These lentil tacos make a delicious plant-based dinner filled with plenty of flavor! So if you’re looking for a homemade “meat” alternative for Mexican night, look no further! This taco filling recipe is vegetarian and vegan friendly! And they are so tasty they may even impress meat lovers!
A family friendly taco filling recipe
This recipe for vegan lentil tacos was a labor of love, which entailed lots of trying and testing until I felt it was at the point I was ready to share it. In fact, it’s a simple recipe consisting of spices, aromatics, lentils and tomato. Plus a squeeze of lime — something I think every taco filling needs. But with every recipe, even the simple ones, they need a little tweaking here and there. And this one, was tested on teenage boys, who admittedly said it tastes like lentils not mince, but tasty nonetheless. One small win for me, getting them to eat lentils once again.
Not only is the filling important for a great taco. There’s the “taco meat” and then there are the toppings. And it’s the toppings that really round out the flavours and make taco eating an extra delicious meal experience.
Let’s take a look first at the vegan taco “meat” filling:
Lentils: Be sure to use brown or green lentils. They hold their form versus red or yellow lentils, which break down too much when cooked.
Seasonings: The seasoning for the lentil “meat” is pretty much just tomato, taco seasoning, accented with a little cinnamon, smoked paprika and a pinch cane sugar (okay 1/2 a teaspoon). I use my very own Elle Herbs taco seasoning, which is made with paprika, Kalahari desert salt, cumin, tomatoes, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, and habanero chili. I up the cinnamon a little for this particular recipe, and add a little smokiness with smoked paprika. Of course, you can use you very own taco spice mix for this recipe. But I think you might also find that mine is pretty tasty too. 😉
And for the taco toppings:
Tacos are easy to assemble, and you can customize them with all your favorite toppings! Here are a few that I really enjoy with this recipe:
- Fermented mixed cabbage: this I buy via my weekly farmers market delivery (Ökokiste). I love it and even make grilled cheese sandwiches with it. An alternative are easy picked onions (simply add 125 ml apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon beet or cane sugar, 1½ teaspoons sea salt to a jar and whisk to dissolve than add 1 thinly sliced red onion and let sit for 1 hour, or store in fridge for up to 2 weeks)
- Avocado: either sliced or as guacamole. For me a must for tacos.
- Red cabbage: Shredded cabbage adds crunch and freshness to these vegan tacos. Lime juice livens it up or try my cabbage, mango and lime salad, it’s one of my favourite toppers for tacos.
- Mango salsa: mango anything goes with tacos. My black bean salad with avocado and mango makes a great taco topper.
- Jalapeños: love, love, love jarred jalapeños for a little extra kick.
- Salsa: whether it’s a classic tomato salsa or pico de Gallo, mild or spicy, tacos and salsa are born to be together.
- Cheese or vegan alternative: balance out the spices with grated cheddar, a Queso Blanco sauce, or vegan cheese alternative.
- Tortillas: Use any tortillas you like — soft or hard — corn, wheat or homemade.
Looking to up the “meaty” factor, then try adding some sautéed mushrooms. They have a great way of giving vegan recipes a meaty texture. Or how about adding some shredded carrot, this adds texture and of course, more plant-based goodness!
I really hope you enjoy this vegan taco “meat” recipe! It’s PERFECT for tacos, burritos, quesadillas, Mexican style salads, nachos, and more!
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons taco spice
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 x 400g can organic diced tomatoes
- 400 ml water (1 can full)
- 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lime
- 1 cup uncooked brown lentils (chateau) (200 g)
FOR SERVING optional
- Corn or flour tortillas
- Shredded red cabbage
- Guacamole or avocado slices
- Sliced jalapeños
- Salsa or pico de gallo
- Lime wedges
- Cilantro leaves
Heat the oil in a large deep -non-stick skillet (or wok) over medium heat. Add the onion, and garlic. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until tender.
Add the spices (taco spice, smoked paprika and cinnamon) and sauté for one minute, until fragrant. Stir in tomato paste, and sauté, stirring often for 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, water and sugar. Bring to a simmer, then add the lentils, and cook on medium heat (at a light simmer) for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened and lentils are tender. Season with salt to taste and add the lime juice. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust flavor as needed.
Serve the vegan taco mixture over tortillas (I like soft corn tortillas heated in a skillet, and wrapped in a clean kitchen towel to keep warm). For toppings, see my suggestions above or try my cabbage and mango salad, or black bean and mango salad. Both are terrific with tacos. Serve with lime wedges and salsa for more flavor. Enjoy!
- Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat on the stovetop until hot, adding a little water if needed.
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