Walnut Taco Meat (Quick & Easy)

January 1, 2023

Entree

By: Jasmine Briones 

This Walnut Taco Meat is the easiest, quickest vegan taco meat! This flavor-packed walnut and mushroom meat cooks up in just 15 minutes with simple ingredients that you likely already have on hand. Plus, it makes a great make ahead meal or freezer meal!

A close up shot of vegan mushroom walnut taco meat in a cast iron skillet by sweet simple vegan

We originally created this taco recipe when we were craving tacos, but wanted to switch it up from our go-to Sheet Pan Tofu Taco Meat. I (Jasmine) basically took an old family recipe, made a few adjustments and used walnuts and mushrooms for the “meat” option.

They turned out PERFECT in consistency, moisture content, AND flavor. It had everything we wanted, plus it was easy to make and healthier than store-bought options. And since publishing, this recipe has since become extremely popular, even with people that don’t love mushrooms!

Ingredients to make vegan mushroom walnut taco meat on a marble board by sweet simple vegan

Ingredients You’ll Need 

  • Walnuts: An essential for walnut meat! Walnuts are the perfect substitute for beef because they are naturally high in healthy fats, softer than nuts like almonds, and turn into a nice ground beef-like crumble when processed in the food processor. Make sure to use raw walnuts – roasted walnuts will have a very different flavor profile and aren’t recommended. 
  • Aromatics: All you need is the classic foundation of onions and garlic and we’ll bet you’ve already got it stocked in the kitchen.
  • Mushrooms: Mushrooms are another great plant-based, umami packed ingredient to replicate meat. The mushroom flavor in these tacos is subtle, but it is still there. Readers who don’t love mushrooms have shared that they still loved this walnut taco meat! 
  • Spices: This taco meat is made with ground cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Simple and easy. 
  • Tomato paste: Adds depth of flavor and acidity that really helps it taste like Mexican-inspired taco meat. 
  • Tamari: Adds a salty, umami flavor to the taco meat. If not gluten-free, soy sauce works equally well. Or, if sensitive to sodium, try coconut aminos.   
  • Liquid Smoke: Optional, but liquid smoke is one of our favorite tricks to adding a smoky, meaty flavor to plant-based meat substitutes. Give it a try with our Crispy Shiitake Mushroom Bacon, Grilled Carrot Hot Dogs, or our Homemade Tempeh Bacon
  • Chopped cilantro: Cilantro is optional, but adds a bright pop of freshness that compliments the meaty texture. 
  • Lime juice: Similar to the tomato paste, fresh lime juice adds an acidity that balances the savoriness and fat in the walnut meat. You won’t regret a squeeze of fresh lime juice. 

Equipment Needed

  • Mixing bowl
  • Medium nonstick pan
  • Spatula
  • Food processor
vegan mushroom walnut tacos filled with all of the toppings and served on a marble platter by sweet simple vegan

How to Make Walnut Taco Meat

  1. Soak the walnuts. Place the walnuts in lukewarm water and soak for 20 minutes to soften. Drain and set aside. 
  2. Cook the aromatics. In a medium nonstick pan over medium heat, add the onions, garlic, and 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Cook until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant about 3 to 4 minutes. 
  3. Make the walnut meat “crumble.” Add the walnuts and mushrooms to a food processor fitted with the “s” blade and pulse until they have broken down into a meat-like crumble. 
  4. Transfer the walnut meat mixture to the pan. Season with cumin, chili powder, tomato paste, soy sauce, oregano, liquid smoke, and ¼ cup of water. Mix until combined and cook for an additional 8 minutes or until the walnut meat begins to brown and the mushrooms are softened. 
  5. Season to taste. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper, cilantro, and lime juice. 
  6. Enjoy! Add walnut meat to tacos or serve as desired! 

Serving Suggestions 

Walnut Taco Meat is perfect for stuffing in Whole Wheat Spinach Tortillas or lettuce wraps with fresh cilantro, diced tomatoes, onions, avocado, and our delicious Avocado Tahini Dressing.  

You can also use walnut meat to make a Vegan Taco Salad, Potato & Bean Quesadillas, Taquitos, Vegan Crunchwrap Supreme, and Vegan Nachos with restaurant-style salsa, guacamole, and vegan nacho cheese!

Storage Instructions

This walnut meat will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer and makes a fantastic meal prep or make-ahead meal! For best results, store in an airtight container such as a Tupperware or reusable bag with as much excess air removed as possible. 

Reheat leftover taco meat in the microwave until warmed through. If reheating from frozen, you may need an additional splash of vegetable broth to rehydrate it a bit!

vegan mushroom walnut tacos filled with all of the toppings and served on a marble platter by sweet simple vegan

Tips for Success

  • Avoid over-processing the walnuts and mushrooms. If you process it for too long, the walnut meat mixture will turn into a paste and will not be a favorable texture. Instead, pulse the mixture until a crumble forms. Using a large-cup food processor can help this because the mushrooms and walnuts will have ample room to process together. 
  • Adjust the seasonings. Depending on your spice preference and tolerance for salt, don’t be afraid to make adjustments. This walnut meat is straightforward to adjust. 
  • Buy tomato paste in a resealable tube. We often find it hard to use up a whole can of tomato paste at a time. To avoid food waste and save money, purchase the tomato paste in a resealable tube! It is slightly more expensive but will keep well for longer than an open can.

