Turn cooked lentils into a vegan taco meat that’s bursting with delicious flavor. Black bean and lentil taco meat is so easy to make.
And it’s ready in just 15 minutes! Vegan and gluten free.
It’s amazing what lentils can do!
When cooked with black beans and spices, they become a satiating taco filling that is a winner with kids and adults like.
Lentils have a soft texture that’s similar to ground beef.
Plus, they’re packed with fiber, iron, and plant based protein. (12 grams of protein per serving!)
That makes them a remarkably good meat substitute & ideal vegan taco filling.
Thanks to pre-cooked lentils & canned black beans, it’s easy to make in one pan along with onions, garlic, and spices.
Add it to tacos.
Put it on nachos.
Scoop it into taco salads.
Or throw it in burritos.
With this lentil taco meat recipe, a quick, inexpensive, and healthy vegan dinner is yours in a flash.
Great for Taco Tuesday or anytime!
Oil: A little oil helps for sautéing onions and garlic.
If you prefer to keep this dish oil-free, simply replace the oil with a splash of water.
Onion: You can use yellow or red onion.
Garlic: A clove garlic adds flavor and fragrant aroma.
It can be replaced with ¼ teaspoon garlic powder. (Add it with the other seasonings.)
Lentils: To make this a super weeknight friendly meal, I recommend buying cooked lentils.
I use steamed lentils from Trader Joe’s. They’re one of my favorite vegan Trader Joe’s products.
It’s sold in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. And it’s exactly the amount you’ll need for this recipe.
Or you can use an equivalent amount of canned lentils (about 1 ½ cans).
If you’d prefer to make lentils from scratch using dried lentils, that works too.
Brown, green, or French lentils du Puy are the best lentils for taco meat.
I don’t recommend using yellow or red lentils, because they don’t hold their shape. They turn into mush, which is better suited for soup.
Black beans: A can of drained black beans add protein and bite to this vegan taco meat.
Canned beans are very convenient. But if you’d prefer, you can cook dried beans separately.
They can be replaced with pinto beans, white beans, or kidney beans.
Spices: Of course, what really brings lentil taco meat to life are the seasonings.
You’ll need cumin, paprika, granulated onion, salt, and ancho chili powder.
Ancho chili powder is different than standard chili powder.
Chili powder is a blend of spices, which often includes cayenne.
Ancho chili powder has just one ingredient – ancho chilies.
It’s not hot. Just flavorful.
If you can’t find ancho chili powder, it can be replaced with whatever chili powder you have.
If you’d prefer to use a taco seasoning packet, that works.
Just replace the spices with one taco seasoning packet. You’ll also want to increase the water to about ½ cup. (Add more water, if needed.)
Hot sauce: Hot sauce adds spice and zing. Use whatever hot sauce you enjoy.
Omit if you aren’t a fan of spicy food.
Step by step instructions
Here are instructions with process photos to see how the lentil taco meat is made.
(For full ingredient amounts & cooking directions, scroll to the recipe box at the bottom of this post.)
Sauté onions and garlic with oil in a large skillet on a medium heat.
Once the onions and garlic are translucent & fragrant, add the following:
- Cooked black beans
- Cooked brown lentils
- Ancho chili powder
- Granulated onion
If you’re using Trader Joe’s steamed lentils, use your hands to break them apart as you put them into the skillet.
Stir until spices are evenly combined. Then cook a few minutes more.
Add a splash of hot sauce & combine.
The most obvious way to enjoy lentil taco meat is in tacos.
Use soft flour or corn tortillas. Or go with hard taco shells for crunch.
Then finish with your lentil tacos with any of the following toppings:
- Shredded cabbage mix
- Chopped romaine lettuce
- Pickled red onions
- Quick pickled jalapeños
- Chopped tomatoes
- Pico de gallo or salsa
- Shredded non-dairy cheese
- Vegan sour cream
More ways to use lentil taco meat
This protein-packed vegan taco filling is great in any of the following meatless dishes.
(If necessary, use lentil taco meat in place of whatever vegan filling is listed in the recipe.)
- Vegan burrito bowls
- Vegan walking tacos
- Vegan nachos with cashew queso
- Double decker tacos
- Vegan taco salad
- Vegan taco pizza
How to store
Store leftover lentil taco meat in a covered container in the refrigerator.
It will keep for 3 to 5 days.
It also freezes well in a freezer-proof container for up to 3 months.
Move it to the refrigerator to thaw.
Reheat in the microwave or a non-stick skillet.
More vegan taco recipes
For even more Mexican-inspired dishes, check out these vegan taco recipes.
- Chickpea tacos
- Black bean tacos
- Sweet potato tacos
- Tempeh tacos
- Raw tacos
- Vegan fish tacos
- Jackfruit carnitas tacos
- Breakfast tacos
- Fried puffy tacos
Lentil taco meat
- ½ teaspoon organic canola oil or your preferred oil
- ½ medium onion chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 ½ cups cooked brown lentils (One package of Trader Joe's steamed lentils)
- 1 ½ cups black beans drained & rinsed
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- Pinch of salt
- 2 Tablespoons water Plus more if necessary
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce Adjust more or less to taste
- Bring a large non-stick skillet to a medium heat with oil.
- Add onion and garlic to the skillet. Sauté a few minutes, until fragrant and translucent.
- Add cooked lentils, black beans, ancho chili powder, cumin, paprika, granulated onion, salt, and water to the skillet.If you're using a package of Trader Joe's steamed lentils, crumble it with your hands to break it up as you put it in the pan.
- Stir until the spices are evenly combined. Continue cooking for a few minutes more, until the lentil mixture is fully heated.
- Add hot sauce to taste and combine. Taste for spices and add more if needed.
- If the mixture starts to look dry or stick to the skillet, add another splash of water, one Tablespoon at a time. Remove from heat and set aside. Now it's ready to use in tacos, burrito bowls, or taco salads.