Pink slime got you down? Maybe you’re already a vegetarian? Or maybe you just don’t like paying $4/lb. for ground beef? Well, if you don’t already know, lentils make a fantastic substitute (or extender) for ground beef!
I used lentils to stretch out a pound of ground beef in my Sloppy Joe’s Plus recipe, but when one of my wonderful readers (Hi Emily!) sent me a link to this recipe on A Couple of Cooks, I knew I had to try lentil tacos. …and I love ’em!
The taco seasoned lentils themselves are really easy to make (and cost only about $1.91) and then you can use whatever toppings or shells you want. I used small taco sized corn tortillas, homemade taco seasoning, homemade pico de gallo, fresh avocado (they were on sale), and some sour cream. The all-American lettuce, cheese, and tomato combo would also be great!
If your pantry isn’t well stocked enough to make your own taco seasoning, you can substitute a store bought packet of seasoning and you can always use a jar of salsa instead of fresh pico. The price breakdown below includes my selection of toppings, so be aware that your choices will affect your total cost.
- 2 cups dry brown lentils ($0.61)
- 1 small yellow onion ($0.51)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.24)
- 1 recipe taco seasoning (with corn starch) ($0.34)
- 1 tsp salt ($0.05)
- 16 small corn tortillas ($1.03)
- 1 recipe pico de gallo ($1.91)
- 8 oz. sour cream ($1.39)
- 2 small avocados ($1.19)
- In a skillet over medium heat, lightly toast the corn tortillas on both sides. If you are using a non-stick or cast iron pan, no oil is needed. If you are using a stainless steel or other cooking surface, you may need a quick spritz of non-stick spray. The tortillas should be lightly browned in some spots but still pliable.
- Sort and rinse the lentils. Bring 3 cups of water to a rolling boil in a medium pot. Once it reaches a boil, add the lentils. Let the pot return to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, place a lid on top. Allow the lentils to simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, taste the lentils to test the texture. They should be tender but not mushy. Drain the lentils in a colander. (For a step by step picture tutorial on how to cook lentils, click here)
- Dice the onion, mince the garlic and cook them with olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until tender. Once the onion is tender, add the drained lentils, the taco seasoning, and about a half cup of water. Stir and cook over medium heat until the mixture has thickened (about 3-5 minutes). Season to taste with salt – this will really bring out the flavors (I added one teaspoon).
- Build the tacos, using about 1/4 cup of seasoned lentils per taco, one slice of avocado, a small amount of pico de gallo, and sour cream. If you have cilantro left over from the pico de gallo, it can also be used to top the tacos.
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
Step By Step Photos
I used to think that I hated corn tortillas, until someone told me that I was supposed to toast them first, duh. Toasting them really does bring out a nice corn flavor instead of the bland, rubbery flavor that they have right out of the package. Toast them just until they are lightly browned (on each side), but still pliable.
Next, sort and rinse the lentils. You don’t want to bite into a small pebble while eating your tacos. It’s easiest to sort them if you spread them out on a flat surface, like a baking sheet. Then just rinse them a few times under cool water. Also, buying lentils from bulk bins is usually much less expensive than buying packaged lentils. Make sure you get brown lentils, as they cook in about half the time of green lentils. Red or yellow lentils will turn to mush when cooked, so you don’t want to use those either.
Bring three cups of water to a rolling boil. Only after it reaches a full boil, add the lentils. Allow it to come back up to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, place a lid on top, and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, test the texture of the lentils. They should be tender but not mushy. If they are still a bit hard, allow them to simmer five minutes more and check them again. Once again, green lentils will take closer to 45 minutes to cook, so make sure to buy brown lentils.
Drain the lentils in a colander and then set them aside unti you’re ready to use them.
While the lentils are cooking, you can make the pico de gallo. The recipe is here, but basically all you do is chop an onion, tomato, and cilantro, and then stir them together with lime juice and salt. Super fast, easy, and delicious.
You can also mix up the taco seasoning while the lentils cook. The recipe is here. Make sure to add the corn starch, which is listed as optional in the recipe.
Next, chop the onion and mince the garlic. Cook them in a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat until tender (about five minutes).
Once the onions are tender, add the drained lentils, the taco seasoning, and about a half cup of water.
Cook and stir for about 5 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and is thoroughly mixed. Taste the mixture and add salt as needed. I added an extra teaspoon of salt, which made the flavors pop.
Build the tacos with your desired toppings! Since taco sized tortillas are very small (about a 6″ diameter), I used only about 1/4 cup of lentils per taco and ate two tacos per serving. The seasoned lentils yielded about 4 cups.
