The Best Meat Alternative For Taquitos, According To A Vegan Chef

There are a lot of great reasons to go vegan, but giving up meat isn't always easy. Done poorly, vegan food can come across as bland and lacking substance. Taquitos are a great dish for any occasion so when we had the chance, we asked vegan chef, author, and TV host Priyanka Naik what she likes to substitute in for the meat.

"Potato [and] jalapeño," Naik said without hesitation. "It provides the satisfaction of biting into something hearty, a little heat from the jalapeno, and a great balance with the crispy white corn tortilla." Mexican food is one of the more vegan-friendly cuisines available, despite its equal love for dairy and meat. Although there are plenty of processed meat alternative products hopping onto the shelves, they aren't always the healthiest, and many vegans aren't looking for a protein replacement that mimics the flavor or texture of real meat. Potatoes make for a great meat substitute because they're filling and have the hefty mouthfeel you need to keep the dish feeling well-rounded.

Naik was a fan of this substitution because it's "inexpensive, easy to make, and a hearty alternative ... It's also a perfect substitute to make ahead of time, keep in the fridge, and just roll and fry when you're ready to eat." One of the most appealing things about taquitos is how simple and fast they come together so it's important that you aren't spending too much time crafting a complicated meat substitute for the dish.

How to prepare vegan potato and jalapeño taquitos

We're obviously not going to boil some potatoes and roll a tortilla around them, so how exactly do we use potatoes for this dish? "I like to boil, peel, and mash the potato with a fork," Naik told us. "I don't use a ricer, as I want to maintain a bit more texture in the potato and not turn it into a puree." Texture is key for vegan ingredients. The goal isn't to make the potatoes imitate the exact texture of beef but you do need something that's going to provide the chunky mouthfeel that's removed in the transition.

While any potato could theoretically work for this, Naik did have a preference. "I like to use Russet potatoes," she said. "Their moisture content is lower than Idaho or yellow potatoes, making it good for a filling as it won't moisten the tortilla excessively when rolling." It's the little things that add up and picking the right ingredient for the job separates a chef from a cook.

There are so many seasonings and spices that vegans should use in their cooking and vegan taquitos should not go unseasoned. "I mix in diced jalapeño, grating in fresh garlic, lightly sauteed yellow onion, lots of kosher salt, a pinch of black pepper, ground cumin, and mozzarella or Monterey jack cheese." There are great vegan cheese brands out there if you know where to look, so don't sleep on the good stuff.