Want a plant-based dinner that is quick to make on a weeknight? Try this quinoa taco meat. It magically transforms everyday quinoa into a tasty taco filling that is bursting with southwest of flavor. Plus, it's vegan, gluten free, and kid friendly, so what do you have to lose?
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The ingredients list for quinoa taco meat is mostly pantry staples. If you can't find the red quinoa, substitute with white and use some tomato paste right after the spices.
- Seeds: red quinoa
- Fats: olive oil
- Aromatics: yellow onion and garlic
- Dry spices: chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, and cayenne
- Condiments: medium chunky salsa
- Liquids: vegetable broth
- Citrus: freshly squeezed lime juice
- Fresh spices: cilantro (optional as a garnish)
Is quinoa a good meat substitute?
Yes, it is because it's a complete protein. Quinoa contains amino acids and other minerals like iron. It is also high in iron and is considered a super food.
Is quinoa taco meat gluten free?
Absolutely! There is no wheat or gluten in this meat alternative, so feel free to eat as much of this as you want. If you want to make it into tacos, use corn tortillas and check your package to make sure it is gluten free.
How many calories are in this recipe?
For a ½ cup serving size, there are 209 calories, 33.2g carbs, 5.8g fat, 6.4g protein, and 15% of your daily iron. For more nutritional facts, scroll to the end of the recipe card.
What does quinoa taco meat taste like?
This meat alternative has the appearance and texture of hamburger taco meat, so it's very convincing when served in a soft taco. It is a bit spicy on it's own, but mixed with other taco ingredients it quickly tames down. This "meat" is soft and has a pleasant texture. The lime juice added at the end gives it the finishing touch.
Can I make this in the oven?
Yes and no. Start off by cooking the quinoa on the stovetop, then mix up the ingredients for taco meat and spread it out on a large baking tray and cook for 20 minutes at 375 F. Be sure to stir it halfway through the cooking time.
Can I make this ahead?
This recipe is perfect for making ahead of time. When the quinoa taco meat is done, allow it to cool, cover and place in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Can I freeze this?
As long as it's stored in a freezer zip-top bag or another freezer friendly container, the quinoa taco meat keeps for up to two months in the freezer.
How can I use this recipe?
Quinoa taco meat tastes amazing in other Tex-Mex dishes like soft tacos, burritos, southwest salads, and nachos.
How to Make
Gather the ingredients for the quinoa: red quinoa, vegetable broth, salt.
Start by toasting the quinoa in a dry skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Make sure to stir it so it doesn't burn.
Rinse with cold running water and let it drain on top of a bowl while you start prepping the taco meat.
Gather the ingredients for the taco meat: olive oil, chopped onion, minced garlic, spices, salsa, and freshly squeezed lime juice.
In a 10 inch skillet over medium high heat, heat up the olive oil, then saute the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add the dry spices: chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cook for a minute so the spices bloom.
Stir in the rinsed quinoa.
Add the chunky medium salsa next.
Pour in the vegetable broth. If you're out, substitute with filtered water. Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes covered and 5 minutes uncovered or until most of the broth is evaporated. Remove from the heat and let it rest covered for 10 minutes.
Add in 2 to 4 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice to taste, then fluff with a fork and transfer to a serving bowl.
Gather the ingredients for the tacos: quinoa taco meat, guacamole, pico de gallo, avocado cilantro lime dressing, flour tortillas, and lime wedges. See recipe notes for how to make these delicious toppings.
To assemble the tacos, char the flour tortillas in a bit of olive oil on both sides. Fill each flour tortilla with a ½ cup of quinoa, 2 tablespoons of pico de gallo, 2 tablespoons of guacamole and 1 tablespoon of avocado cilantro lime dressing. Garnish with a squeeze of lime juice and some fresh cilantro leaves.
- In a hurry? Use leftover quinoa, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and onion powder, and omit the olive oil.
- Don't have vegetable broth? Use filtered water.
- Don't have salsa? Use 1 cup of petite diced tomatoes.
- Don't have all the spices? Make your own taco seasoning with what's on hand, but keep the cumin.
- Can't find red quinoa? Use white or tri-colored quinoa with added tomato paste.
