One bite of these Lentil Tacos prove that anything beef can do, lentils can do better! You will love the smoky, spicy lentil filing in these tacos. Top them with your regular taco toppings--cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and sour cream, and you are well on your way for a delicious vegetarian taco night!
When I'm craving Tex-Mex food (which is nearly always because I'm a Texan), I look for ways to make it lighter and healthier. I adore an enchilada covered in a chile con carne and nacho cheese sauce situation like everyone else. And nothing helps cure a bad mood quickly like a crispy, crunchy beef taco. But, let's use lentils instead of ground beef in our lentil tacos!
This is the same lentil preparation method I use for my Lentil Enchiladas. You can absolutely make a double batch and then have lentil tacos later in the week.
How to Make Lentil Tacos
We're starting with dry lentils from the bag. Yes, the green or brown regular variety. I wouldn't use the fancy du Puy or black lentils here, because it's just not important that the lentils hold their shape.
The cooking method uses as little water as possible to ensure the lentils take on a crumbly ground-beef like texture. We're packing in as many taco seasonings as possible, and then last but not least: do not forget to warm your taco shells!
Heating the taco shells according to the package instructions is paramount in having a light and crispy lentil taco experience. Straight out of the box, they can be a bit chewy and aggressively crunchy. Give them some heat while the lentils cook, and you will love the result!
- Lentils. Regular, inexpensive brown or green dried lentils, just 1 ½ cups.
- Olive Oil.
- Chili Powder. Chili powder is a spice blend containing cumin, peppers, garlic, and many other things. It is not the same as chile powder.
- Ground Cumin.
- Smoked Paprika.
- Garlic Powder. You can use dried garlic powder, or 4 cloves of minced garlic.
- Onion Powder. Essential for a well-rounded flavor. Dried onion powder brings so much umami to a sauteed dish.
- Dried Oregano. Reach for Mexican oregano, if you can find it. It's slightly different than the Mediterranean version.
- Red Pepper Flakes. Optional, for some spiciness.
- Red Onion. Can use any color, truly, but I love red onions the most.
- Tomato Paste.
- For the tacos: crispy taco shells, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and sour cream.
- First, we're going to make the lentils. Gather up all the ingredients needed to make the lentil tacos.
2. Add the lentils to a small saucepan with 2 ½ cups of water. Add a generous pinch of salt, too.
3. Bring the lentils to a boil, and then lower the heat slightly and cook while stirring occasionally until the lentils absorb all of the water and they're tender. If they absorb all of the water before cooking completely, add a small amount of water to keep it going, but try to add as little as possible. It will take 20-30 minutes to cook the lentils completely. Then, drain and set aside.
4. Place the lentil pan back on the heat, and turn the heat to medium. Add the olive oil and all of the spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano and red pepper flakes). Saute the spices for 1 minute, until very fragrant, and then add the tomato paste and cook for another minute.
5. Add the diced red onion to the pan, and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat if the onion starts to turn too dark around the edges.
6. Add the lentils back to the pan, and stir to coat them in all of this delicious lentil taco flavors!
7. Follow the directions on the box for warming up the taco shells. I like to put mine in the air fryer for 2 minutes or so. To serve, place a scoop of lentil taco meat filling in each taco shell, and top with your favorite toppings: shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, salsa and a squeeze of sour cream.
What Goes with Lentil Tacos:
- These easy refried beans are always welcome next to tacos.
- Or, if you prefer, here's a refried black beans version.
- A pan of seven layer dip is a great appetizer for tacos.
- A light and refreshing side is this black bean salad.
Yes, the taco lentil filling is already vegan, actually. The only changes to make are: buy vegan shredded cheese and sour cream.
Yes, this lentil taco filling can be frozen ahead of time in air-tight containers. To defrost, move the container to the fridge for 24 hours. Then, dump into a pan and warm over low heat with a splash of water or oil.
Yes, you can. Skip the first two steps. Drain and rinse the lentils, and then add them to the pan in step 5.
Best lentil tacos ever! Use lentils instead of ground beef for these tasty tacos.
- 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
- 12 crispy corn taco shells
- 4 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese
- For serving: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, salsa and sour cream
- Gather all ingredients to make the lentils, and have the taco toppings on the side.
- 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 cooked lentils into a colander, and set aside.
- Place the pan you cooked the lentils in back on the stove, and turn the heat to medium. Add the olive oil 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 cook another 1 minute while stirring.
- Add the diced red onion and sauté until softened, about 4-5 minutes, lowering the heat if the onion starts to burn around the edges.
- Add the lentils back to the pan, and stir to coat in all of the spices and seasonings.
- Follow the directions on the box for warming up the taco shells. (I like to pile them in the air fryer and heat for 2 minutes at 370-degrees F). To serve, place a scoop of lentils in each taco shell, and top with a handful of cheese, lettuce and diced tomatoes. A drizzle of salsa and sour cream, if you prefer. Repeat with all taco shells and serve!
Please note: This recipe is vegan if your taco toppings are vegan. I have found incredible vegan shredded cheese and sour cream in the grocery stores lately.
Lentils: Brown or green, both work.
Chili Powder: Chili powder is a spice blend--it is not the same as chile powder.
Garlic Powder: Can substitute 4 minced cloves of fresh garlic instead.
Onion Powder: Absolutely essential; do not skip.
Dried Oregano: I prefer Mexican oregano.
Red Onion: Any color onion works, truly.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 317Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 490mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 6gSugar: 7gProtein: 16g
This made a delicious lunch, and I think I'll have enough for a couple more lunches too. I just had it in a soft corn/wheat tortilla I had warmed in a skillet, served with pepper jack cheese, salsa verde, and plain yogurt. Next time I make this, I will skip adding any salt to the water for lentils or to the spice mix because the chili powder I use has salt in it, and the salsa I use also has fairly high sodium in it.