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Use aromatic, flavor-packed lentil taco meat and fresh salad vegetables to make delicious, crowd-pleasing lentil tacos packed with fiber, plant-based protein, and several micronutrients. Plus, they’re gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan—but no-one will miss the meat!

completed Lentil Tacos on a tortilla against a white background

Super Satisfying, Protein-Dense Lentil Tacos Recipe

There’s absolutely no need for animal products to make simple, delicious, nutritious, crowd-pleasing tacos loaded with protein. In fact, along with tofu tacos, we love utilizing legumes for soy-free sources of plant-based protein, like black bean tacos, potato chickpea tacos, and these lentil tacos (which are the BEST plant-based alternative)!

Combined with garlic, onion, and a homemade spice blend, not only is this lentil taco meat loaded with aromatic flavor and complex flavor depth, but it’s super nutritious, too. Not only are lentils loaded with fiber, antioxidants, and several micronutrients like folate, but they contain very similar amounts of protein and iron to non-plant-based meats with just a fraction of the fat content!

Using dried lentils, pantry-friendly seasonings, and inexpensive, basic salad ingredients, these easy lentil tacos are a satisfying, filling, low-budget meal even meat eaters will enjoy—perfect for meat-free Mondays and taco Tuesdays.

Best of all, the versatile lentil taco meat is even meal-prep friendly, ready for 5 days’ worth of tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, salad bowls, and more!

The Ingredients and Substitutions

The Lentil Taco Meat

  • Lentils: We recommend using uncooked brown or green lentils (though the latter takes longer to cook). Red lentils will break down too much and become ‘mash’-like.
  • Vegetable broth: To help cook the lentils. You can use regular or reduced-sodium store-bought or homemade vegetable stock.
  • Aromatics: The lentil meat filling combines onion (yellow or red) and garlic for a super aromatic flavor. We also use garlic powder and onion powder (or dried minced onion) to season the filling.
  • Seasonings: The blend of pantry-friendly seasonings makes this lentil taco meat really delicious. We use:
    • Sea salt (or soy sauce for extra umami depth)
    • Chili powder (added to taste)
    • Cayenne pepper (adjust the amount to taste)
    • Smoked paprika
    • Ground cumin
    • Dried oregano

Alternatively, if your pantry isn’t stocked enough, use a packet mix of taco seasoning.

  • Bell pepper: Use red or orange bell pepper for added flavor and color.

The Tortillas and Toppings

While there are plenty of popular taco toppings to choose from, we love to use (at least) a basic combination of:

  • Tortillas: We prefer to use soft corn tortillas, but hard taco shells also work.
  • Lettuce: We use shredded iceberg lettuce. Other greens, like rocket, would also work.
  • Tomato: Use a large diced tomato or small cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered.
  • Avocado: Sliced, diced, or mashed for a creamy texture, healthy fats, and antioxidants.
  • Salsa: (optional) You can use chunky fresh salsa like Pico de Gallo or a roasted salsa/restaurant-style salsa.

What Else Could I Add To Lentil Tacos?

  • Cauliflower: Roasted cauliflower lentil tacos are a favorite of ours when we don’t mind adding a few extra steps to dinner.
  • Corn: To add subtle sweetness (and color) to the lentil meat.
  • Spinach: Sneak in extra nutrients by adding a generous handful or two of spinach to the lentil taco filling and stirring it in until wilted.
  • Tomato paste: Add just a small amount for extra flavor depth.
  • Quinoa: For heartier, even more protein-dense vegan lentil tacos.
  • Jalapeño: For added spice, add some minced jalapeño (or chipotle pepper).

What Other Toppings Could I Add?

  • Vegan shredded cheese
  • Black olives
  • Vegan sour cream
  • Hot sauce/adobo sauce
  • Cilantro or scallions
  • Nuts/seeds (like chopped walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.)

How to Make Vegan Lentil Tacos?

  • 1) First, peel and dice the onion and bell pepper and mince the garlic. Also, measure out the spice blend into a small bowl.
  • 2) Meanwhile, heat a large, lidded pan over medium-high heat and add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Sauté for 3-5 minutes.
  • 3) Then, add the lentils and seasoning blend and sauté for 5 minutes.
  • 4) Next, add the vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover the pan with a lid, and leave the lentils to cook for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but not mushy and have absorbed most of the broth.

If it’s too liquidy, remove the lid and allow the lentils to cook for a few minutes to thicken.

  • 5) Then use a potato masher to mash the lentil taco meat to your desired consistency. We like to just slightly mash them, making them more ‘ground meat’-like.
  • 6) Meanwhile, wash and shred the lettuce, dice the tomato, and thinly slice the avocado. At the same time, heat the soft tortillas in a dry pan for 20-30 seconds per side, a few seconds per side over an open flame, or stacked and wrapped in foil either in the microwave or an oven until warmed through.
  • 7) Assemble the lentil tacos by loading them with a few spoonfuls of aromatic lentil taco meat, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, and, optionally, a drizzle of salsa. Enjoy!

