These Lentil Enchiladas are so good, you won't even notice that they're vegetarian! I have the secret formula for making green or brown lentils taste like ground beef. Next time it's Taco Night, put a pan of these out for the vegetarians, and you will see that everyone loves them!
Like many kids, I was first introduced to vegetarianism in my late teens. Truthfully, I never loved nor craved meat, so the idea of never eating it again wasn't daunting to me. Admittedly, saying goodbye forever to pork and beans or a comforting scoop of butter beans was going to be hard. I was up for the challenge, though.
It was all pretty simple to switch to vegetarianism, until I was forced to live in the dorms my freshman year of college. The cafeteria meals were all very meat-centric. However, we had a little corner of the cafeteria carved out for vegetarian kids like me.
To say that I survived on these lentil enchiladas in the school cafeteria would be an understatement. I ate them for breakfast, lunch and dinner some days. They fueled me through many nights, studying and many nights partying, too, of course.
However, I'm sure that the college dorm version of lentil enchiladas was made with canned lentils, a packet of taco seasoning, all rolled up in a soft flour tortilla with a can of red enchilada sauce poured on top before being smothered with cheese. Easy and effective, but super greasy and unnecessarily heavy.
My lentil enchiladas here have way more flavor, and are much fresher! This method for making lentils taste like ground beef can be used for Lentil Tacos, too!
How to Make Lentil Enchiladas
We're starting with dried lentils today, which sounds daunting, but really, they cook in 20 minutes! Canned lentils can be a bit mushy, and we're really going for the 'crumbled ground beef' texture, so dried lentils are best.
After the lentils are cooked, we're going to spice up the lentils like they're really taco meat! You won't believe how much they taste like ground beef!
Finally, to keep things simple, we're wrapping them up quickly in soft flour tortillas, pouring over our favorite can of red enchilada sauce (or mix--one red and one green!), and then a light sprinkling of cheese.
Before serving, garnish with pico de gallo, a drizzle of sour cream, and sliced avocado, if you prefer. Also check out my Vegetarian Enchiladas made with pinto beans!
- Green Lentils. We need dried regular plain lentils, also called green or brown lentils.
- Olive Oil.
- Chili Powder. Chili powder is a blend of spices that resembles taco seasoning. It is not the same as chilE powder, which is a single type of chile, dried and ground up.
- Cumin. Ground cumin, not cumin seeds here.
- Smoked Paprika. This is essential for giving the lentils the meaty taste. Smoked paprika is such a star in my kitchen.
- Garlic Powder. Dried garlic powder has more potency than fresh, but if you prefer to use fresh, use 4 whole cloves, minced.
- Onion Powder. In my experience, onion powder is essential for giving things a deep flavor that often resembles packaged food. Onion powder is rich and never subtle. It brings a lot to the table!
- Dried Oregano.
- Red Pepper Flakes. Just a pinch, for a bit of heat.
- Red Onion. One small purple onion, diced.
- Tomato Paste. For its rich, umami flavor!
- Red Enchilada Sauce. You need two 10-ounce cans of your favorite red enchilada sauce. Alternatively, you can mix one can of red sauce and one can of green sauce.
- Flour Tortillas. The smaller flour tortillas that are 6-8" in diameter; often called 'taco size.'
- Colby Jack Cheese. Four shredded cups, some for inside the lentil enchiladas and some for the top.
- For serving: pico de gallo, sour cream, cilantro, and avocado slices.
- Gather all the ingredients needed. Have a saucepan ready to cook the lentils and a 9x13-inch baking dish for baking the lentil enchiladas ready.
2. Add the lentils to small saucepan with 2 ½ cups of water and a generous pinch of salt. Bring the lentils to a boil and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, while stirring occasionally for about 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are tender. They will absorb all of the water; if they look like they need more, add it one tablespoon at a time and cook until tender.
3. Drain the lentils, and then place the pan back on the heat.
4. Add the olive oil and all of the spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and red pepper flakes) to the pot over medium heat. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, and saute another minute.
5. Next, add the diced red onion and cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally and lowering the heat if the onion threatens to burn.
6. Finally, add the lentils back to the pot, stir to coat them in the mixture, and remove from heat. Let them cool slightly.
7. Preheat the oven to 350. Pour one can of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. Warm the tortillas in the microwave gently, until they're soft and flexible.
8. Lay each tortilla flat, and filling it with a scoop of the lentil enchiladas filling. You can divide the lentils in half by eye and use roughly ⅙th of of each half per tortilla. You're filling 12 tortillas total. Add a sprinkle of cheese, and then roll up each tortilla, and place it seam-side down in the baking dish.
9. When all of the tortillas are in the pan, pour the remaining can of enchilada sauce on top, and the remaining shredded cheese. It's my preference to leave a bit of tortilla exposed without sauce or cheese, because it gets crisp in the oven, but you can smother them completely--your choice. Bake until the enchiladas are golden brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
10. Serve with pico de gallo on top, a drizzle of sour cream, extra chopped cilantro, and sliced avocados--whatever you like on your lentil enchiladas!
Yes, absolutely! You need to find a vegan shredded cheese product that you like, and that's it--everything else about this recipe is naturally vegan.
Yes, make the recipe entirely, and then freeze before baking. Defrost overnight in the fridge, and then bake for an extra 15-20 minutes, as needed.
- 1 ½ cups green lentils
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoon chili powder
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 10-ounce cans of red enchilada sauce
- 12 flour tortillas (about 6-8 inches in diameter, taco-size)
- 4 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
- For serving: diced or sliced avocado, cilantro leaves and sour cream
- Gather all ingredients needed to make lentil enchiladas.
- Add the lentils to a small saucepan with 2 ½ cups of water. Add a generous pinch of salt. Bring the lentils to a boil, then lower the heat slightly and cook while stirring occasionally, until the lentils absorb all of the water and they’re tender. Add more water, if needed, but try to add the minimum amount. It will take about 20-30 minutes.
- Drain the lentils and place them in a colander. Place the pan back on the heat.
- Add the olive oil to the pan, and all of the spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and red pepper flakes). Saute the herbs and spices until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and saute another 1 minute.
- Next, add the diced red onion, and saute until soft and tender, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the lentils back to the pot, and stir to coat. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F. Pour one can of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. Warm the tortillas in the microwave so they’re flexible. Lay each tortilla flat and fill with a scoop of the filling. (Divide the filling in half by eye and then scoop out ⅙th for each). Add a small handful of cheese. Roll up the tortilla, and place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with all tortillas.
- Pour the remaining enchilada sauce on top, and top with the rest of the cheese. Bake until the enchiladas are golden brown and bubbling, about 20 minutes.
- To serve, top with avocado chunks or slices, cilantro and a drizzle of sour cream.
Lentils: Regular, plain lentils; called green or brown lentils.
Chili Powder: Chili powder is a blend of spices that resembles taco seasoning. It is not the same as chilE powder, which is a single chile, ground up.
Cumin: Ground cumin, not cumin seeds here.
Smoked Paprika: This is essential for giving the lentils the meaty, smoky taste.
Garlic Powder: Dried garlic powder is easiest, but you can use fresh 4 whole cloves, minced.
Red Pepper Flakes: Optiona; just a pinch, for a bit of spiciness.
Red Enchilada Sauce: Two 10-ounce cans of your favorite red enchilada sauce. You can mix one can of red sauce and one can of green sauce.
Flour Tortillas: The ones that are 6-8" in diameter; often called 'taco size.'
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 414Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 1091mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 6gSugar: 5gProtein: 17g