High Protein Vegetarian Ground Beef

I’m not always a big fan of “fake meat,” so I struggled with what exactly to call this recipe. My goal wasn’t to create something that tasted exactly like ground beef, or had the exact same texture (although honestly the texture is pretty similar to me). My goal was to create a high-protein, plant-based food that I could incorporate into other meals in the same way you might with ground beef. I wanted something substantial that would work well in things like:

-Chili
-Tacos
-Enchiladas
-Burritos
-Lasagna
-Mac & Cheese (sort of a homemade Hamburger Helper situation)
-Nachos
-Shepard’s Pie
-Stew
-Sloppy Joe-style sandwiches

And although I haven’t tried this in every single one of those yet, I’ve tried quite a few and I’m really happy with the results!

So if the thought of fake ground beef turns you off, I get it. You can think of this any way you like. But whatever you do I would try it out because it is super flavorful and packed full of protein. The recipe I’m sharing below has 60+ grams of protein (depending on what nuts you choose, see notes) and you can use this so many different ways, and even freeze it if you want to make a double batch to use for a while.

High Protein Vegetarian Ground Beef, makes 2-4 servings depending how you use it

8 oz. tempeh
1/2 cup walnuts, pecans, or other nuts
2 tablespoons TVP (textured vegetable protein)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

In a food processor, combine all the ingredients. You may need to do this in a few batches depending on the size of your food processor. If you do, first stir together the soy sauce, tomato paste, olive oil, and all the spices so you can more evenly distribute that between batches.

You want to pulse, not puree. You are looking for a soft and crumbly mixture and not processed so it becomes a paste. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with a baking mat or parchment paper.

Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes, removing from the oven halfway through baking to stir up the mixture a little.

Now you can use this right away in a recipe. Or you can store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week (maybe more, but this feels safe as I’ve tried it). Or you can store in an airtight container and freeze until you need it.

Note: As indicated, you can change up the nuts you use here pretty easily and I know nut allergies are pretty prevalent, so don’t be afraid to change this based on what you need. Pretty much any nut will do as it’s mainly there to add texture. But this can change the overall protein content a little. I believe walnuts offer some of the highest protein, but many other nuts are good options too.

Enjoy! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with ACS for Desktop actions.

High Protein Vegetarian Ground Beef

Servings 2

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. tempeh
  • 1/2 cup walnuts pecans, or other nuts
  • 2 tablespoons TVP textured vegetable protein
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, combine all the ingredients. You may need to do this in a few batches depending on the size of your food processor. If you do, first stir together the soy sauce, tomato paste, olive oil, and all the spices so you can more evenly distribute that between batches.

  2. You want to pulse, not puree. You are looking for a soft and crumbly mixture and not processed so it becomes a paste. Spread evenly on a baking sheet lined with a baking mat or parchment paper.
  3. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes, removing from the oven halfway through baking to stir up the mixture a little.

  4. Now you can use this right away in a recipe. Or you can store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week (maybe more, but this feels safe as I’ve tried it). Or you can store in an airtight container and freeze until you need it.

Recipe Notes

As indicated, you can change up the nuts you use here pretty easily and I know nut allergies are pretty prevalent, so don’t be afraid to change this based on what you need. Pretty much any nut will do as it’s mainly there to add texture. But this can change the overall protein content a little. I believe walnuts offer some of the highest protein, but many other nuts are good options too.

high protein vegan ground meat recipe
  • This looks like a great alternative protein. It’s hard because you are likening it to the mouthfeel and texture of ground beef, but not wanting the resemblance to meat. But we get you!

    Can you tell me more about TVP?

    • TVP is textured vegetable protein. It can usually be found in the bulk bin section of health food stores and some pretty common brands carry it as well (like Bob’s Red Mill). It’s very crunchy as well as packed with protein. It doesn’t have much flavor, it takes on whatever you season it with. I love it for things like this or vegetarian burger patties or meatballs.

      Again, I hate saying it’s just like meat as it’s really not. But it works well in recipes like this so hopefully that makes sense.

    • I love them! The only thing is they are pretty plain (in flavor) so it’s good to season well. This recipe is super seasoned as you can tell from the ingredients list so could be a good one to try. 🙂

  • I have always used plain tempeh–browned in a pan then added spaghetti sauce, and could barely even taste the difference–but then I am not particularly picky about meat flavors, much more so about the texture. I am looking forward to trying it with all of the seasonings!

  • I am just a chinese student.I am totally attracted by the website’s decorate style which embraced pink and hite,fresh and refined. Meanwhile I like cooking too.I am glad to found that a wonderful web.

  • I second the quotation about tvp. My hubs are trying a full veg diet with this new year and I’m hesitant toward unfamiliar and processed products. How essential is tvp to this recipe? After traveling in Indo, I fell in love with tempeh and have some already (though it never tastes as good bc I don’t fry it) – wondering if this recipe would work w just tempeh and nuts?

    • I haven’t tried it with all tempeh and nuts but I think it would work well. Just use more nuts if you omit the TVP. It will probably change the protein content a little too, but probably not significantly.

  • Looks great! Thanks Emma, very happy to see a simple veggie recipe full of protein as I’m trying to feed a pregnant me and a picky toddler 🙂

  • This is really a good jumping off point. I’ve made it following the recipe once (except for no TVP because I didn’t have it on hand) and with tofu (crumbled) swapped out for the tempeh the second time. Both were great. Just knowing that these ingredients, when put together and processed as you direct, will behave so wonderfully has opened a who new culinary door for me. Mixing up the spices is all that’s needed to take the dish in a different direction. I’m super happy to have stumbled across this.