Quinoa or Millet “Crumbles” (ground beef substitute without soy or gluten)

One of the hardest things for me, is that all of the pre-made vegan crumbles (Boca, Morningstar, etc.) are soy and gluten based. I like having some non-bean texture in my tacos, and something other than “just veggies” on a pizza or pasta dish. This recipe is adapted from the recipe “Walnut Wheat Crumbles” in the cookbook “Tasty Vegan Delights.” It works equally well with millet or quinoa, though millet takes longer to cook initially, and I like the flavor of quinoa better, as well as it being a complete protein.

This recipe doubles easily (and if you have room for more pans in your oven, could be multiplied even more, though I can only fit a double recipe in my vita-mix at a time.) It’s a good recipe to start in the morning on a day when you’ll be home most of the time, and won’t need the oven for anything else. I usually start it around lunch time, and stir the crumbles in the oven every hour or so, until I go to bed, then I turn off the oven and leave the pans in overnight. By morning they are done!

Quinoa Crumbles


  • 1 cup walnut or pecan pieces, or meal (meal is less expensive, and we’ll be pulverizing it anyway, but I usually get walnut pieces)
  • 4 1/2 cups of water (divided into 1 cup, 1 cup, and 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup onion powder
  • 3t garlic powder
  • 1t  salt (I use sea salt that still has the minerals in it for better nutrition and flavor)
  • 2 cups quinoa (or millet)


  • In your vita-mix combine the nuts and 1 cup of water, and blend on high until smooth.
  • Add another 1 cup of water, and the onion powder, garlic powder, and salt, and blend to combine.
  • Pour the mixture into a pot (a single recipe needs about a 3 quart pan, and if you double it, keep in mind it does foam, and it does expand, so make sure your pot is big enough!
  • Add the last 2 1/2 cups of water, and bring the mixture to a boil.

    Boiling on the stove...don't let the light color fool you, these will be nice dark brown crumbles!

  • Add the quinoa or millet and cook until most of the water is absorbed. (When it starts to look like a porridge or oatmeal consistency.) Quinoa took about 20 minutes for me, and the millet took a lot longer.
  • Remove the mash from the heat, and let it cool for a while (about 1/2 an hour or so) and it will thicken more
  • Divide the mixture into a couple of pans: Cookie sheets with a lip edge work well, but large (9″x13″ or so) casserole dishes work too. If you have only smaller pans, us more of them. You don’t want the mixture to be too deep in each pan.

    Here they are, still quite wet, but looking a bit more brown.

  • Put the pans in the oven at 200*
  • Stir every hour our so, flaking and fluffing the crumbles as they dry. If you have pans on multiple racks you’ll want to rotate them as well (move the ones from the bottom to the top, and vice versa.) Do this for about 6 or 7 hours. They should really be getting darker brown and crunchy.
  • Turn the oven off, leave the door closed, and go to sleep. In the morning, you’ll have perfect crumbles. Divide them into freezer bags, and freeze them.
  • A single batch makes enough for the equivalent of 2# of “browned ground beef.”

    A generous 2 cups of crumbles is just about equal to a pound of "browned ground beef"

Using them:
I prefer them to have a bit of crunch, so I don’t add a lot of liquid back to them. If you use them in a recipe that has liquid already (like chili) there’s no need to reconstitute them at all. I recommend adding them towards the end of the cooking time.
If you want to reconstitute them (say for sloppy joes or tacos):

  • Put 2 cups of crumbles into a small pot.
  • Choose a liquid you’d like to use (water is fine, but for more flavor you might want to use broth or soup. For tacos I use salsa!) You’ll need up to 2 cups of this liquid.
  • Add the liquid a little bit at a time, stirring it in.
  • When the crumbles are the consistency you like, stop adding liquid, and use them in your recipe!

I use them crunchy in “nacho” type dishes, stir them into chili just before serving, or mix them into homemade tomato sauce the last minute or so of cooking.

I made a double recipe, and so packaged it into 4 "pound" packets of about 2 1/4 cups each. Don't forget to label them! They're ready for the freezer now (or to use!)

This recipe could easily have other seasonings put in from the beginning, if you know you’re going to use it for a specific type of dish. I think if I found a “smoke” flavor that was safe for me to eat, adding that would make these work as a “bacon bit” type crunchy topping for baked potatoes or salads. I do that with them as they are anyway. Let me know your favorite ways to use these crumbles, or your favorite variations. Enjoy!


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23 Responses to “Quinoa or Millet “Crumbles” (ground beef substitute without soy or gluten)”

  1. vegan store Says:


    […]Quinoa or Millet “Crumbles” (ground beef substitute without soy or gluten) « Being vegan without…soy or gluten![…]…

  2. Dale Says:

    I have a heart condition which requires exclusion of nuts, etc. In the recipe the alternative is to use “meal”. Could you be more specific?

