Tacos Without Meat: Spotlight on Cheesy Lentil Tacos

tacos without meat
Tacos can be made with non-meat protein like eggs, lentils, or beans.

While authentic Mexican tacos are traditionally made with pork (carnitas or al pastor), beef (carne asada) or chicken, no one says tacos must have meat. (If you haven't see Taco Chronicles on Netflix, it's a fun documentary series narrated by a taco.) Taco Tuesdays can extend Meatless Mondays by using any number of meat substitutes including:

  • fish/shrimp

  • red lentils

  • veggies

  • crumbled tempeh

  • jackfruit

  • eggs

  • beans

This recipe will highlight red lentils, but feel free to try any of the other ideas above.

Protein in Red Lentils

Red lentils are a source of protein, although they do not contain all of the amino acids that we need in a day. In general, legumes such as lentils and beans need to be paired with a whole grain such as whole wheat, corn, or brown rice. Using whole corn tortillas provides the complete protein complement for lentils.

How do lentils taste?

There are different types and textures of lentils. Green lentils are hard, even after you cook them, whereas red lentils become soft and mushy. I like to use red lentils in tacos because they more closely resemble ground beef. Both green and red lentils have a mild taste, but take on the flavor of whatever spices you season them with.

How do you prepare lentils?

Lentils are super easy to prepare. If you have a fine sieve or colander, rinse your lentils to remove any debris. The red lentils are so tiny, though, that they can fall through the holes of a colander if the holes aren't obnoxiously small. If you don't have the equipment to rinse them first, boiling in enough. Boil lentils for 10-15 minutes.

Dietary Restrictions

The recipe below includes cheese and other toppings, but depending on your dietary restrictions, you can either remove or replace the toppings. For instance, you can use dairy-free cheese like Follow Your Heart Cheddar Shreds or sprinkle in nutritional yeast to the taco seasoning for the cheesy taste.

Here's the recipe for Cheesy Lentil Tacos.

Cheesy Lentil Tacos

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: 4 tacos (2 servings)

tacos without meat
Red Lentil Tacos are a great way to make tacos without meat.


  • 3/4 cup red lentils

  • 1/4 wedge of lettuce or cabbage

  • 1 tomato

  • 4 corn tortillas

  • 1 Tbsp Canola or olive oil

  • 2 Tbsp taco seasoning (see recipe below)

  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)

  • 1/2 cup taco sauce or salsa

  • Optional: lime wedges and cilantro for garnish

Taco Seasoning:

You can either use store-bought seasoning or you can make your own. If making your own, here's a quick recipe:

  • 1 Tbsp paprika

  • 1 tsp chili powder

  • 1 tsp onion powder

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1/2 tsp oregano

  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • (if not using cheese on your tacos, you can add 1 tsp nutritional yeast for some cheesy flavor)


  1. If possible, rinse red lentils in a fine mesh sieve and then boil. If not, pour lentils directly into a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes.

  2. While the lentils are boiling, prepare your toppings. Slice cabbage or lettuce into thin strips.

  3. Dice tomato.

  4. Heat corn tortillas in a pan over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and place on your dinner plates. Add oil to the hot pan.

  5. Once the lentils are done boiling, drain water. Add lentils to pan with oil and pour in taco seasoning. Stir for about 5 minutes just to heat and combine flavors.

  6. Dish out lentils on to tortillas. Top with cheese, lettuce, tomato and sauce if desired. Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro.

Nutrition per 2 tacos

Calories: 570 Carbohydrates: 71g Protein: 30g Fat: 20g Saturated Fat: 6g Cholesterol: 28mg Sodium: 783mg Potassium: 1029mg Fiber: 14g Added Sugar: 0g

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