Vegetarian Tacos

My husband is a huge taco fan.  Every time we have tacos, he is a happy, happy man.  Unfortunately, I have thrown a wrench into his taco-loving bliss: I’m not much of a meat eater.  I never have been.  Due to health issues, my parents cut out all pork and red meat in our diets growing up, and we didn’t eat a whole lot of fish or poultry either.  For quite a while we led a mostly vegetarian lifestyle.  And truth be told, I’ve always been quite happy without meat.

Because I’m the one that cooks, it means that we don’t often eat many meat-based dishes, but I don’t like giving up my husband’s favorite meals, so I look for creative alternatives.  One of my favorite ways to make vegetarian tacos is to use a mix of pearled barley and volcano or forbidden rice as a meat replacement:

Vegetarian Tacos

  • 1/4 cup forbidden or volcano rice (brown rice may be substituted)
  • 3/4 cups pearled barley
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (optional)
  • Taco sauce
  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Sliced green onions
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sour cream
  • Tortillas or taco shells

Bring the barley, rice and water to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking until they are tender but not soft.    Add taco sauce to taste and simmer for a few minutes (be sure to stir frequently to avoid burning).  Assemble your tacos with the remaining ingredients and enjoy!



  • Don’t expect this dish to taste like a beef taco.  You will be sorely disappointed.  Speaking as someone who has tried almost every meat substitute out there, nothing tastes just like meat except meat itself.  However, having said that, this fact doesn’t mean that you can’t make a really delicious vegetarian meal that’s tasty enough to please even an avowed meat lover.
  • I really like the barley/rice mix because it somewhat emulates the texture of ground meat.  I specifically use volcano rice or forbidden rice because these varieties seem to hold their form very well, which is important for retaining the right texture.  I am aware, however, that most people probably don’t have volcano or forbidden rice sitting in their pantry, so feel free to substitute brown rice if necessary.  Also, bear in mind that forbidden rice has a distinctive deep purple color, so your barley mix will have a purple hue if using this variety.
  • An added benefit of using the volcano or forbidden rice varieties is their outstanding nutritional value.  I get my rice from Azure Standard and have been very happy with their prices, service and the quality of their product.
  • I love to toss in some chickpeas due to their savory, almost meaty flavor, but if chickpeas don’t float your boat, it’s ok.  They are not essential and you can leave them out.
  • Don’t forget the cheddar and sour cream- they really complete the dish!

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