Before going plant-based, my grocery list nearly always included a pound of ground beef to have on hand for an easy dinner. Now, I make this vegan ground beef, and one batch makes the same amount as 3 pounds of ground beef, but all from vegetables and seeds! Let’s do this!
Note: This post was originally published in January of 2014, with the name “Vegetable Meat Substitute.” The name has changed, but the recipe remains the same as the original – with some helpful tips, new photos, and a new video added. Hope you enjoy!
Sometimes in life you just need the old standby, the go-to, the no-brainer. When it comes to cooking dinner, this vegan ground beef is my old faithful. For the longest time I called it “vegetable meat substitute”, which it literally is, but really I was using it specifically in place of ground beef. I wanted taco meat that tasted like the tacos I had growing up, but plant-based. I wanted spaghetti sauce with that meaty texture, but vegan. I wanted my veggie burger patty to have the texture of a “real” burger, not one that had whole black beans and recognizable chunks of green peppers. Just a note, the burger recipe is coming. It’s so close.
Anyway, out of that desire for familiar food that is truly good for me and for our earth, I concocted this mixture that is chock full of plants, is totally good for you, and yet when seasoned becomes so similar in texture and flavor to its carnivorous counterpart that many a meat-eater has been fooled in the past. And not by me, but by you, wonderful people who make the recipe and tell me about it. Sneaky devils, you are.
So what’s in this vegan ground beef anyway and how do I make it, you ask?
You might expect the ingredients in vegan ground beef to have things like tofu, TVP, seitan, etc. I’m totally on board with those ingredients in moderation, but I really wanted this to be a plant-forward recipe. So, the cast of characters are:
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Pepitas (raw shelled pumpkin seeds), or walnuts
Want to see how I make it? Oh, I’m so glad you asked! Here’s a video:
Oh, you didn’t want to watch a video? No problem! Here are some step-by-step photos:
How to Make Vegan Ground Beef
Step 1) Pulse the pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor until finely crumbled. You don’t want big pieces, but you also don’t want it to be pureed. Luckily pumpkin seeds don’t break down into a paste very easily so it’s not easy to over-mix. Also note, that I use sun-dried tomatoes that are packed dry, not in water or oil, and I recommend the julienne cut if you can find them, they break down easier. There’s no need to rehydrate them, in fact I recommend you do not. You’ve just got to trust me on this one, ok?
Step 2) Remove the pepita/tomato mixture to a bowl and set aside. Attach the shredding disc to the food processor.
Step 3) Shred the cauliflower, carrot, onion, garlic, and mushrooms. I’ve tried to do this by hand with a box grater, and do not recommend it. I’ve also tried to do it in batches using the s-blade instead of the shredding disc, and I also do not recommend it. The shredding disc is fast, creates the least amount of mess, and helps make all of the vegetable pieces uniform in texture.
Note: Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to shred the veggies in two batches. No biggie, they’re all going into the same pan. By the way, I use this 14-cup food processor by Cuisinart, and I love it. Rarely do I need to do a second batch, unless I’m doubling this recipe (which I highly recommend that you do).
Step 4) In your largest skillet or wok, cook the shredded vegetables over high heat. The moisture from the vegetables will release, and the high heat will help it evaporate quickly as the veggies cook. I never use oil for this process, it is totally unnecessary because the vegetables have so much moisture. Cook until the veggies are soft and tender, and there is no liquid visible on the bottom of the pan. It should take 6-10 minutes. You can also roast them in the oven, see the notes in the recipe below.
Step 5) Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add in the pepita/tomato mixture and cook for a minute or two, stirring to combine. Congratulations, you just made enough vegan ground beef for 3 meals!
Here are some ideas for how to use it:
- Vegan Taco Meat (great in tacos, obv, or in a vegan crunchwrap supreme, or on a taco salad)
- Vegetable Bolognese (the classic meaty pasta sauce, plantified)
- Vegan Cheeseburger Soup (if I made this for my husband every week, I think he’d marry me all over again)
- Instant Pot Vegan Sloppy Joes
I’m so close on the recipe for a legit plant-based burger that doesn’t taste like plants, as well as a vegan meatloaf, so look out for those coming to a screen near you.
Now I’m left with a question for you – what will you make with this vegan ground beef? I’m curious like a cat. That’s why my friends call me Whiskers. (PLEASE somebody get this reference)
Shout out in the comments with your dinner ideas! Can’t wait to hear them! Ok, I’m off to go get some mushrooms to make another batch.
Vegan Ground Beef (plant-based, oil-free)
- 1 head of cauliflower, broken into large florets
- 8 ounces crimini or baby portobello mushrooms
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (I use the julienne cut, packed dry)
- 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas), or walnuts
- In a food processor fitted with an s-blade, process the pumpkin seeds (or walnuts) and sun-dried tomatoes until a fine meal forms, but be careful not to go so far as to puree into a smooth mixture.
- Remove the pumpkin seed and sun-dried tomato mixture to a bowl and set aside.
- Remove the s-blade from the food processor and attach the grating disc.
- Shred the cauliflower, mushrooms, carrots, onions and garlic. If you don't have a shredding attachment, pulse small amounts at a time using the S-blade until finely chopped but not pureed.
- In a large nonstick skillet, cook the shredded vegetables over medium-high heat until the moisture has evaporated and the vegetables are cooked, about 6-8 minutes. See notes for alternative oven roasting method.
- Add the pumpkin seed (or walnut) and sun-dried tomato mixture into the skillet, and combine with the vegetables, cooking for 1 minute.
- Use in place of ground beef with the ratio of 2 cups of vegan ground beef for 1 pound of cooked ground meat.
Oven Roasting Instructions
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Prepare two large sheet pans by lining them with parchment paper.
- Spread out the shredded vegetables and tomato/seed mixture evenly between the two sheet pans, and stir to combine.
- Roast for 20-25 minutes until the mixture is cooked and reduced in size due to moisture evaporation. Stir halfway through the time to ensure even cooking.
Things to Know
- This recipe stores for up to a week in the refrigerator, and a minimum of 3 months in the freezer. As Daryl Hannah said in Steel Magnolias, it freezes beautifully.
- I use the sun-dried tomatoes that are not packed in liquid, and there is no need to rehydrate them before using.
- Vegan Ground Beef is wonderful in Vegetable Bolognese, Vegan Cheeseburger Soup, and Vegan Taco Meat. In fact, one batch should give you enough to make all three recipes!