So many of our pastelones and picaderas can be adapted to a vegan version by just changing the filling. And now we have a tried and tested meatless mince that our vegan readers will love.
If you've been around long enough, maybe you've noticed that we try to never forget our vegan and vegetarian readers.
Whenever possible, I test my recipes with vegan options and give instructions on how to "veganize" them. When there's no chance the recipe would work with simple changes, then I try to come up with an entirely different version (like our popular vegan sancocho recipe).
One thing was missing: a stuffing / filling for pastelones and picaderas. Not anymore.
Vegan ground beef substitute
Our minced beef filling is the most popular one in pastelones, pasteles, and empanadas. I wanted a meatless, ground-beef mince vegan substitute that had the right texture and color, had protein in it, and --above all-- that was very flavorful. Aunt Ilana and I put our heads together and combined our ideas.
This dish has the proper level of chewiness, the rich flavors, the smoky undertones, and umami touch required to show through a vegan pastelón de plátano maduro, vegan pasteles en hoja, or a crispy pastelito.
Best of all: The ingredients are easy to find.
About this recipe
So, what's in this vegan plant-based minced "meat"? Two vegan staples: lentils and mushrooms. I prefer porcini mushrooms, but for this recipe, I tested it with portobello as they're easier to find and less expensive. If you can find porcini, by all means, use them; they add extra "meatiness" to the flavor (which will be a plus for the non-vegans at the table).
I also didn't want mushy lentils, so instead of boiling them, I "braised" them with the mushrooms; the liquids released by the vegetables were absorbed by the lentils, resulting in extra-flavorful lentils that are soft without turning into a puree.
This comes with the endorsement of my vegetable-averse family and vegetable-loving Aunt Ilana. It's hard to get them to agree on food.
[Recipe + Video] Vegan Mince for Empanadas and Pastelones
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large red onion, minced
- 4 large portobello mushroom caps, (or 8 porcini), minced
- 1 red bell pepper, minced
- ½ cup lentils, [120 g] rinsed
- 1 teaspoon freshly-cracked pepper
- ½ teaspoon dry thyme leaves
- ½ teaspoon dry oregano powder
- 1 teaspoon salt, (or more, to taste)
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1½ tablespoon soy sauce
- ¼ cup minced curly parsley
- Sauteing onion: Heat oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook stirring until it has turned translucent.
- Sauteing vegetables: Stir in the lentils. Stir. Add freshly-cracked pepper, thyme, oregano, and a pinch of salt. Cook stirring until everything is heated through.Add the mushrooms, stir to mix. Pour in the tomato sauce and stir.
- Simmering: Cover and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the lentils are soft but still whole.During this time, stir it every ten minutes to cook uniformly. The vegetables will keep releasing liquid, which is what the lentils will cook in. If it ever dries too much, add a couple of tablespoons of water to prevent it from scorching.
- Seasoning: Add soy sauce and stir. Taste and add more salt if you find it necessary (I did).Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.
- Serving: Serve as a standalone vegan main dish, or use to stuff pastelones, picaderas, or empanadas.