These lentils would also make an amazing burrito filling!!
I used what I had on hand. Green lentils instead of brown, red onion instead of white, and flour tortillas instead of corn. It still tasted AMAZING! 10/10 would recommend. I had to put in a LOT of salt for my preferences.
What I’ve learned is that rinsing is NOT optional. Do it. Doesn’t matter how busy – just rinse the lentils before cooking.
Tasty meat alternative for taco night. I 1/2-ed the recipe which was plenty with lots of left overs for 2 people. We made nachos with the left overs the next day and they were good. The flavors seemed to mesh together better the next day…much like chilis and soups. I served these with homemade pico de gallo, sliced avocados, and shredded cheese. Very tasty recipe!
Really enjoyed this recipe, but had to rate it 4 stars instead of 5 to show that not all of my reviews are five stars, and also, that although this is a really delicious, economical meal, it does not closely resembled tacos in my Canadian imagination :P It reminds me more of the “fish tacos” they sell at patio restaurants in the summer (also delicious, but not tacos in my opinion … but what do I know about real Mexican food? :D) This recipe has lots of plus factors though: good for the wallet, good for the planet, really easy to prepare lots and freeze some for later, and a great fresh taste due to the pico de gallo and sour cream. Tastes like more!
We had these for lunch Sunday and enjoyed having an easy, tasty weejend lunch. Along with the suggested toppings, we had green salsa and jalapeños. I also made rice to accompany and cactus salad.
These were so good! I live alone and didn’t reference the servings prior to making them (oops) so I will be freezing the leftovers for later! Thanks for a great vegan recipe!
How does this freeze? Anyone try? Looking for recipes to make on weekends to freeze servings of and just need to thaw and reheat during the week.
The lentil mixture should freeze really well, everything else definitely make fresh. :)
I only have red lentils in the pantry. Can I use red instead of brown?
The only problem with using red lentils here is that they don’t hold their shape when cooked, so you’ll have more of a lentil mush instead of whole lentils.
I made this, but sadly couldn’t eat it. I made the taco seasoning per your recipe, and the lentils turned out so spicy that even a little bite had my mouth on fire! Even my husband, who loves to smother things in sriracha, took one bite and exclaimed, “Woo! Yeah, that will wake you up in the morning!”. He was able to eat it with some rice, eventually. As for the tacos, I ran back out to the store for ground turkey and packaged taco seasoning, to finish them.
You must have used something other than chili powder, or too much cayanne. I’ve made Beth’s taco seasoning as stated more times than I can count, and I’ve never had even a slight problem with it being spicy.
Made this tonight, it was delicious and so easy! We didn’t have the right amount of lentils so I added chili pinto beans and it turned out great.
I made this tonight, a half recipe. Delicious, healthy and cheap! Even my picky roommate loved it!
I make a similar filling for my vegan son but skip the onion since he doesn’t like it and after cooking the lentils I add the seasonings plus a 15oz. can of tomato sauce. I simmer till it’s pretty thick and he has our family’s version of tacos in a vegan style.
Thank you for sharing this recipe! My toddler and I really like it (thanks!), but my husband is not a fan. Has anyone tried freezing leftovers?
I made this last night for nacho night and everyone loved it. Even my everything has to have meat loving man.
Just an FYI, these do turn out wonderful if using the lentils as the recipe suggests, I have made it with great results. Tonight, all I had was the lentil trio which is a mix and it was mostly mush because of the varied sizes of the lentils. So, if you stick to the recipe, you will have amazing tacos!
I found a lentil taco recipe online a few years back, we liked them. Then I made up an idea for mexi-lentil-brown rice taco mix and we also liked them even better, but thought the mixture was best on nachos and for a great tasting taco soup. Then one day I was in a hurry to figure out some lunch, so I just cooked brown lentils, added a few of my ideas for taco type seasonings (some of which I found at a local mexican grocers: this totally did a huge up to the tacos) plus adding a bit of lime juice, sour cream, grated cheese, cilantro…….we LOVED them, even my meat-loving men loved them; now we have to make them once a month and the guys eat 10 each!! (I can eat 4 or 5 and be sooo full). We were just heating the corn tortillas, but then the guys wanted to cook each one in a bit of oil…..this was a win for the entire family except me, as I was fine with just heating the corn tortillas without oil.
Fried yet soft tortillas are the best to me! My son will eat them both ways.
Looks amazing! I’m always on the lookout for new taco recipes – I’m obsessed :)
I often use plain greek yogurt instead of sour cream in recipes. It’s cheaper, and I really like the extra tang!