Tacos are a great weekday meal that can be thrown together quickly, and by offering different filling ingredients and toppings, you can please the whole family. Whether you are vegetarian for ethical reasons or just trying to reduce the amount of meat in your diet to improve your health, there are plenty of meat-free fillings that will still satisfy your taco cravings. Mix and match so that taco night is a new taste experience every time.
Refried beans are a classic taco filling, and you can make your own by mashing cooked beans and frying them with minced onion, garlic and spices. Try cooking lentils with vegetable broth and taco seasoning until they are soft and slightly crumbly. Whole black or pinto beans also make a hearty, high-protein taco filling. Make sure you drain the liquid off of canned beans to keep your tacos a little less messy.
Depending on how adventurous you are, almost any vegetable can be stuffed in a taco. Yams or sweet potatoes pair especially well with spicy black beans. Corn, beans and squash are traditionally grown together in “three sisters” gardens, and when cooked together they make a very filling taco mix. Roast a tray of red peppers, eggplant and sweet onions for tacos that taste downright luxurious.
If you’d like to replicate the mouth feel of ground beef, cook bulgur or cracked wheat with cumin, coriander, chili pepper and other spices, and then brown in a pan of hot oil until it is nice and chewy. Quinoa also works well in tacos and burritos and has the added benefit of being very high in protein. A taco filling of rice and beans is both traditional and very affordable; choose brown rice for healthier tacos.
Other Meat Substitutes
Many commercial vegetarian taco fillings can be found in the refrigerator or freezer section of grocery and natural food stores. However, these may be high in fat or sodium, and they can be expensive if you’re feeding a big family. Textured soy protein — also called TSP — is a dehydrated product that may be sold out of the bulk bins or in a package with the other dinner mixes, and when it is rehydrated and seasoned, it has a very meaty texture. You can also crumble tofu or tempeh and brown it in oil with taco seasoning. Shredded seitan — also called mock duck — makes a very believable substitute for chicken and can be seasoned exactly as you would meat.
References and ResourcesSimply Vegan; Debra Wasserman and Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D.
The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook; Louise Halger and Dorothy R. Bates