Vegan Carne Asada Tacos (Gluten-Free)

July 17, 2019

Entree

By: Jasmine Briones 

Get ready to enjoy some carne asada tacos made without the meat! This vegan version of the classic Mexican recipe is spot on to what I remember it to taste like growing up. It’s full of flavor, easy to make, and packed with plant protein!

Closeup shot of chopped vegan carne asada taco meat by sweet simple vegan

Carne asada tacos, made all vegan!? Yes, you heard that right, and you definitely should be excited.

Growing up in Southern California and having many family and friends from Mexico, carne asada was a big part of our parties growing up. It is something that I have missed since going vegan, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to learn how to make for the blog!

Also, we do want to note that we do not want to call this recipe authentic as we included a few additional ingredients that it may not typically have; this is our spin on this classic recipe.

It was easy to satisfy those cravings with pop-ups like Cena Vegan and Vegatinos in the LA area, but after Chris and I moved to the Portland area last year, we couldn’t find anything that compared, and we decided it was time to get cookin’.

Ingredients to make vegan carne asada tacos from scratch by sweet simple vegan

Ingredients You’ll Need for This Recipe

  • Soy Curls: We decided to use soy curls as the vegan mean substitute in this recipe. We also tested this recipe with ready-made seitan, and it didn’t perform as well as the soy curls, so we recommend the former over the latter.
  • Vegan “Beef Broth”: We like to use this one.
  • Cilantro: Used for both marinating the soy curls and for serving.
  • Oranges: Both fresh orange juice + the rinds are used in the marinade.
  • Aromatics: Red onion and garlic cloves are used to flavor the soy curls. 
  • Limes: Used for both marinating the soy curls and for serving. 
  • Tamari: Tastes a lot like soy sauce, but it is free of gluten, tastes slightly less salty, and is more balanced in flavor. Feel free to use soy sauce in its place if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Vinegar: We used apple cider vinegar but white vinegar works as well.
  • Spices: We seasoned our vegan carne asada with cumin, chili powder, and black pepper.
  • Jalapeños: Optional but recommended if you want a kick of spice!
  • Oil: Olive oil or avocado oil for cooking.
  • Tortillas: We prefer corn tortillas, but any variety of your choice will work!
  • Toppings: We like to top our carne asada tacos with white onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.
Step-by-step how to make vegan carne asada tacos by sweet simple vegan

Heat the vegan beef broth in a pot over medium heat and bring it to a boil. Once it is boiling, remove it from heat. Place the soy curls into a large bowl or dish and pour the vegan beef broth over the soy curls. Using a spatula, mix the soy curls and press them down into the broth to ensure they get hydrated.

Step-by-step how to make vegan carne asada tacos

Allow the soy curls to sit for 10 minutes. We transferred the soy curls to a large resealable bag after hydrating them, but it is not necessary; you can keep them in a bowl or dish if needed. Add the remaining ingredients except for the oil and mix until well combined.

Step-by-step how to make vegan carne asada tacos

Seal the bag or cover the bowl/dish with a lid and place it into the fridge to marinate overnight, or about 8 hours. If you are in a hurry, you can remove it after 2 hours, but overnight yields the best result!

Closeup shot of vegan carne asada taco meat by sweet simple vegan

Grab a large cast-iron skillet (or a large skillet of your choice) and set it over medium heat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Using tongs, slowly remove the curls from the bag and into the pan, trying your best not to transfer the onions into the pan and leave them in the bag.

Add 1/2 cup of the marinade juice from the bag into the pan at a time and add more once the liquid cooks off. Continue until you have used up all of the marinade and cook until the carne asada has browned. If you would like, you can transfer the carne asada to a grill pan and finish it up there with nice grill marks. It is not necessary, but it does make them look nice!

Set the carne asada aside and allow it to cool. Once it has cooled, transfer it to a cutting board and chop it into bite-sized pieces.

Vegan carne asada tacos with cilantro and onions by Sweet Simple Vegan

Assemble the tacos as you desire. We like ours in a charred tortilla with onions, cilantro, and fresh lime juice.

Vegan carne asada tacos with cilantro and onions by Sweet Simple Vegan

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Closeup shot of chopped vegan carne asada taco meat by sweet simple vegan

Vegan Carne Asada Tacos (Gluten-Free)


  • Author: Jasmine @ Sweet Simple Vegan
  • Total Time: 8 hours 35 minutes
  • Yield: 10 small tacos

Description

Get ready to enjoy some carne asada tacos made without the meat! This vegan version of the classic Mexican recipe is spot on to what I remember it to taste like growing up. It’s full of flavor, easy to make, and packed with plant protein!