- To get the fluffiest quinoa, cook it separately in 2 cups of liquid with ¼ teaspoon salt for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat with the lid on to rest, fluff with fork then return to the heat. Add the taco spices and salsa then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice. Stir and serve.
- To save time and extra dishes, cook the quinoa with the taco seasoning, salsa and liquid.
Other Vegan Mexican Dinners
- Vegan Walnut Taco Meat
- Cauliflower Pepita Vegan Taco Meat
- Vegan Refried Beans
- Vegan Burrito Bowl
- Vegan Taco Salad
Other Mexican Sides
- Cactus Salad (Ensalada de Nopales)
- Virgin Lime Margarita
- Strawberry Margarita
- Virgin Jalapeno Lime Margarita
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Quinoa Taco Meat (Vegan)
- 1 cup red quinoa
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 cup chunky salsa, medium (like Margaritaville)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, 2 to 3 limes
- Toast the uncooked quinoa in an ungreased 10-inch skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour the toasted quinoa in a strainer and rinse. Set aside by resting the strainer over a clean bowl.
- In the same skillet, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat until it shimmers, roughly 2 minutes, then saute the onion for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the dry taco seasoning spices and cook for one minute to bloom them, stirring constantly.
- Add the rinsed quinoa, the chunky salsa, and the vegetable broth, then stir.
- Cover with a lid and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir then simmer uncovered for 5 minutes more, or until the extra liquid has evaporated.
- Remove the skillet from the heat. Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes. Stir in 2 to 4 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice. Fluff with a fork and serve while still hot.
Assemble the Tacos
- Char the tortillas in a bit of olive oil over medium heat. Fill the tortilla with ½ cup of quinoa, 2 tablespoons of pico de gallo, 2 tablespoons of guacamole, and 1 tablespoon of avocado cilantro lime dressing. Garnish with a squeeze of lime juice and some fresh cilantro leaves.
- If you're in a hurry, use 2 ½ cups of leftover quinoa, and substitute 1 teaspoon of garlic powder and onion powder and omit the olive oil.
- To get the fluffiest quinoa, cook it separately with ¼ teaspoon salt for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat with the lid on to rest, fluff it with a fork, then return to the heat. Add the taco spices and salsa, then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice. Stir and serve.
- Serve with toppings such as homemade guacamole, pico de gallo, or avocado cilantro dressing.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.
I made these tonight. they were so delicious! the seasoning for me was the perfect blend. so yummy!!
Rachel, Thanks for letting us know that you enjoyed this recipe.
This is so tasty. I made this tonight and completely loved it. It willl definitely be added as a favorite. I combined it with some homemade chunky guacamole , sliced cabbage an some easy vegan nacho sauce for some burritos for dinner. I am now planning on how I may use the leftovers in some enchiladas.
Kay, We are thrilled that you loved this recipe!
So glad you enjoyed it, Amanda!
This sounds good but is written up in a way that's absolutely maddening. Nowhere is there a complete list of ingredients and their amounts. Nowhere is there anything but very general comments on how to make the guacamole and pico de gallo. Of course I can figure it out or look for other recipes, but it would be so helpful to have everything in one place. Very frustrating!
We're sorry you found this frustrating, Charlene. This recipe card is only for the quinoa taco meat, and we just wanted to provide general suggestions for making the pico de gallo and guacamole rather than including whole recipes in the notes. We've edited the notes to link directly to separate recipes for pico and avocado cilantro dressing, and we hope this is more helpful.
I am on such a restricted diet, it’s ridiculous….but….tried your recipe, and it was delicious! I can’t use salsa, so I subbed it with a low sodium, low potassium spaghetti sauce, and it turned out great!!
That's a creative substitution, Judy. 🙂 We're so glad that you enjoyed this taco meat!
I don’t see where to add the vegetable broth?
Thank you for pointing out that we omitted it from the recipe card, Heather! It's been added to Step 4. We did say when to add the broth in the How To Make section as well.
The spicy flavors of this quinoa meat explode in your mouth! This meat is chewy and delicious, and the lime flavor really takes it up a notch.
It's great to hear that you enjoyed the quinoa meat, Alex. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
This quinoa meat is soft and has the texture and appearance of real ground beef. It is quite nice, and a little bit spicy. Overall, I think it is a great alternative to meat. I like the chewy, fluffy texture and limey taste.
So glad you enjoyed this, Beth!