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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!
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 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.
- Mixing bowl
- Medium nonstick pan
- Food processor
How to Make Walnut Taco Meat
- Soak the walnuts. Place the walnuts in lukewarm water and soak for 20 minutes to soften. Drain and set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Season to taste. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper, cilantro, and lime juice.
- Enjoy! Add walnut meat to tacos or serve as desired!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:Print
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!