Tender yet chewy and packed full of flavor, this Vegan Carne Asada is the perfect filling for tacos or burritos but also delicious with some rice and veggies. This protein-packed gluten-free and vegan meal is one your family and guests will love.
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Hey Internet, I always seem to have the problem of running right up against a holiday (or on it, apparently) when it comes to recipes. I seem to have a knack for it.
At least today’s dish is great any time of the year, and if I couldn’t be ready in time for Cinco de Mayo, at least this recipe is perfect for the summer. Yup, it’s VEGAN carne asada!
And yes, it’s gluten-free! That’s hysterical to me since I have a very popular non-gluten-free recipe for vegan steak that’s made out of seitan (wheat).
But I had this idea for the flavors and the texture, and it worked so well that I knew it had to go on the blog.
Carne asada literally means ‘grilled meat’ (asada means grilled, carne means meat), but it traditionally refers to cow meat. We’re vegan here, so I won’t spend too much time on that.
One thing to note is that traditionally the meat is marinated in a mixture of lime and/or orange juices, salt, and spices common in Mexican cuisine such as cumin.
I’ve skimped on that here in favor of time, and because I tested the marinade idea. I marinated my vegan steak (more on that later) for several hours and then cooked it, but didn’t find much flavor difference than taking the same marinade and just cooking it down with the vegan meat, similar to how I made my soy curl bacon.
Oh and yep, you read that right. I’m showing you how to make soy curl carne asada today and it’s really delicious.
BTW, if you like soy curls (or are new to them), I have an article with FAQs, techniques and tips, and all my soy curl recipes.
So now that you know that the main ingredient is soy curls, let’s talk about everything you’ll need to make this delicious meat alternative.
What You’ll Need
- Vegan beef broth: I like to use vegan beef broth for this recipe so I can have that particular flavor. I use Better Than Bouillon No Beef Base mixed with water, though there are other options available. The soy curls won’t absorb all of it so I usually strain it into a jar and use it in a soup or stir fry sauce later in the week (can also be frozen). You could alternatively use vegetable broth with a splash of soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari if you can’t have gluten).
- Lime juice and orange juice: The lime provides that sour citrus and the orange provides a little sweetness. I like to use both but you could use one or the other if you prefer.
- White vinegar or apple cider vinegar: Vinegar is also another common ingredient in the marinades I’ve seen for carne asada. White vinegar is more traditional, but apple cider vinegar also works.
- Garlic: Minced garlic is great in the marinade. I recommend fresh if possible, as the jarred kind just isn’t the same flavor. Hey, I know I sound like a garlic snob, but that’s OK, because I am, lol.
- Jalapeno: I used minced jalapenos too in the marinade, but if you don’t like spicy, just skip them. I seeded mine because I like a little spice, but not a lot. If you like very spicy, leave the seeds in.
- Spices: I like to spice the marinade with ground cumin, sea salt, and fresh cracked black pepper.
- Soy curls: Butler soy curls are the base of this delicious Mexican-inspired recipe--I even toyed with calling it soy curl carne asada, but wanted folks to be able to sub other options if they wanted. If using soy curls, try to avoid the small crumbles for this dish. The small crumbles I save and use whenever I make soup, chili, or like a TVP pasta sauce. If you prefer not to use soy curls you could use baked or air fried tofu (or even puffed tofu), my vegan steak which is seitan based, or a store-bought vegan beef product like Gardein.
- For serving: Lime wedges, finely diced white or red onion, and cilantro (I serve this on the side since my husband doesn’t like it). If making tacos, serve with warmed small tortillas, diced avocado, and pico de gallo or quartered grape/cherry tomatoes.
How to Make Vegan Carne Asada
- Start by making the marinade. Combine the vegan beef broth (note, it should be relatively hot (not boiling), so warm it in the microwave or a small pan if not), vinegar, citrus juice, minced garlic, minced jalapeno, cumin, salt, and pepper. Whisk until the spices have dissolved.
- Next, rehydrate the soy curls. Add the soy curls to a medium bowl, discarding any of the powder at the bottom of the bag. I usually save the small crumbles for other recipes. Cover the soy curls with the marinade and mix gently. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. If you’d prefer, after rehydrating, you can add the entire mixture to a bowl with a lid and refrigerate for up to 8 hours, then proceed with the next step.
- Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat. Working with one handful at a time, gently squeeze the excess broth out of the soy curls and throw them in the skillet. You don’t have to go crazy getting dry--just gently squeeze them once over the bowl and add to the pan. DON’T DISCARD THE REMAINING MARINADE!
- Cook the soy curls for about 3-5 minutes or until they start to get a little browned. Stir them often with a wood or silicone spoon/spatula. If you notice them start to get really dark or burned, turn the heat way down. After they start to really brown, you can optionally drizzle them with a little olive oil. This helps the texture firm a bit more (gives a more authentic mouthfeel to meat because of the bit of fat it imparts) but it’s not necessary.
- Now slowly add back in the marinade, about ¼ cup at a time, stirring it in each time you add some of the liquid. Cook for about 8-12 minutes, stirring every 1-2 minutes to make sure they don’t burn. The liquid will be boiling or simmering and that’s good. It will absorb into the soy curls (and some will evaporate) but the soy curls will also get chewier. If you let them sit too long they can burn, so pay attention to them.
- When they’re nicely browned, chewy and firm and the liquid is absorbed, they’re done. Remove from heat and serve! We like these with a fresh squeeze of lime juice and a little freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt. Serve in tacos, burritos, in a bowl of rice and veggies, salad, or whatever else you like. Enjoy!
- Refrigerate leftover vegan carne asada separately (from other ingredients in your dish) for up to 5 days. Reheat in a pan if they get too soft (the condensation can make them wetter, which can make them soft again).
More Gluten-Free and Homemade Vegan Meat Alternatives
It’s so fun for me to experiment with making vegan meat alternatives. Rather than buying them, making them at home means I can customize the flavor, control the fat and the sodium, and limit any preservatives.
Sometimes I still buy from the store because I’m a busy droid (I’m part robot okay), but homemade always tastes better in my opinion.
And as much as I love seitan, I have a lot of friends and folks on here who are gluten-free, so I want to make delicious food they can eat too. Here’s some of my favorite gluten-free and vegan meat recipes:
- Soy Curl Bacon
- Vegan Chorizo
- Vegan Shredded Chicken
- Portobello Bacon
- Vegan Bacon Bits
- Vegan Chicken Teriyaki
- Meatless Crumbles
- Vegan Pepper Steak
- Vegan Sausage Crumbles
- Lentil Mushroom Loaf
- Vegan Meatballs
- Vegan Shawarma
How's it Taste?
As always, I hope you love this soy curl carne asada recipe–I know I do and so does Mr. Zardyplants, who is vegan but occasionally misses the flavor of meat (but not the cruelty–he insisted I add that line).
This recipe is for sure going in our e-book all about soy curls! Coming soon to a Zardyplants near you. :)
This vegan carne asada is:
- Spicy (but you can remove the spice if you like)
- “Meaty” (hold the cruelty)
- Packed with FLAVOR
- and great for any occasion, even a busy weeknight but especially Taco Tuesday.
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!