FAQs

Can I use canned lentils?

Yes, but the method will change somewhat. First, when using canned lentils, you’ll only need a few spoonfuls of veggie broth (about ¼ cup total). The cooking time will also decrease to just about 5 minutes once the lentils are added to the pan.

Why are my lentils still hard after 30 minutes?

Different types of lentils take different amounts of time to cook. We recommend using brown lentils when possible. Check out our guide to lentils for more information.

Can I use an Instant Pot?

To cook the lentil taco meat in an Instant Pot, use the Sauté function for the first couple of steps. Then add the vegetable broth and cook it on MANUAL (high pressure) for 15 minutes, carefully (use a kitchen towel), releasing the quick release immediately after that.

Top Recipe Tips and Notes

  • Bloom the spices: Adding them to the pan before adding the broth gives the spices a chance to ‘bloom’ and become more potent/enhanced in flavor. So don’t skip this step.
  • Sort and rinse the lentils: There may be some debris or small pebbles in the bag of dry lentils.
  • Adjust the texture: Mashing the lentils a bit achieves a vegan ground beef texture. However, mash it (or use a food processor) to your desired consistency.
  • Tweak the heat: Use as much chili/cayenne powder as you like.  
completed Lentil Tacos on a tortilla against a white background

Serving Recommendations

How To Use Leftover Lentil Mixture?

Not only is this aromatic, protein-dense lentil meat perfect for preparing delicious vegan tacos, but you can also add it to a colorful veggie bowl, a quinoa-filled burrito, quesadillas, or a hearty tomato sauce pasta. We’ve also used this lentil taco filling as a topping over nachos with plenty of vegan shredded cheese or even to serve alongside tofu scramble at breakfast time.

Make-Ahead and Storage Instructions

Once prepared, you can save any leftover lentil taco meat in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze it for 2-3 months.

To reheat the mixture, warm it up in the microwave or in a skillet, optionally with a splash of water/veg broth if it seems a little dry.

Once assembled, it’s best to enjoy the lentil tacos immediately, though, before the tortillas become soft/soggy from the fillings.

More Vegan Taco Recipes You’ll Love

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

Lentil Tacos

4.98 from 35 votes
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 40 mins
Total: 50 mins
Servings: 6 tacos
Use aromatic, flavor-packed lentil taco meat and fresh salad vegetables to make delicious, crowd-pleasing lentil tacos packed with fiber, plant-based protein, and several micronutrients. Plus, they’re gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan—but no-one will miss the meat!

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup uncooked lentils
  • 4 teaspoons of dried minced onion (or onion powder)
  • 3 teaspoons of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ⅛ – ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper (use more or less depending on your heat preference)
  • ½ teaspoon of dried oregano
  • ½ of a small yellow or red onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 medium green or red bell pepper diced
  • 2 ¼ cups of vegetable broth
  • Corn tortillas
  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 cup of shredded lettuce
  • Salsa for garnish (optional)

Instructions 

  • Mix dried minced onion (or onion powder), chili powder, garlic powder, salt, paprika, cumin, cayenne, and oregano in a bowl and set aside.
  • In a large pan (with a lid) over medium-high heat, place onion, garlic, and bell pepper and saute for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Add lentils and seasoning mix. Saute for 5 minutes.
  • Add veggie broth and bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, cover and lower heat. Cook for 30 minutes, or until broth is absorbed and lentils are soft but not mushy.
  • Transfer to a bowl and mash lentils with a fork.
  • Warm the tortillas on a skilled or bake them into taco shells in the oven. Scoop into tortillas and top with tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, and salsa.

Notes

  • Bloom the spices: Adding them to the pan before adding the broth gives the spices a chance to ‘bloom’ and become more potent/enhanced in flavor. So don’t skip this step.
  • Sort and rinse the lentils: There may be some debris or small pebbles in the bag of dry lentils.
  • Adjust the texture: Mashing the lentils a bit achieves a vegan ground beef texture. However, mash it (or use a food processor) to your desired consistency.
  • Tweak the heat: Use as much chili/cayenne powder as you like.  

Nutrition

Calories: 263kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 12gFat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gSodium: 619mgPotassium: 746mgFiber: 16gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1531IUVitamin C: 37mgCalcium: 72mgIron: 4mg

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

Additional Info

Author: Terrence Paschal
Course: Lunch
Cuisine: Mexican
Method: Stovetop
Diet: Vegan
Keywords: high protein, lentil tacos, lentils, meat substitute, plant based protein, tacos, vegan, vegan dinner, vegan lunch, Vegan Meat Substitute, vegan tacos, vegetarian
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedOnABudget! 🙂
About

Terrence Paschal

Plant based food, micro brews, punk rock, and running are what I am about.

More about Terrence Paschal

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  1. 5 stars
    I really love this lentil filling a lot more than plant-based burger. It’s easy to make and season, plus it’s got tons of fiber and healthy minerals. Having a bowl in the fridge for last-minute tacos is a must!