10 Minute Vegan Lentil Tacos

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lentil tacos on plate in front of skillet of cooked lentils

Looking for a quick and delicious plant-based meal? These lentil tacos are the perfect option! With just a few simple ingredients and very minimal cooking time, you can enjoy a healthy vegan meal in 10 minutes!

overhead of lentil tacos

Vegan cooking does not have to be difficult or require a lot of prep. And these tasty tacos prove the point deliciously. These flavorful lentil tacos have been in rotation in my household for years, and for good reason. They are nutritious, easy to make, and super yummy. The lentil taco filling has just a few ingredients, and is made in one pan (yay! Very little cleanup). While that lentil filling is amazing in tacos, it can also be used to top vegan nachos, in burritos, in enchiladas, taco salad, or a burrito bowl. I love a recipe that is as versatile as it is delicious.

Why we love lentil tacos!

  • We love them because they are:
  • Healthy and balanced
  • Delicious and full of flavor
  • Done in 10 minutes!
  • One pan meal
  • A great way to enjoy nutritious lentils, one of the best plant-based protein sources
  • Made with cheap ingredients
  • Perfect for lazy weeknight dinners, Meatless Monday, or taco Tuesday…really any day of the week, AND any time of year.

plate of lentil tacos on kitchen counter

How to make a balanced vegan meal

Since I first became vegan in 2011, I have appreciated the Macrobiotic approach to eating. The macrobiotic eating protocol originates in Japan, and balance is at its core. The perfect balanced plate ideally contains at least one of the following:

Legume | protein

Whole grain | healthy carbohydrates

Green vegetable | fiber

Starchy vegetable | healthy starch

Healthy fat

Tacos can be the ultimate balanced meal! In this one recipe you’ll find the principal of balance represented in the lentils (protein), spinach (green veggie), corn tortillas (whole grain), and avocado (healthy fat). No starchy veggies in here, but the corn does the job just fine.

Raw lentils close up

Star ingredients

There aren’t many ingredients in these simple lentil tacos, so each is important, and contributes to making this a balanced and nutritious vegan meal.

LENTILS

Lentils are one of my favorite sources of plant-based protein. They’re a great vegetarian replacement for ground beef or turkey in almost any recipe. And they have more protein than beans––1 cup of lentils boasts 18 grams! In addition to protein, lentils are an important source of dietary fiber, potassium, iron, zinc, and b vitamins. Lentils are incredibly easy to cook on the stove or in the Instant Pot. If you only have 10 minutes to make a recipe, I recommend using canned lentils. Keep your pantry stocked with them for when you want a quick and healthy meal. This humble legume is available at any grocery store.

TOMATOES

Tomatoes are the best because they bring a subtle sweetness, welcome acidity, and rich umami (savoriness) to any dish. When fresh tomatoes are not in season (or not in my kitchen), I use canned diced tomatoes to make this recipe. Cook the tomatoes, fresh or canned, down until they are soft to concentrate their flavor.

CHILI POWDER AND CUMIN

You spice drawer should always have these two spices in it. Cumin and chili powder are a match made in heaven, and a requirement for many savory Mexican-inspired recipes. A taco seasoning blend will work well in place of these two individual spices.

SPINACH

Frozen spinach is my jam. Because produce is flash frozen at its peak freshness, frozen spinach and other vegetables are just as healthy as fresh. Frozen spinach makes it super easy to add more nutrition to almost any meal, and is particularly delicious in these tacos.

step by step images with instructions for making lentil tacos

How to make it

Step one:

Mince one clove of garlic and sauté in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the garlic is slightly golden, add 1 diced tomato or half a can of tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes are tender and almost mushy, about 2 minutes.

Step two:

Add one can of green lentils, or 2 cups of home cooked. Also add the spices and salt. Don’t strain or rinse the lentils before adding. This would cut the cook time even more, but there is so much nutrition in the liquid, we don’t want to waste it. The same is not true for bean liquid; they hold their shape better when cooked.

Simmer the lentils on medium-high heat until the liquid has reduced, and the filling is thick and yummy. Stir occasionally to avoid burning. This step should take about 5 minutes.

