Taco Night is a Very Good Night

Who doesn’t love taco night? What about with a vegan, soy-free, gluten-free taco filling? Sign me up!

Vegan Ground Beef Taco Filling, Soy-free

Sure, there are plenty of recipes for fancy tacos with all sorts of different concoctions and toppings that are probably amazing. However, when I think of taco night- real taco night like when I was a kid- I think of a Yellow Old El Paso box, ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, and shredded cheese. It was a simpler time…

Tonight my mission was to recreate that comforting feeling of Mom’s cooking- but without the beef and cheese (obviously), and hopefully, without using processed soy-product crumbles (although don’t get me wrong, those come in extremely handy when you’re in a pinch!). Still, I figured if we’re going to make the tacos meat and dairy free, we might as well make them healthy. I think the final product was a success, and Mike agreed. What do you think?

Vegan “Ground Beef” Taco Filling (like Mom used to make)

(This could definitely be adapted to use in burritos, nachos, taco salads, or whatever you’re in the mood for)

Vegan Ground Beef Taco Filling

The idea for the taco filling was adapted from Susan Voisin’s Lentil and Cauliflower Rice Tacos. I didn’t try her recipe, but I did love the idea of mixing the cauliflower “rice” and beans in the filling to get a better texture for the “ground beef”. To me, though, it made sense to use Black-Eyed Peas because they can typically hold up pretty well when cooked whereas lentils tend to break down easily (at least in my experience!). Adding the firmness of the peas to the chewiness of the rice made the filling really similar to ground beef- but without the guilt. Pretty cool, huh?

Taco Filling Recipe

If you buy dried black-eyed peas (which I highly suggest for the best texture), you’ll need to soak them in water the night before. The next day, just rinse them and throw them in the food processer until they have a crumble similar to ground beef. Just be careful not to over do it. Here is what they should look like:

BlackEyedPeas Taco Filing

After that, you just basically cook the peas the same way you would cook beef: Simmer with some sautéed onions and seasoning (yes, that’s all you have to do!). Add the rice when the peas are about half way done- that way it absorbs the flavor without getting overcooked. Make your life easier: let the family do their own toppings!

Vegan Taco Filling

Vegan “Ground Beef” Taco Filling, like Mom used to make:


  • 1.5 Cups Dried Black-Eyed Peas (about 2 Cups if you’re using pre-cooked BE Peas)
  • 1/2 Cup Uncooked Brown Rice
  • 1.5 Cups Water (or Veggie Broth)
  • 1 Cup Tomato Sauce or Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 1-2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1T Olive Oil
  • 1 Taco Seasoning Packet (Or make your own, which will have way less sodium: 3tsps onion powder, 3 tsps chili powder, 1tsp garlic powder, 1tsp cumin, 1 tsp oregano, 1/2 tsp chipotle powder, and a dash of cayenne pepper)

Don’t forget

  • Taco shells (gluten-free if necessary)
  • Toppings of your choice (suggestions below!)


  1. Rinse the peas and sort out any bad ones.
  2. Cover them with water (leave about 2 inches of water above the peas, they will absorb a good amount of it). Set in the fridge overnight.
  3. The next day, drain and rinse the peas.
  4. Food process them until they are a small crumble (pictured above). Do not overdo it, though, or they will turn to mush.
  5. Cook the rice (Mix with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil, covered. Reduce to a simmer and cook until all water is absorbed).
  6. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.
  7. When hot, add the onions and sauté for a few minutes until they start to soften.
  8. Add the peas, garlic, taco seasoning, water, and tomato sauce, stirring constantly.
  9. Let the mixture get hot so that it’s almost to a boil- still stirring.
  10. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Let it cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the bottom doesn’t burn.
  11. Add the rice and mix again. Let it cook for another 5-10 minutes or so until most of the liquid is gone.
  12. Remove from heat.
  13. Assemble your tacos!

Serves 4

Suggested Toppings

  • Shredded lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Fancy alert: Mango-avocado salsa!
  • Green onions
  • Corn
  • Cilantro
  • Bean sprouts
  • Black olives
  • Salsa
  • Vegan shredded cheese
  • Whatever the heck you want!

Vegan Taco Filling

Vegan Taco Filling


  1. Crysta says

    Made these this afternoon with the mango avocado salsa. Delicious! My boyfriend liked them too! :)

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