Recipe FAQs

Is walnut meat soft?

Yes! Our secret to making delicious soft walnut meat is soaking the walnuts in lukewarm water before starting. This helps make it soft and avoids crunchy taco meat.

How can I make walnut meat without a food processor?

No food processor? No problem. Simply finely chop your walnuts and mushrooms using a sharp kitchen knife and cutting board. You may also have success pulsing the walnuts and mushrooms together in a high-speed blender such as a Vitamix. 

Can I eat this walnut meat raw?

Technically yes, it is safe to eat this walnut meat raw, but we do find it is better when warmed on the stovetop. 

More Vegan Taco Meat Recipes You May Enjoy: 

Make sure you tag us on Instagram @sweetsimplevegan and @consciouschris and hashtag #sweetsimplevegan if you recreate any of our recipes, we love to see your photos!

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A close up shot of vegan mushroom walnut taco meat in a cast iron skillet by sweet simple vegan

Walnut Taco Meat (Quick & Easy)


  • Author: Jasmine @ Sweet Simple Vegan
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 12 tacos

Description

This easy and flavor-packed Mushroom Walnut Vegan Taco Meat will cook up in about 15 minutes of your time and requires simple ingredients that you might already have on hand! Plus, it is both vegan and gluten-free!


Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted walnuts, soaked in lukewarm water for 20 minutes
  • 1/3 cup diced yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/3 + 1/4 cup water, divided⁣
  • 10 ounces baby Bella mushrooms, washed
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon tamari (or soy sauce if not gluten-free)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional but recommended)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh lime juice, as desired

For the tacos:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Avocado tahini dressing (using cilantro instead of dill and chives)
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced red onions
  • Diced avocado

Instructions

  1. Soak walnuts in lukewarm water for 20 minutes to soften. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a medium nonstick pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic along with 2-3 tablespoons of water. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Add 2-3 more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning. You can also use oil instead if you would like.
  3. Add the walnuts and mushrooms to a food processor and pulse until they have broken down into a “meat crumble”-like texture. Add them to the pan along with the cumin, chili powder, tomato paste, soy sauce, oregano, liquid smoke, and 1/4 cup of water. Mix everything together until well combined. Cook the mixture for 8 minutes, or until it beings to brown and the mushrooms soften. If you would like it more moist, add a few additional tablespoons of water as desired.
  4. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper as desired. Mix through the cilantro plus lime juice to taste.
  5. Assemble your tacos as desired and enjoy!

Notes

  • To speed things up, you can also chop up the onions and garlic in the food processor! Add them to the pan, and then chop up the mushrooms and walnuts.
  • We warmed our tortillas over the open flame on our stove to soften them up.
  • Although we recommend walnuts for this recipe, if you would like a substitute, we would suggest trying pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, or just leaving the nuts/seeds out all together and using additional mushrooms. We haven’t tested these and we cannot guarantee results, but they are what we would try if we wanted to make this nut-free.
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Entree, Party
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Vegan, Mexican, Gluten-free

Keywords: Vegan, Mexican, Gluten-free, Entree, Party, Tacos, Mushroom, Walnut, Taco Meat

Nutrition facts label provided by Nutri Fox.

Disclaimer: The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional’s advice. This page may contain affiliate links, which simply means that we earn a commission if you purchase through those links, but your price remains the same. Thank you for supporting Sweet Simple Vegan!

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Recipe rating

  1. Kay Gustin says:

    Did you know the ads pop up into the print version? I can’t print the recipe without the ad. It’s nice the recipe fits on one page now though.

  2. kayte says:

    This is good.i added refried pinto beans because I love beans so much but it doesn’t need them, it’s excellent without the beans.

  3. Nicole Gillenwater says:

    What’s the tahini sauce ingredients?

  4. Angelica Bronson says:

    Just made this! It looks so realistic and tastes amazing I love the walnut mushroom combo ::)

  5. Ashley says:

    This was amazing and easy to make! I am new to being a vegan and this will not be a staple on taco Tuesdays! 🙂

  6. bec says:

    I was looking for a recipe using walnuts and mushroom tacos! My vegan cousin made it for us and he does not use recipes! I added 4 oz of tomato sauce as well as 1/2 tsp of cayenne – cooked it down until to dry it out a bit. It was wonderful. Putting it in my Lenten recipe file!
    I love the texture and flavor – I do not feel like we are “missing the meat” I think you could easily use it in other recipes and change up the spices… like Italian in a ragout.

  7. Michelle says:

    Used a lettuce wrap instead of a tortilla and wow these are so good. Thank you for this recipe!