Step three:

While the lentils simmer on the stove, warm some corn or flour tortillas in the toaster oven. To do this I place as many tortillas as I can fit onto the grates of the toaster oven, and toast at 375° for about 4 minutes, or until soft and hot to the touch. Wrap the tortillas in a clean kitchen towel to keep them warm out of the oven.

In the last 2 minutes of cooking, stir the spinach into the lentil mixture, and cook until tender.

Lastly, season to taste with more sea salt before using the lentil taco meat to fill the tortillas. Total time: 10 minutes!

Step four:

Top your vegan––and gluten-free if you used corn tortillas––tacos with avocado, shredded red cabbage, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. Other yummy additions are raw or pickled onion, vegan sour cream, shredded lettuce, vegan cheese, a dash of dried oregano, or salsa.

three lentil tacos on white plate

Tips & Swaps

  • Canned lentils and tomatoes have a lot of liquid. You can evaporate this liquid as they cook. No need to drain the liquid. I find that reducing the liquid in the pan helps to enhance the flavor.
  • If you prefer to cook your lentils at home, the best time saving tool is the Instant Pot. This electric pressure cooker machine cooks lentils in about 20 minutes (8 minutes of active pressure cooking). On the stove lentils cook in about 30 minutes.
  • French and green lentils are my favorites for this recipe. However, I also like using black lentils, which have an even firmer texture. Avoid red lentils, which are mushy.
  • Fresh or canned tomatoes work. Use whichever is more convenient. Tomato sauce is not my favorite replacement because it lacks the chunky texture. However, if you do use tomato sauce, add just 1/4 cup.
  • A packet of taco seasoning is perfect in place of the individual spices, and just as easy to add (if not easier). Taco seasoning is usually made with a rich blend of spices that included garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili pepper, and cumin. Keep some on hand for quick vegan tacos!
  • Double the tacos recipe for more. Instructions for storing are below!

How to store leftovers

  • Lentil tacos are just as easy to keep fresh as they are to make. Simply store the lentil filling in an airtight container in the fridge for 5-7 days. I used to make these all of the time as a private chef, and they did indeed last all week.
  • The taco filling also freezes well. Enjoy within 2 months of freezing for the best taste. Thaw on before reheating.
  • Reheat the filling in the microwave or on the stove.
  • Corn and flour tortillas can be kept in the fridge or freezer. Reheat them in a toaster oven or microwave before making tacos.

lentil tacos on white plate

Try these vegan taco recipes too!

Marinated Tempeh Tacos

Mushroom Carnitas Tacos

Banana Peel Carnitas Tacos

Indian-inspired Sweet Potato Tacos

Classic Vegan Fish Tacos

Jerk Jackfruit Tacos

plate of lentil tacos on kitchen counter

10 Minute Vegan Lentil Tacos

Jenné

These easy lentil tacos take just 10 minutes to make. They’re delicious, nutritious, and perfect for Taco Tuesday and Meatless Monday.

Prep Time 20 minutes

Cook Time 10 minutes

Ingredients  

Taco Filling

  • 1 tbsp neutral oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 vine ripened tomato, diced or 1/2 can of diced tomatoes (14 oz can)
  • 2 cups cooked green or French lentils 1 can of lentils
  • 1 cup frozen spinach or 3 handfuls of fresh spinach, or any other leafy green
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 6-12 small tortillas (corn or flour) warmed in the oven, stovetop, or microwave
  • 1 avocado, sliced for topping
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped for topping
  • 1/4 cup shredded red cabbage for topping
  • 1 lime, halved for squeezing over finished tacos

Instructions 

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium heat.

  • Add the tomatoes, and cook until they’ve lost their shape, about 2 minutes.

  • Stir in the lentils and spices. If you are using canned lentils, cook them enough to reduce the liquid until you have a thick and meaty filling. About 5 minutes.

  • Add the frozen or fresh spinach, and cook for another 2 minutes, or until tender.

  • Season to taste with more salt if necessary.

  • Fill the warm tortillas (I like to double the tortillas) with the lentil filling, and top with cilantro, shredded cabbage, avocado, and lime juice.

Notes

  • Use home cooked or canned lentils for this recipe. Canned lentils contain a lot of liquid and should not be rinsed (unlike beans). Reduce the liquid from the can of lentils as they cook in the skillet. 
  • French and green lentils work best for this recipe. Avoid red lentils, as they are too mushy when cooked. 





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