Meatless Monday Goes Mexican: Taco Filling, the P.K. Way

Monday, April 29, 2013

This taco filling is perfect on a Mexican salad. Click on the pic for more details.

That Meat Smells Delicious!

That’s what a friend said to me upon wandering into my kitchen one evening as I was making tacos for six, unprompted by me whatsoever. He had looked down at the pan—it looked like meat—and smelled the familiar scents of Mexican food, like cumin and chili powder—it smelled like regular taco filling—and he just assumed it was ground beef.

And then he remembered I don’t eat meat.

Taco Filling, Meet TVP

I last spoke about TVP (texturized vegetable protein) when I made chili and nachos—yet another occasion where no one could tell it wasn’t beef, and that was in a crowd of thirty. This soy-based food really is a wonder: similar in texture to ground beef, it’s the perfect substitute for animal protein in a broad array of dishes and works especially well in Mexican dishes with its strong flavors and seasonings. Plus, when you add the various yummy toppings, as one is wont to do in Tex-Mex meals, there is less attention focused on the meat itself. Perhaps for both of these reasons, whenever I’ve used used TVP in my dishes no one could ever tell a difference. They simply said “Mmmmm.”

Today’s taco filling features onions, green peppers, and black beans; the mix varies with mood alongside what I’ve got in my fridge and pantry. Seriously, doesn’t that look like ground beef?

So What Do I Do?

Easy as can be.

In a medium-hot pan with a few tablespoons of canola or olive oil, sauté a bunch of chopped yellow onions until soft. Feel free to add additional ingredients to the mix to boost the flavor and nutrition, such as peppers (e.g., green, poblano, red, jalapeño, etc), corn, and beans. When the veggies are soft, stir in several cloves of crushed garlic until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Season generously with cumin and chili powder—these are the main spices—along with garlic powder and a bit of oregano, salt, black pepper, and cayenne (optional, for heat); avoid using a store-bought flavor packet, which is often loaded in sodium. Crumble in a meat substitute of your choosing. (I prefer Smart Ground; there is variability among brands so don’t give up if your first batch isn’t as good as hoped.) Mix everything together until heated. Stir in a few tablespoons of tomato paste to achieve the flavor and texture you desire. Taste and reseason with the spices as needed.

Now your “meat” is ready to be slapped into taco shells, tossed on a salad, stuffed into a pepper, or incorporated wherever else you’d like to use this wonderfully nutritious, better-for-you-and-the-environement-too Mexican filling that you and your family will love.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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