Food Fight

Face-Off: Veggie Crumbles Versus Ground Beef

The Smith's Meat Is Murder album caused us, like so many impressionable teens, to go vegetarian for a brief period of time. However, our cravings for a Taco Bell Crunchy Supreme soon swayed us back over to the dark side, and we once again found ourselves singing the praises of all things beef.

Flash-forward a few years, and suddenly vegetarianism is ubiquitous. We decided that this whole not-eating-meat thing might be worth a second try, not only for the sake of the poor slaughtered animal, but also for the good of the environment -- and even our waistlines. We decided to revamp that oh-so-tempting taco to include ground beef veggie crumbles instead of beef. But since we're still on the fence, we went ahead and made the original version for comparison.

The first step was browning up the "meats." We added some olive oil to the veggie crumbles and sautéed some onion and garlic with both just to add some extra zing. The beef browned up and broke apart nicely, while the veggie log remained, well, very log-like. It required a fair amount of rigorous mashing to get it to crumble form, but it got there eventually. Next we added some taco seasoning and water and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Both the beef and the veggie ground took about 20 minutes to fully prepare.

Once the "meats" were plated, they looked fairly similar, though the beef was a bit more crumbly and broken up. The beef tasted like, yep, you guessed it, beef. The veggie ground had a slightly softer texture, but we were pleasantly surprised by the heartiness of the flavor.

Our next step was to set up a little taco assembly line and chow down. We put one of each type of taco on our plate and taste-tested. Honestly, once the taco was loaded up with cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tomato, avocado and salsa, the taste difference was negligible. Again, the veggie ground did have a slightly softer texture, but when I asked an unsuspecting family member to try my "beef" tacos, he happily scarfed it all down and quickly asked for another.

So what's the point of all this? Basically, if you want to eat your beef, go ahead. We do urge you to get it from a source that treats the animals as humanely as possible, but other than that, go for it. However, if you're a bleeding-heart animal lover, hide your soy products in a mask of cheese, veggies and crunchiness, and all will be well.

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Geri Maria Harris