This low-fat vegan taco meat is like no other you’ve seen before! It’s made of only whole foods, is packed with protein, uses only 7 ingredients and uses no oil. The crumbly yet chewy texture is spot on and makes a perfect taco!
As much as we love a good black bean filling, there is always that craving for a traditional crunchy “meaty” taco. Most of the options out there for that perfect meaty texture are made of processed ingredients…until now. This vegan taco filling isn’t too wet, so your crunchy tacos stay crunchy, it has that signature crumbly texture, and you are met with that oh so perfect chew!
But how in the world did you make this low in fat, high in protein and with an amazing chew?
The short answer is, lots and lots of trial and error. I wanted this made of ONLY whole foods. No processed stuff. I also wanted it allergy friendly, which means no nuts. Finally, I wanted this to have a short list of ingredients. I nailed it with 7 amazing whole foods, including the salt (technically you can make it with 6 if you use water instead of broth!). Each one contributes to that spot on meaty texture:
- dried chickpeas- this will not work as well with canned. Reason being, soaking a dried chickpea allows for a slight chew in the texture.
- short grain brown rice- long grain will not work here. The short grain brown rice has that perfect chew to it, which is a huge part of the texture in this vegan taco meat.
- red onion- adds a depth of flavor reminiscent of real crumbled taco meat.
- veggie broth- just enough to cook the onion to that prefect soft consistency and keep this recipe low-fat and oil free. Do not add any more liquid or it will yield a mushier end result. Don’t ask me how I know. Ok fine, MANY errors. PS- you can use water too if you don’t have broth and are too lazy to go to the store (I learned this lesson as well).
- seasoning- I use my new favorite homemade taco seasoning (it has an important secret ingredient!), also don’t forget to add your salt as my homemade taco seasoning is salt free.
- breadcrumbs- I trialed, and errored, many options to help absorb that last bit of liquid, and breadcrumbs were the stand out winner.
A chewy crumbly vegan taco meat like no other
This idea is one of my most proud inventions. I searched and searched for something out there and came up blank, which is why I decided to make my own. Not only does this have no processed ingredients, like most of the really meaty textured options out there, but it is simple with only 7 ingredients (including salt, and not taking into account the spices used if you make your own taco seasoning).
I really wanted a texture that was crumbly with a slight chew to it, but wasn’t “wet.” The problem with it having too much moisture is that when you make the oven baked taco version of tacos, the shell gets moisture in it and you lose that awesome crunch. NO BUENO. And gross.
Let’s build crunchy vegan whole food based tacos!
This low-fat vegan taco meat really isn’t very complicated to make. Remembering to soak the chickpeas the night before is the hardest part! If you’re like me, and you’ve had three kids that stole your brain, then rest well knowing that you can easily get away with soaking them for 4 hours and be fine.
- So first we cook the rice and chickpeas.
- Then we pulse them in a food processor with cooked red onion and the taco seasoning.
- And then we BUILD!
Last, we devour. Hopefully in silence without the word “MAMA!” being screamed at you every two seconds. PSA, if you smother your taco in jalapeños, the kids won’t beg like little puppy dogs for more (aka try and eat your dinner).
This low-fat vegan taco meat is like no other you've seen before! It's made of only whole foods, is packed with protein, uses only 7 ingredients and uses no oil. The crumbly yet chewy texture is spot on and makes a perfect taco!
- ½ cup dried chickpeas soaked overnight (measure before soaking)
- ¼ cup short grain brown rice (see note)
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt (see note)
- 5 tablespoons taco seasoning (store bought or homemade)
- ¼ cup veggie broth , low sodium if needed (you can also use water if you don't have broth)
- 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs , gluten free if needed
- Put the rice in a medium sized pot and fill it with water, make sure you have plenty of water so that when you add the chickpeas it will cover them.
- Partially cover and bring to a boil (about 7-8 minutes, depending on stove top).
- Turn the heat down to medium and cook partially covered an additional 10 minutes (should be about 17-18 minutes total rice cooking time). The texture of the rice should be just beginning to get chewy, not hard but not fully cooked.
- Add the soaked chickpeas and cook an additional 8 minutes.
- Drain and rinse and immediately put the mixture in a food processor. Make sure you have drained it well so there isn’t any residual water in the food processor.
- Add the taco seasoning into the food processor and pulse once or twice to combine. Adding the taco seasoning in right away when the mixture is hot, allows the flavors to meld together well.
- While the rice and beans are boiling, you can cook the onion in a separate pan, or you can wait until they are done cooking and use the same pot to cook the onion in.
- Saute the chopped onion with salt and veggie broth over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, until it is soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Transfer onion mixture into the food processor.
- Pulse until you get a nice crumble. Add breadcrumbs and pulse 2-3 more times to incorporate.
- Put into a bowl, give it a good mix and allow it to settle in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This helps the flavors and texture fully develop. If you are eating it that day, you can also let it settle on the countertop so that you don’t have to reheat it.
Fill hard tortilla shells with a little bit of the taco meat, top with 1-2 tablespoons of cheese sauce, if using. Then cover with more taco meat. This helps the cheese sauce stay away from the taco shell so the shell does not become soggy when baking.
Bake at 350 F (175 C) for 12-15 minutes or until the shells begin to brown.
- Allow to cool 5 minutes, then add your favorite toppings and dig in!
- Bake tacos according to package directions, make your own crispy taco shells or use soft corn tortillas.
- Fill the tortillas with taco meat, top with cheese sauce and any of your other favorite toppings and enjoy!
- This recipe makes about 3 cups taco meat. Nutrition is for the taco meat portion of the recipe only, and accounts for 1/2 cup. Values will change depending on what tortillas and toppings you use.
- If you plan to make this ahead of time and eat it over the course of a few days, you may need to add a bit more broth so that it doesn't dry up. You can always warm it up with a touch of broth as well.
- Make sure you use short grain brown rice and not long grain. The short grain rice helps gives this a meaty chewy texture.
- Adjust the salt for the ingredients you use. My homemade taco seasoning does not have added salt. I also use low sodium veggie broth.
- The toppings are all optional and just ideas. I highly recommend the cheese sauce recipe paired with this taco meat. I also love topping my tacos with guacamole, shredded lettuce, fresh tomato and red onion and pickled jalapeno slices. Mix and match and create your own favorite loaded taco!
Tips to prep ahead:
- Cook rice and beans
- Make taco seasoning if not buying
Baby/toddler food idea:
- Serve as a taco bowl or as a burrito with grilled seam to close for easy eating.