Vegetarians! Don’t give up on tacos! Sure you could use expensive crumbles and sad substitutions like mushrooms or beans. But to get a fix for an authentic TexMex taco, you need that flavorful loose meat texture that we all know and love.
And I know I love tacos! I have easily made them a thousand times (maybe more) and never grew tired of them. I’ve had them in all varieties, shapes, and sizes. When my husband and I first decided to eliminate most meat from our diets, we couldn’t give up tacos. Now, I’m not actually a vegetarian… I eat whatever I want. I just don’t often want to eat meat anymore.
We tried everything. There was just no substitute that really filled that meaty void in a taco shell. That is, until textured vegetable protein (TVP) came into our lives.
TVP is by far the best solution to tacos that I’ve found. If you get some with large flakes, it plays the role of ground meat perfectly. By using textured vegetable protein, you get the soft loose meat texture that you’re looking for.
What is Textured Vegetable Protein?
TVP (a.k.a. textured vegetable protein) is dried soy protein that can be rehydrated and used as a substitute for ground meat in many different kinds of recipes.
In most cases, the TVP falls apart into a granules. You can use a thickening agent such a egg and breadcrumbs to get it to stick together if you wanted to use it as a substitute for meatballs or as a meatloaf. When used straight, it’s best used in recipes where the ground beef is expected to be finely ground—such as in taco meat or these vegetarian sloppy joes.
TVP is fragile. When buying it at the grocery store, try to find the largest flakes you can get. This will get you the closest texture to ground meat. TVP by Bob’s Red Mill consistently has the largest flake size that I’ve found. I recommend their brand and I use it frequently. It’s also pretty easy to find in the grocery store in either the organic/natural food section or in the baking aisle.
Yeah, yeah… Worcestershire sauce is not usually considered vegetarian. There are, however, several brands that sell vegetarian or vegan Worcestershire sauce and I recommend that you find one of those. You could also completely omit it. If you don’t often cook with Worcestershire sauce, you probably won’t even know what’s missing. So get a vegetarian/vegan version or don’t use it.
For me, I like to cook with it. It’s a good addition and adds a lot flavor. There’s a particular je ne sais quoi that lends to dishes that makes them taste more like meat. All of my recipes are good with or without the Worcestershire sauce.
Making Vegetarian Tacos in a Tiny Kitchen
This recipe is completely painless! As a matter of fact, I think it’s better to make TVP tacos in a tiny kitchen than it is to make meaty ones! You don’t get all that grease spatter from browning meat and you don’t have to use a large frying pan! (When it comes to washing dishes in my tiny sink, I like to avoid big objects whenever possible.)
Clean up consists of a small pot, a cutting board, measuring cup, and knife. That’s it! Chop a bunch of vegetables and 15 minutes later and you’re eating tacos!