Ingredients

  • 1 bag (8 ounces) Butler’s Soy Curls
  • 4 cups vegan “beef broth” (we used this one)
  • 2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice + rinds
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced into rings
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • 5 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce if not gluten-free)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon black pepper
  • Optional: 2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil

Serve with:

  • 10 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup white onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, diced
  • 10 Lime wedges (about 2 limes)

Equipment


Instructions

  1. Heat the vegan beef broth in a pot over medium heat and bring it to a boil. Once it is boiling, remove it from heat.
  2. Place the soy curls into a large bowl or dish and pour the vegan beef broth over the soy curls. Using a spatula, mix the soy curls and press them down into the broth to ensure they get hydrated.
  3. Allow the soy curls to sit for 10 minutes. We transferred the soy curls to a large resealable bag after hydrating them, but it is not necessary; you can keep them in a bowl or dish if needed. Add the remaining ingredients except for the oil and mix until well combined.
  4. Seal the bag or cover the bowl/dish with a lid and place it into the fridge to marinate overnight, or about 8 hours. If you are in a hurry, you can remove it after 2 hours, but overnight yields the best result!
  5. Grab a large cast-iron skillet (or a large skillet of your choice) and set it over medium heat with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Using tongs, slowly remove the curls from the bag and into the pan, trying your best not to transfer the onions into the pan and leave them in the bag. Add 1/2 cup of the marinade juice from the bag into the pan at a time and add more once the liquid cooks off. Continue until you have used up all of the marinade and cook until the carne asada has browned. If you would like, you can transfer the carne asada to a grill pan and finish it up there with nice grill marks. It is not necessary, but it does make them look nice!
  6. Set the carne asada aside and allow it to cool. Once it has cooled, transfer it to a cutting board and chop it into bite-sized pieces.
  7. Prepare your tortillas. Grab a clean kitchen towel and place it next to your stovetop. Turn the burner on low, and using tongs, place one tortilla on the burner. Heat the tortilla for about 45 seconds, or until slightly charred, and flip. Cook the second side until it has charred to your liking. Keep in mind that the second side will take less time than the first. When the tortilla is finished, transfer it to the clean towel and cover it with the towel. Continue until you have heated all of the tortillas, transferring them into the towel, wrapping the tortillas each time you add more. Covering the tortillas will keep them warm and soft.
  8. Assemble the tacos as desired. We added cilantro, white onion, and fresh lime. Enjoy!

Notes

  • The nutrition facts take into consideration the additional tortillas, onions and limes.
  • Because of the sodium content in the broth and tamari, we don’t add additional salt, but you can add some to taste as needed based on your taste preferences. 
  • Prep Time: 8 hours 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Entree, Lunch
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Vegan, Mexican

Keywords: Carne asada, taco, lunch, entree, vegan, Mexican

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. In addition, this page may contain affiliate links, which 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. Sarah says:

    I have some leftover medium sized soy crumbles to use up and this recipe sounds worth the try. Could I follow the recipe relatively as-is with the different size, and what would be the best way to reheat it if I want to make the soy crumble portion for meal prep purposes?

  2. Suee33 says:

    Five stars all the way!! Made this a few days ago and it is SOoooo delicious and actually easy. We added vegan sour cream, salsa, avocado and vegan cheese they were amazing. We will make this again many times I am sure. Not sure why you can not saute the red onions and add,

  3. Jeff says:

    Thank you! Just made this tonight and was pretty darn good. A little too citrus-y IMO, but was very moist as I worried I would dry it out since I made it as directed (using a grill pan at the end). I’ve never used the soy curls so this was a great first experience! Since I started not eating meat a little over 1 1/2 years ago, I’ve missed the street tacos, burritos and things of that nature so thank you again for this recipe!

  4. Mike says:

    I tried this recipe and it is fantastic! Thank you very much. I wasn’t sure it would work out but it is great. It is five stars all the way!

  5. IRIS says:

    THIS RECIPE IS TO DIE FOR. I AM BLOWN AWAY BY HOW TASTY IT IS!

  6. Molly says:

    You knocked this OUT OF THE PARK. I made it exactly as instructed (except that I didn’t chop up the soy curls after cooking, because we were already salivating, lol) and the taste was unbelievable. I’m a Texas girl and carne asada was something that I really missed after going vegan, but no more. This is 100% a keeper. Good grief, it wasn’t even that labor-intensive! Thank you so much for this. It was the first recipe that I tried from your blog but it won’t be the last. Thanks again from Austin!

