When it comes to tacos, the protein filling is typically one of three sources: chicken, beef, or pork. Not to knock a good beef taco, but it does create quite the conundrum for plant-based eaters. Adding slices of tofu or a spoonful of chickpeas to your shell just isn’t going to cut it in this case. But you know what will? Walnuts. Skeptical? The latest episode of Cook With Us will turn you into a believer.
Certified health coach, chef, and wellness activist Haile Thomas turns the nut into taco “meat,” making sun-dried tomato and walnut tacos—the perfect summer dinner. “This is a staple from the beginning of my plant-based days,” she says. “I was really in a very experimental phase trying to see all that I could create with plants and I was pleasantly surprised by how diverse walnuts are.”
To transform the walnuts into a flavorful plant-protein you’ll want to overload your tacos with, Thomas adds the walnuts and the sun-dried tomatoes to a food processor. Sun-dried tomatoes have a more intense flavor profile than regular tomatoes and since they’re being processed right with the walnuts, it ensures the “meat” is super flavorful (and doesn’t just taste like nuts). “The chewiness of sun-dried tomatoes also adds to the ‘meatiness’ of the tacos,” says Thomas. She also includes cilantro, tamari, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and onion powder to the food processor, so the seasoning is worked right into the walnut taco meat.
But the sun-dried tomato walnut taco meat is only part of what makes these tacos so delicious. Thomas also makes a cilantro aioli, which adds a refreshing, tangy burst of flavor. “[I love] balancing grounding flavors with lighter more acidic flavors,” Thomas says.
Watch the video above to see how to make this dish step-by-step and get the full recipe below. In mere minutes, you have delicious tacos that are entirely plant-based. Who knew walnuts could be such a chameleon, right?
Sun-dried tomato walnut meat
Makes 4 servings
For the walnut “meat”:
2 cups raw walnuts
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained
1/4 cup tamari
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp onion powder
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
For the cilantro aioli:
3/4 cup vegan mayo
2 Tbsp avocado oil
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
Grated zest of 1 lime
1 tsp ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Romaine or butter lettuce leaves (to serve as the taco “shell”)
Halved cherry tomatoes
Sliced red onion
Sliced jalapeño rounds
1. For walnut “meat”: In a food processor, combine the walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, tamari, cumin, onion powder, chili powder, cayenne, and cilantro and pulse two to four times. The goal is to have a texture that is crunchy and chewy, not mushy. Set aside.
2. For cilantro aioli: In a small blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy. Adjust the seasonings as desired.
3. Build the tacos by filling a lettuce “shell” with the walnut mixture, toppings, and a dollop of cilantro aioli.
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