  8. Daniel Liang-Parrey says:

    One of the few times I’ve made a recipe and thought, “Man, this is better than the original!”. The addition of the tomato paste, liquid smoke and soy really add a body behind the spices. The biggest thing I would suggest is skip the nonstick pan. Develop a nice deep brown fond and scrap it up with the water.

    Definitely going to try using this as a base for San Chow Boy next!

  9. Nancy says:

    I just made this! It is amazing! It tastes just like taco meat that I remember. Thank you so much! I made it as taco salad and It was so good I ate it way too fast. ???? ????

  10. Joseph says:

    I love this recipe so much! Added red pepper flakes and used chipotle chili powder as well. This legit looks like some ground Turkey and has made me turn away from Gardein or beyond meat. This is just so much better and feels healthier. Definetly going in my recipe book! Thank you!

  11. Yolanda says:

    I’m not a vegan but I do like to add some meat free staples into my diet. I love this. I use it now for my breakfast burritos and made nachos. The recipe is so simple and I will skip the nonstick pan the next time I make it.

  12. Debra C York says:

    Oh my goodness! This was so fabulous! I did add a can of black beans to the mix, it gives it more of that meaty mouth feel and we like black beans! It was so good and just as good if not better the next day. I’ve got a couple of tablespoons in the freezer to see how it holds up. I’m hoping it does well, this would be so great to have portioned out for super quick meals. My challenge going vegetarian is when we’ve been busy and want to eat RIGHT NOW. This will help

  13. Kathy says:

    This came out…perfect! Hands-down, the best meat replacement recipe I’ve found. I only had a portabella mushroom, but it worked beautifully. This was a hit with vegans and non-vegans!

  14. […] half mushrooms or all mushrooms. To give it even more of a meatier texture, try adding walnuts too like in this recipe,” Michalczyk advises. The mushrooms are veggies but have a meatier texture than say zucchini or […]

  15. Joyce Miller says:

    This is fantastic! Tastes soooo good and pretty easy to make. It was a hit with my family and is now in my keeper recipe file. Try it with green salsa. Hoping it can be frozen to have on hand.

  16. sara says:

    Hello, just need some clarification, do the walnuts have to be raw?

  17. Marcia says:

    Can you freeze this ?

  18. Allie says:

    My boyfriend hates mushrooms but he’ll eat them in something he can’t taste them in … does this have a strong mushroom flavour? Thank you.

  19. Kathi says:

    Do you think white mushrooms will work for this?

  20. Ashley says:

    How long would this keep in the fridge? Would love to be able to make a batch ahead of time for a party and just heat up when needed. Just in fridge or could you also freeze? Just curious if you have tried it. THANKS!!

    • Chris Petrellese says:

      Hey Ashley,

      We haven’t tried this, but you could probably make it the night or day before and heat it up the next day. It can also be frozen but may dry out a bit if frozen for an extended period of time.

  21. Michelle says:

    I was looking for a use for the mushrooms I received in a weekly produce box delivery…searched something about mushrooms and vegan meat and found this. Wow, it is so good!! I had low expectations because I don’t really like mushrooms, but this is amazing and is now filed with my “keeper” recipes!

  22. Aaron Thompson says:

    I made it with cashews instead of walnuts. It gave it a little bit of a cheesy kick. We also added a little chopped purple cabbage and a hit of tahini on top. I thought I made enough for two meals. Wrong. My wife and 23 year old daughter and I couldn’t stop until we finished it. Thanks for the recipe!

  23. Tina Dennis says:

    I don’t usually follow recipes as written, adding my own tweaks or adding from different recipes but I’m so glad I didn’t change a thing. This is so delicious, has a meaty juiciness without the fat and easy to prepare. I didn’t use a blender and just chopped everything by hand. Thank you for sharing!

  24. Kristin says:

    Funny story I’m highly allergic to walnuts….
    Is there another nut I could use?

    • Chris Petrellese says:

      Hey Kristin,

      You can either leave them out, or if you’d like to make this more hearty, you can add lentils!

  25. Allie says:

    This was SO flavorful, delicious and filling. I will definitely be saving this recipe! I made these tacos on jicama slices and added some shredded cheese! Thanks for the recipe!

  26. Helen says:

    These are fabulous. I used a pasilla chili powder. I made the Tahini dressing and found a vegan mozzarella cheese to use. My picky daughter said she can’t tell that it’s not meat. Her son ate them. Definitely a keeper recipe.

  27. Carrie says:

    My first vegan tacos and I loved them! Flavorful, hearty and did not miss the meat at all. These tacos will definitely be in rotation for dinner.

  28. Tracey says:

    We LOVE this recipe. It’s sooooo delicious. Very versatile, we use it in salad as well as wraps. Great job you two!

  29. Joanne says:

    Loved, LOVED this! Very tasty, hubby loved it too. We have recently started trying to eat healthier; WFPB & Vegan. Being new to it all, we’re exploring new foods and new ways to prep. This is a keeper for sure. Thank you!

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