Vegan Lentil Taco Meat recipe by Joyful Balance

Vegan Lentil Taco Meat (Easy Taco Filling!)

Hello, my wonderful chickpeas! It’s been a while since I posted a Tex Mex or Mexican inspired recipe, so it seemed like it was about time to introduce a new one to the family. Let’s welcome my Vegan Lentil Taco Meat! This recipe is the perfect addition to an easy taco night, and it’s got some great savory and smoky flavors. Made entirely from plants, this vegan taco meat is sure to impress all taco lovers.

Vegan Lentil Taco Meat recipe by Joyful Balance: Oil Free and WFPB

This one is quick and simple, with some great protein and flavor. Your next great taco night is just around the corner! Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Inspiration for Vegan Lentil Taco Meat

Lentil Vegan Taco Meat for plant based tacos

We love a good taco night in my house. We usually have one main plant based protein option, and then I lay out a bunch of fresh veggies and toppings to make a fun little taco bar. That way we can each make our own unique combination of flavors and chow down! This Vegan Lentil Taco Meat has become one of my go-to proteins for easy tacos on those nights, because it pairs well with just about anything and is quick & simple to make!

This recipe kind of happened over time as I experimented in the kitchen to find my perfect vegan taco meat. As with most “substitute” style recipes, this obviously isn’t made out of the same things that a typical taco meat is, so it won’t be the exact same. However, it’s got a deep savory flavor that pairs wonderfully with tacos, and it’s the perfect consistency. It gives us a great vegan option! I’m so proud of this one and I can’t wait for you to try it out in your own kitchen.


Vegan Lentil Taco Meat with cilantro for easy tacos

We are leaning into the savory vibes for this recipe, and we of course want some Tex Mex flavors thrown in! Here is what we are working with today:

  • Brown lentils: these are the base of our vegan taco meat, and they are perfect! They soak up the other flavors nicely and they are a great consistency for a taco filling.
  • Onion & garlic: for those savory flavors!
  • Smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and dried oregano: to season our Vegan Lentil Taco Meat! Many of these are pretty typical for Tex Mex dishes. These work great together and the flavors lend themselves well to just about any toppings you’d like.
  • Liquid smoke, tomato paste, and tamari: for some deeper umami and smoky vibes. The tomato paste will also add some acidity to brighten up the flavors, and will thicken our vegan taco meat a bit.
  • Cilantro, lime juice, & maple syrup: these are kind of the cherry on top of the sundae! They add a bit more overall pop of flavor, and compliment the other smoky and savory flavors beautifully. The maple syrup also adds just a touch of sweetness to balance things out.

How to Make Vegan Lentil Taco Meat

Easy taco with Vegan Lentil Taco Meat, tomatoes, lettuce, and vegan cheese

The full recipe can of course be found below, but here are the basics:

  1. Sauté onion and garlic.
  2. Add a bunch of seasonings.
  3. Add lentils, liquid smoke, tomato paste, veggie broth, and tamari.
  4. Bring everything to a boil, then let simmer.
  5. Add cilantro, maple syrup, and lime juice.
  6. Add to your tacos and top as desired.
  7. Lastly, devour!

Tips & Tricks

Vegan Lentil Taco Meat with cilantro, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, and guacamole

I’ve got some fun ideas on how you can use this Vegan Lentil Taco Meat. Here are some of them:

  • The most obvious way to enjoy this recipe would be on tacos! In my house we like to pair it with fresh veggies such as lettuce and tomato, and of course top it with our favorite Tex Mex condiments such as salsa or guacamole. Also feel free to sprinkle some of your favorite vegan cheese on top!
  • This is also so fun for nachos! Whip up a batch of my Quick Vegan Queso, pour it and your Vegan Lentil Taco Meat on some tortilla chips, add some extra sautéed veggies if desired, and bake! Bonus points if you also add more fresh veggies on top once it comes out of the oven.
  • This would also be a great plant based protein for a burrito bowl (or other Buddha bowl!).
  • If you’re a fan of heat, you could add some peppers of your choice to this recipe! I would recommend doing this by finely dicing a pepper of your choice, then sautéing it with the onion and garlic.
  • Looking for more fun condiments to top your tacos with? I’ve got you covered with my Roasted Poblano Sauce and Pico de Gallo!


Vegan Lentil Taco Meat

Recipe by Delaney Romero – Joyful Balance


From Start to Finish



This Vegan Lentil Taco Meat will become a favorite protein option for any taco-loving vegans! This recipe is the perfect addition to an easy taco night, and it’s got some great savory and smoky flavors. Pairs well with just about any taco toppings you desire! (In my house we love pairing it with tomatoes, lettuce, guacamole, salsa, and vegan cheese).

*Note that From Start to Finish is an estimate that includes 30 minutes to cook your lentils and prep your ingredients, and 25 minutes to complete the recipe directions.


  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tsp smoked paprika

  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder

  • 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1 cup cooked brown lentils*

  • 1/4 tsp liquid smoke

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste

  • 1 cup vegetable broth

  • 1/2 Tbsp tamari

  • 1/2 Tbsp lime juice

  • 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup

  • Optional: 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped


  • Bring a medium nonstick deep pan to medium-high heat on the stovetop. Add just a bit of water to prevent sticking, and add your onion and garlic. Allow to sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding small amounts of water as needed to prevent sticking.
  • Add smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and salt to the pan. Mix until combined.
  • Add your cooked lentils, liquid smoke, tomato paste, veggie broth, and tamari to the pan. Use a wooden spoon to break up any clumps of tomato paste, and mix to combine everything.
  • Bring your mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until desired consistency is reached, typically between 5-10 minutes. (The longer it cooks, the thicker it’ll get!)
  • Add the maple syrup, lime juice, and optional cilantro to the pan. Mix to combine.
  • Add to your tacos of choice and enjoy!


  • *Cooked brown lentils: note that 1/2 cup of uncooked brown lentils creates approximately 1 cup of cooked brown lentils. You may cook your lentils according to package directions, or in the instant pot.

    If cooking in the instant pot: dump 1/2 cup uncooked brown lentils and 3/4 cup water or veggie broth into instant pot. Set to High Pressure for 8 minutes. When the cycle is complete, let it Naturally Release for 10 minutes, and then move the valve to “Venting” and allow to Quick Release.

Happy cooking! If you made this recipe don’t forget to tag me (@joyfulbalanceofficial) on facebook or instagram so I can cheer you on for your taco-meat-making ways.

Stay joyfully balanced!


  1. This taco meat is so delicious, love the choice of seasonings!

  2. This lentil taco filling is great! It’s perfect for tacos, quesadillas, burritos, etc. It has a great flavor and texture.

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