  7. Christine says:

    This recipe is beyond delicious!!! Seriously the best soy curl and best taco recipe!!! I learned some new techniques as well, thanks so much for this recipe!

  8. Mindie says:

    I cannot get over how delicious these came out. Pouring the marinade multiple times and cooking it off was a game changer with flavor. This will be a staple in my house from now on.

  9. Jean Stager says:

    I really wanted to like this, as I love soy curls and I love tacos. Followed the recipe to a tee, but it didn’t go so well. It took over an hour for the marinade to cook off, and when it finally did, the bottom of the pan (a non-stick pan, btw) was so burned with charred gunk it took forever to scrape off. And, I had to transfer the gloppy mess of soy curls (which is what it turns into after simmering for over an hour for marinade to cook off) to another pan to crisp up. After all that, the flavor just seemed off; not bad but not great either. Bummer.

    • Chris Petrellese says:

      Hey Jean,

      Sorry to hear this 🙁 Did you all of the marinade at once? That will definitely take longer to cook. We’ve made this recipe many times and have never had this experience.

  10. Jennifer says:

    These turned out perfect! I followed the recipe and wouldn’t make any changes but I have question. Why shouldn’t the onion be cooked with the soy curls? I picked them out as instructed but it seems like they would have been yummy cooked.

    • Chris Petrellese says:

      The onions are just meant to flavor it in the marination process, however, if you’d like to cook the onions, you totally can!

  11. Mellissa Edney says:

    I need a little bit of clarification.
    After hydrating the soy curls in the veg beef broth, do I discard that broth and then add the other ingredients to marinate, or do I keep them in the veg beef broth and then add the remaining marinade ingredients?

  12. Shelley says:

    Wow, so glad to have a healthy and mind blowingly delicious karne asada recipe. This is officially an all time favorite & I’ll be making it alot. Thank you!!

  13. Tara says:

    Absolutely Amazing! Greatly reminds me of the pork carnitas that I use to make, from 5 years ago. This will be part of our meal rotation. I recommend to cooking most of the liquid out of the soy curls first and then add the 1/2 cup of marinade at a time. This will speed up the cooking process. Thank you for this delicious recipe.

  14. Alley says:

    Can you leave the soy curls marinating in the frig for more than a day? Like if I want to prep them on Sunday but cook them for dinner on Tuesday?

  15. Lauren says:

    WOW. The most flavorful and beef-like thing I’ve had in a long time. Made it exactly as written (except I did add the red onions from the marinade into the pan) and absolutely loved it. Will most definitely make this again! Thanks for such a great recipe!!

  16. Terri S says:

    Made these for dinner tonight and OMG they are amazing! My husband was skeptical because he doesn’t love soy curls (what?!?!), but he was RAVING about how delicious these were. Thank you for such a tasty recipe!

  17. MARLA FRITTS says:

    🌈 Absolutely delicious! I rarely leave reviews but had to give you props! Love me some soy curls. Now I have another dee-lish recipe. Thank you for your creation! 😋

  18. Emily says:

    I made a very abridged version of this a week ago without Andy overnight soaking and it was AMAZING! I am making it again tomorrow and started the marinade tonight. I cannot wait to see how this tastes after soaking in this deliciousness!

    Also, I have never left a food recipe review, but this was so tastey, I felt compelled to do so!!

  19. Kathryn says:

    This recipe is a winner! We made it this weekend and it was great. It’s even better the second day because the soy curls firm up more and get even chewier.
    Next time we make it I’ll marinate it overnight Friday night, cook it up and eat a little of it on Saturday and save most of it for Sunday.

  20. Stephany says:

    This was my first time using soy curls and omg I can’t believe how meaty and flavorful they turned out! I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand like oranges and cilantro, but it still tasted great! I made half of the recipe and was pretty happy with the amount. I used an old skillet cause i don’t have a cast iron and I knew that using a non stick pan wouldn’t work as good to make them brown and cook all the broth. Thank you for sharing this recipe! I’ll be cooking with soy curls a lot more now hehe

  21. Emily says:

    I am unable to print this recipe. I get a message “we couldn’t find the page you’re looking for”. Can you help?

  22. Ness says:

    Unbelievably delicious! Can this be frozen and thawed for later?

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