Who doesn't like homemade corn tortillas baked into crunchy taco bowls filled with all kinds of goodness? While I appreciate classic tacos, my all-time favorite fillings include cauli-walnut crumble, salsa, lettuce, and avocado. You can serve them with a side of vegan sour cream or guacamole. These vegan cauliflower walnut taco bowls will blow your mind they're so good!
My husband (Tanner) hates cauliflower. He always has. It's just one of those foods he can't get himself to eat. He hates the taste, the smell, and the texture. He can detect it in mashed potatoes, isn't a fan of cauliflower rice, and definitely doesn't want it front and center on his plate as if it was a steak or a roast.
I can't blame him though because he grew up in a household where cauliflower was only served one way - boiled. There's nothing special about steamed cauliflower. In fact, as the cauliflower cells break down during the long, slow boil, they unlock the smelly sulfurous compounds within. Fortunately, there's a better way to prepare cauliflower - caramelize (roast) it in the oven just like meat.
Rather than go limp and rubbery as it does with steaming, the inside of the cauliflower beneath the sear turns velvety and meaty. The cauliflower soaks up the toasty flavors of any seasonings you use and presents itself as a thoroughly appealing option in shades of ivory, golden-brown and deep brown.
Tips for Making Cauliflower Walnut Tacos
I have written about corn tortilla ingredients in a separate post, so here I'll focus on the faux "ground meat" (aka vegan ground beef) only.
One of the two main ingredients in these cauliflower walnut tacos is the aforementioned cauliflower. Cauliflower behaves similar to mushrooms in that it absorbs flavors and provides chewy texture when roasted. I was actually considering adding mushrooms into the "vegan ground beef" mix, but then decided to keep the recipe simple. However, if you like mushrooms, you might want to add them in. Their flavor is rich, earthy, and meaty so you can't go wrong here.
To balance the little-too-soft, juicy texture of cauliflower, I used walnuts. Walnuts provide the needed fat content and perfect crumbly texture of ground meat. They are hearty and a little crunchy, but their texture changes into more elastic as you roast them in the oven.
To flavor the cauli-walnut crumble, you can use any seasonings you like. Since we're using this mixture for cauliflower walnut tacos, I used typical taco seasonings: sea salt (or Tamari), onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, ground cumin, and chili powder. If you like some heat in your tacos, add some cayenne pepper as well.
Finally, you might be wondering about the tomato paste. It's totally optional, but I find that it brings out the seasonings, gives the "vegan ground beef" the right consistency, and helps with browning so the cauliflower-walnut mixture looks and tastes just like cooked ground meat.
To make the cauli-walnut mince, place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times until the walnuts and cauliflower become crumbly. Be extra careful that you don’t over-process the mixture or else it will lose its crumbly texture and be too smooth. The texture should reassemble that of crumbly cooked mince.
Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet into a single layer (use two baking sheets if needed). Don't overcrowd the pan otherwise the cauli-walnut mince won't dry out and brown evenly. You want as much of the mince to be exposed to direct heat of the oven and the baking sheet as possible.
Roasting the faux "meat" serves several purposes. Since roasting is a quick cooking method, the cauliflower cells don't break down enough to release that off-putting odor. Instead, roasting brings out the cauliflower natural sugars while creating a chewy texture. The walnuts turn a deep shade of brown and release their natural oils.
The cauli-walnut crumble is done when it's dry, crumbly, and brown. Serve it hot with the hard taco shells, salsa, shredded lettuce, guacamole, and anything else you like, and you've got delicious cauliflower walnut tacos.
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Cauliflower Walnut Tacos
- 6 corn tortillas*
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cups cauliflower florets
- 1 cup raw walnuts
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ½ Tbsp. chili powder
- ½ Tbsp. Tamari
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. onion powder
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. smoked paprika
- ½ tsp. cumin powder
- ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Lay the tortillas out and brush both sides of each corn tortillas with a little bit of olive oil.
- Taco cups (pictured): cut each tortilla into quarters, and press each piece into a regular size muffin tin. There's no need to oil or spray the muffin tins. The tortilla cups lift right out.
Taco bowls: Turn a 12-cup muffin tin upside down. Nestle a tortilla in the space between 4 cups to form a "bowl." Repeat with 3 more tortillas, making 4 bowls total.Taco shells: carefully drape each tortilla over two bars of your cooling rack. Put the cooling rack on the oven rack (the tortilla ends should be in between two bars of the oven rack, creating a U-shape).
- Bake the tortillas for about 7-10 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times until the walnuts and cauliflower become crumbly. Be extra careful that you don’t over-process the mixture or else it will lose its crumbly texture and be too smooth. The texture should reassemble that of crumbly cooked mince.
- Spread the mixture onto a lightly greased baking sheet into a single layer (use two baking sheets if needed).
- Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through to prevent over-browning. The cauli-walnut crumble is done when it's dry, crumbly, and brown.
- Store leftover cauli-walnut "meat" in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.