If you're craving the flavors of a classic ground beef taco but you'd rather nix the meat, you need to try our beefless vegan tacos, which call for crumbled tofu instead of ground beef, without skimping on any of those savory Mexican seasonings you expect in a taco filling. The tofu crumble is super-versatile—try it in burritos, bowls, taco salads and stuffed peppers and on nachos.
Watch our IGTV series, Veganize It, to see how to make this dish and more vegan versions of your favorite dishes.
Tips for Making Beefless Vegan Tacos
1. Choose the Right Kind of Tofu
Many people say they don't like tofu, but that's only because they haven't had it prepared in a delicious way. Tofu is made from soybeans much like cheese is made from milk. Soybeans are soaked, then pureed and drained into soymilk. From there, the soymilk is separated into curds and whey. Then, just like with cheese, the curds are put into molds and pressed. Depending on how long the tofu curds are pressed, the firmer the resulting tofu. Our recipe calls for extra-firm tofu, which works the best for making crumbles.
Related: Healthy Tofu Recipes
2. Season the Tofu Well
Because of its mild flavor, tofu is very versatile and takes well to all sorts of spices and flavor profiles. To get those classic Mexican flavors, we combine extra-firm tofu with tamari (or soy sauce), chili powder and garlic powder and then cook the tofu in a little olive oil to infuse the seasonings.
3. Add a Creamy Topping and Great Garnishes
The perfect taco is about more than just the filling, of course. Something creamy is a must, so instead of a dollop of sour cream, our tacos are topped with a simple combo of mashed avocado, vegan mayo, lime juice and a little salt. This vegan crema is sort of like thinner guacamole. You can easily mash the avocados for the crema (and for guac) using a potato masher. Pico de gallo or salsa, pickled radishes and shredded lettuce are other nice additions, but feel free to mix it up with your favorite taco toppings.
Check Your Wallet: Beef Tacos vs. Vegan Tacos
For a price comparison on vegan vs. beef tacos, we turned to vegan celebrity chef Chloe Coscarelli (aka Chef Chloe on Instagram and YouTube). She explains that vegan beefless tacos cost about $1 less to make and are 23 cents less expensive per serving than beef tacos. "If you compare only the protein [for the whole recipe]—ground beef to tofu, the vegan option costs $2.25 while the beef version costs more than double at $4.79," says Coscarelli. "And if you decide to go with grass-fed or organic beef, that'll cost you even more—up to $10 per pound! So, any way you look at it, vegan tacos are the cheaper way to go."
Environmental Impact: Beef Tacos vs. Vegan Tacos
Beef tops the list from the Natural Resources Defense Council as the worst food to eat for climate change because of the emissions associated with beef production. So switching to plant-based protein—like our beefless tacos—can help reduce the environmental impact of your diet. A typical nonvegetarian diet uses 2.9 times more water, 2.5 times more energy and 13 times more fertilizer than a vegetarian diet.
Nutritional Comparison: Beef Tacos vs. Vegan Tacos
When it comes to nutritional differences, a serving of two vegan beefless tacos has 87 fewer calories than two traditional beef tacos. Vegan tacos have 4 grams more fiber per serving and 3 grams less saturated fat per serving. Our vegan taco recipe will also save you sodium, clocking in with 320 milligrams less per serving than traditional beef tacos.
Tofu is a good source of iron, so these vegan tacos have 20 percent of your daily iron needs, just like the beef ones.
Pictured recipe: Beefless Vegan Tacos
Veganize It in Your Kitchen Today!
Even if you enjoy meat, these vegan tacos are a great alternative to add to your repertoire—for Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday or anytime you want those savory taco flavors without the beef. Check back in with Veganize It soon—we'll be rolling out a new vegan version of a favorite dish every week on IGTV.
Culinary nutritionist and EatingWell Test Kitchen manager Breana Killeen is a Le Cordon Bleu–trained cook, dietitian and sommelier who loves dogs, classic cars and a cool glass of rosé.