When I was a kid, ground-beef tacos were on my mother’s regular dinner rotation. Any time-stressed cook knows why: All she had to do was quickly fry up some ground beef, grate some cheese, chop an onion and set out bowls of all those plus some salsa, sour cream and taco shells, and let her kids make their own.
Is there an equivalent vegetarian taco filling, something just as easy and satisfying? I think I’ve found it: coarsely ground and heavily spiced walnuts, whose crumbly texture resembles that of ground beef. I swear I put this together as quickly as Mom used to in West Texas, and without even applying heat.
The filling is raw — in fact, it’s a thing in vegan cooking circles — and requires nothing more than to be quickly blitzed together in a food processor.
You could sprinkle it on a salad, fold it into an omelet, use it as a soup garnish or scoop it up with any vessel besides a tortilla, if you want.
I ate it just as intended, on soft corn tortillas with fairly simple toppings. But the next time I make this, I think I’ll go back to my roots and turn those tortillas into crunchy taco shells. In the interest of time (and mess avoidance, no doubt), Mom always bought hers at the store, but that’s not how I roll.
6 servings (makes 12 tacos)
If you’d like to keep this dish vegan, use nondairy yogurt or nondairy sour cream.
MAKE AHEAD: The walnut crumble filling can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months.
Adapted from “Healing the Vegan Way,” by Mark Reinfeld (De Capo Lifelong Books, 2016).
For the filling
2 cups coarsely chopped raw walnuts
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (may substitute ground cayenne pepper)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, or more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Twelve 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
Flesh of 2 medium avocados, sliced
1/2 cup store-bought or homemade salsa verde (see related recipe)
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt (may substitute non-dairy yogurt or non-dairy sour cream)
12 cilantro sprigs
2 limes, cut into wedges
For the filling: Combine the walnuts, lime juice, cilantro, water, ground cumin, chili powders, salt and black pepper in a food processor; pulse frequently for a minute or so, until the nuts are reduced to pebble size. Do not over-process. Taste, and add more salt as needed.
To assemble the tacos, divide the corn tortillas among serving plates. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the filling on each tortilla, then add some tomato, a few slivers of cabbage, a couple slices of avocado, a spoonful of salsa verde, a dollop of yogurt and some cilantro.
Serve with lime wedges for last-minute squeezing.
Nutrition | Per serving (using Cooked Salsa Verde and nonfat yogurt): 410 calories, 11 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 31 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 8 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar
Recipe tested by Joe Yonan; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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