A Heaping TBSP of Life

~ presenting a slightly currated collection of all things edible ~

Ground Mexican ‘Beef’

 I really don’t like meat substitutes.

I know that they’re a hugely popular market, and that they’re great for getting people to move over to a more plant-based lifestyle – but I still don’t like them.  Having never eaten meat, the thought of eating a lump of soy and vegetable protein, that vaguely looks like something I’ve seen people order at a restaurant is not at all appealing.  They typically have an off texture and a strange flavor that makes me feel like I’m eating a cross between a lump of tofu and scrambled eggs.

That being said you may be wondering why this post is very clearly titled, ‘Vegan ground beef’.  You may be wondering if I’m crazy.  You wouldn’t be that far off.  In reality though, as much as I don’t ‘get’ meat substitutes, and probably never will, I do understand their place in my life.

My husband loves his taco bars, his chicken wings and just about any form of dish with buffalo sauce on it.  The vast majority of our friends feel the same.  Call something that looks delicious ‘vegan’ and they suddenly look at me skeptically like, ‘what is this witchcraft??’  Just call it food, and nobody bats an eye.  If it looks good and tastes good, that’s enough for most.

I promise I’m not really out to ‘dupe’ all my friends into eating meat subs, but it does remind me of one of my first vegan lasagnas that I made years ago.  My husband (then boyfriend) and one of his roommates were home, and I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to try out my latest incarnation of mushroom ‘meat’.  (Perhaps that recipe will go up someday – it works great for Italian dishes where it’s mixed in, not so great for anything else haha) Anyways, I served them all a big slice of lasagna and they dug in.  Absolutely loved it.  As the roommate was finishing his second plateful, I nonchalantly mentioned, ‘Who’d have thought something without meat could be so good, huh?’.  You should have seen the look on his face!!  The poor guy looked at his plate and then back at me in disbelief, before politely pushing it aside and saying he was done.

To his credit, he did approach me later and tell me that it was, ‘pretty good.’

I’m lucky enough to have a husband who was vegetarian for most of his life, and still doesn’t mind eating that way once and a while.  There are still days though when he wants meat, I want veggies, and William needs something without milk or soy.  Talk about complicating dinner!

Because of nights like these, and the need to have something fun and easy to feed to friends I’ve been slowly working on a few key meat subs that I can have on hand for when I’m really just not feeling up to making three different dinners.  (I mean I like to cook – but that’s a bit excessive!)  My criteria have been threefold: it has to ACTUALLY taste good and BE good (ok maybe that’s a two-fer).  The spice blend that seasons it can’t just be a weak excuse to make it barely pass for a meat sub, it really has to hold it’s own.  It also actually has to have some nutritional value, it can’t just be wheat gluten or soy.  Second, it has to be long-lasting.  Since I don’t use them often I want to be able to make a big batch, stick it in the freezer, and have it on hand for whenever I need it.  Third, it has to look like meat.  I can make the most delicious dish in the world, but if it doesn’t look like meat, I know I won’t get anyone to eat it.

So with these criteria in mind, I’m happy to finally be able to show off my first meat sub on the blog, Vegan Ground ‘Beef’.  It’s savory, it’s got spice, it’s got a hint of sweetness, and if you ask me, it sure looks like the stuff you get at a taco bar – just cleaner, healthier, and friendlier.

Drop me a comment below if you try this, and let me know what you think!

Ground Mexican 'Beef'
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
20 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 3 Cups
  • 1 lb Walnuts, raw
  • 2 leaves Bay, dried
  • 2 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1.5 tsp Cumin, Ground
  • 1 tsp Coriander, Ground
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Thyme, dried
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/8 tsp Cinnamon, ground
  • 1/8 tsp Cloves, ground
  • 2.5 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1 medium Red Onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
Prepare the base
  1. Place the spices in a spice grinder.  Pulse several times until very finely ground and well combined.

  2. Place the walnuts in the jar of a blender and add the pulsed spice blend.  Pulse in the blender until walnuts are broken up to about 1/4" pieces but no smaller.  At this point the walnut mixture can be placed in a firmly sealed Tupperware or freezer safe bag and stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Putting it all together
  1. The ingredient amounts above are for all the walnuts.  If your only using a partial amount, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent and just beginning to brown.

  3. Add the walnuts and toss to fully cover in oil and the onion/garlic mixture.  Cook until just heated through.

  4. Pour in the water and vinegar and cover the pan.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Cook covered 10 minutes if using all the walnuts, or less if using only a  partial amount.

  5. Uncover the pan and cook over medium low heat until almost all the liquid is evaporated.  Serve!

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