Take two foods we love, put them in the same bowl, and you have Taco Rice. It may sound like an American invention, like the Korean Taco, or the Pizza Bagel, but it’s not. No, this delicious bowl-ification of the tender rice we love in sushi and the spicy filling we love in tacos was invented in Japan.

Taco Rice, the Taco of Japan

Like some of the best food fusions, this one came from an occupation. In 1984, a restaurant owner named Matsuzo Gibo wanted to serve more of the American soldiers living on a nearby base, so he created a dish that used ground beef and taco seasoning mix from a packet, a favorite comfort food that the soldiers craved. It was a big hit, and was soon copied in other restaurants. It was designed to be quick and easy, making Taco Rice a dish you can make at home, too.

A Taco Without the Shell

If you’ve ever found the taco shell to be a little tricky to handle, this dish solves your problem. Just eat all the goodies you love on a taco, on soft rice. Instead of that crispy fried shell that shatters when you bite it, or the soft corn shell, that gets soggy if you aren’t eating fast enough, you’ll use a fork, spoon, or chopsticks to move little stacks of rice and “meat” to your mouth.

Sushi Rice is Perfect Under Taco Toppings

I love sushi, and the slightly sweet and sour seasoned rice is designed to be a supportive player under fish and vegetables. That flavor and texture is also a great foil for the savory, spicy taco filling we all love. My Beefy Seitan Taco Meat, in a mash-up with soft sushi rice is a match made in culinary heaven.

Top your Taco Rice To Your Hearts Content

If you look at taco rice menus in Japan, some of them even go so far as to offer bowls with ketchup on top, because, you know, Americans put it on everything. I wouldn’t go that far, but if you like it on a taco, it’s fair game. The usual lettuce, tomato and cheese work, or you can use the avocado and microgreens that I did.

Comfort yourself with this tasty food fusion, and enjoy the best of both worlds.


Beefy Seitan Taco Meat

Copyrighted and reprinted with permission from Plant Based Meats, Hearty, High Protein Recipes for Vegans, Flexitarians and Curious Carnivores (Countryman Press)

Yield: 1 pound, 1 3/4 cups

20 minutes

1 1/2 cups ground seitan

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons sherry

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons oregano

1/2 teaspoon smoked salt

2 teaspoons tamari soy sauce

8 hard or soft taco shells

Lettuce, tomatoes, sliced jalapenos


Prepare or thaw seitan. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat for a few seconds, then add the onions and stir. Saute, stirring, until softened. Add the tomato paste and sherry and stir to mix well. Add the smoked paprika, cumin, oregano, smoked salt and tamari and mix. Add the seitan and stir to mix and coat the crumbles thoroughly. Keep stirring until thick and browned, and heated through.

Taco Rice

Use your taco meat to make a bowl of Japanese-Mexican comfort food.

1 cup sushi rice

1 1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 large avocado

1 large tomato, chopped

1/2 large yellow bell pepper, chopped

microgreens or pea shoots


Sriracha sauce

First, cook the rice. Place the rice and water in a small saucepan and put over high heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook for 12 minutes. Check to see if all the water is absorbed, then fluff and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes, before scraping out onto a plate to cool.

In a cup, stir the rice vinegar and sugar and drizzle over the rice, fold to mix.

Scoop the rice into 4 bowls and top with taco meat, avocado, tomatoes, peppers, greens, lime juice, and Sriracha sauce.