    • AmyKathryn Says:

      “meal” is referring to nut meal. It is less expensive than whole nuts or nut pieces, and since the nuts are ground in the recipe, it doesn’t matter if you start with fine pieces. The nuts provide some of the brown color and flavor, and maybe some thickening to the liquid. If you played a bit with the seasoning, and maybe decreased the liquid (or thickened it a bit with a diet appropriate thickener) you could get decent results, though it may not be the dark brown color. If you can use any nut-like things (seeds maybe?) that could work well also. Is it a matter of fat, or the proteins? Almonds are usually considered pretty heart healthy, and I think they would work well also. Let us know if you try it, how you were able to make it work. I’m always trying to help people with food allergies figure things out. Good luck!

  3. Quinoa, I love you. « She is, indeed, undone… Says:

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  4. Ground Beef? « She is, indeed, undone… Says:

    […] OH! And if you’re interested in making this recipe check out this blog: Vegan Without […]

  5. Al Says:

    I was going to try this recipe, but christ the king it takes way too long to make.

    • AmyKathryn Says:

      It does take a while to make, that’s why I usually make several batches at once. It keeps really well when it’s done, so then it’s handy when you want to use it. Most of the time is unattended time though, so you can do other things at the same time. Let me know if you decide to make it 🙂

  6. Rhonda Says:

    Loved this recipe ! Not really hard to make. It is so nice to enjoy tacos, sloppy joes etc. without soy and salt.

  7. janetq88 Says:

    I am not home for 6-7 hours at one stretch. Have you tried making this at a higher temperature for a shorter time? Are you basically trying to dehydrate the quinoa mixture?

    • AmyKathryn Says:

      I haven’t tried doing it at a higher temperature for longer. Since it is pretty much cooked on the stove, dehydrating might work, I just don’t know if it would brown as much. If you try it let us know! (I don’t have a dehydrator…it’s on my wish list though!)

  8. Linda Says:

    I wonder… could you ad Liquid Smoke to these to give them that smoky flavor?

    • AmyKathryn Says:

      I’ve added liquid smoke when using them…I like to keep it pretty neutral when making a huge batch. I took some crumbles (made with buckwheat) and sauteed them in a pan with a dash of liquid smoke and it tasted very similar to tempeh “bacon.” (Though I didn’t bother forming it…it was for “bits” to put on baked potatoes!)

  9. Linda Says:

    Could you put this in your food dryer overnight instead of all the processing in the oven? Also, instead of water, could you add broth?

    • AmyKathryn Says:

      I’m sure broth would work, I just try to keep it as neutral as possible when making a large batch, but I suppose a broth really wouldn’t adversely affect the flavor whatever it was used for. As for dehydrating, it should work. It’s fully cooked once you get to the drying point. I haven’t been able to try it with a dehydrator. I wanted to get an excalibur (it would take a full 9 trays and then some for the amount I usually do at a time) but I only have a small round dehydrator and haven’t tried it. Others have asked the same thing…perhaps if you try it you can post back and let us know how it went?

  10. Abbie Says:

    Good Afternoon,

    I prefer the red quinoa and have loads of it in my home, I’m wondering if I should go out and purchase this color since it will turn dark once it’s cooked out of fear that with it already being dark in color it may turn so dark that it appears burnt? THANK YOU SO MUCH for this recipe, I am going to make it today so that I can use it in one of the meals that I’m making for Super Bowl…it has been a long time coming with me finding a ground meat substitute that didn’t use TVP, seitan or soy!!

    • AmyKathryn Says:

      I think that red quinoa would work fine. I don’t think it would change the color a whole lot since the seasonings condense to make it dark. If you try it, please let us know how it turned out! I’m glad to be of help!

  11. Kat J Says:

    This recipe is genius! I only altered it a bit by adding a peeled shallot to the blender when grinding the pecans (no onion powder). I also added some smoked paprika and black pepper when cooking the quinoa, and substituted the salt with soy sauce. This tastes and smells amazing. Even my dogs were begging at the oven : )
    Thank you for an easy to make alternative to the processed stuff.

    • AmyKathryn Says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’ve occasional substituted fresh ingredients for the dry. It still works. Paprika and black pepper sound good. I may try that next time. I can’t use soy sauce, but I can see how that would be good as well. Here’s to real food! 🙂

  12. Amber H Says:

    i have been buying the morningstar crumbles from the local grocery store. i have been considering making my own to cut down on the amount of processed foods i have in my freezer or pantry. i do not normally have walnuts at home, or any kind of nut really, mostly as a preferance. i have everything else. i do have alot of sunflower seeds since i have been on a sunflower seed salad topping kick lately. how well do you think it would turn out with that sub?

    • AmyKathryn Says:

      I think the walnuts give it some of the color and flavor, as well as protein, but I don’t see why sunflower seeds couldn’t be an alternative. I won’t be able to test that out, since I’m also allergic to sunflower seeds, so if you try it, please report back for others information. Now I’m trying to think of other substitutions that might work. I know that millet, quinoa and buckwheat groats all work…but I’ve always used walnuts (or pecans, but I can’t eat those either now.)

  13. Tonya Little Says:

    is that amount of onion powder correct??

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