulse a few times to chop the soy curls. Add the tamari, and process until uniformly ground.
- Preheat the saute over medium heat again, and transfer the ground mixture to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until hot and fragrant. Add up to ¼ cup water as needed for moisture and to prevent sticking. Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.