Quinoa taco “meat” made with lentils and vegetables is a flavorful and nutritious way to create vegan tacos. This easy recipe is packed with delicious taco seasoning and is the perfect taco filling for tortillas, taco bowls or taco salads.
This recipe is also vegan and free from gluten, soy and nuts, making it an allergy-friendly alternative to some other vegan taco recipes!
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Are Quinoa Tacos Vegan?
Adding quinoa to tacos or taco filling recipes is popular amongst vegans and non-vegans. Many quinoa taco recipes feature meat or use toppings that contain dairy products (cheese, sour cream, etc.).
Luckily, it’s easy to make quinoa tacos that are completely vegan, full of flavor and packed with nutrition. I add lentils to round-out the meal and increase the amount of plant-based protein it provides.
Use this lentil quinoa taco “meat” inside a tasty tortilla or as the base for a taco bowl or taco salad!
Quinoa Taco Filling Ingredients
This recipe uses basic ingredients to create flavorful and nutritious tacos. Start by prepping a batch of homemade taco seasoning for best results!
- Quinoa: I use a tri-color quinoa for photos/ video, but any type works. If you use leftover or pre-cooked quinoa, you'll need about 3 cups to replace the 1 cup dry quinoa the recipe calls for.
- Onion: Add flavor to your tacos with some chopped onion. My taco seasoning blend doesn’t contain onion powder, so I cook in some fresh onions. Any type of onion can work; I used red onion in the video/ photos.
- Bell pepper: I like to round-out my taco filling with some veggies and bell pepper is a tasty and easy option.
- Mushrooms: For extra veggies, chopped mushrooms are a great addition. Mushrooms tend to have an earthy flavor that works well in recipes that replicate meat.
- Vegetable oil: The recipe sautés veggies in some oil which adds flavor and supports absorption of fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin A and vitamin E.
- Lentils: Lentils help round out this taco mix by boosting plant-based protein, fiber and healthy carbohydrates. Lentils are a great meat replacement due to their small texture that’s somewhat like ground meat.
- Taco seasoning: I use a homemade taco seasoning blend but you can use whatever spices you like or a store-bought taco seasoning. Some store-bought options have filler ingredients so you may need more to get the full flavor.
- Nutritional yeast: Nutritional yeast is a great addition to this recipe because of its cheesy flavor.
- Vegetable broth: A splash of vegetable broth (or water) really helps the seasoning mix throughout your quinoa and lentils. If you have lots of vegetable broth, you can also cook the quinoa in it for extra flavor.
- Lime juice: Brighten up some heavier flavors from the taco seasoning with fresh lime juice. Add directly to the filling or serve with a lime wedge to squeeze over tacos!
- Cilantro: I love this flavorful herb and can’t resist using loads of it in this recipe. If you’re not a fan you can skip the cilantro, but it truly rounds out the other flavors perfectly!
How to Make Lentil Quinoa Tacos
This recipe is easy to make, especially if you have leftover quinoa on hand. If not, start cooking some and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying this delicious meal!
Step 1: Cook Quinoa
If you have leftover cooked quinoa, skip ahead! If not, you’ll need to cook 1 cup of dry quinoa for this taco filling.
Follow package directions if available. Otherwise, you’ll want to add the quinoa to a medium pot along with 2 cups of water.
Bring this to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low, place the lid on the pot, and allow the quinoa to cook for 12 minutes.
At the 12-minute mark, check to see if all the water has been absorbed. If it has, remove the pot from heat and allow the quinoa to rest. If there’s still some water, keep your pot on the heat for another minute or so, until the water is absorbed.
After the quinoa rests for 5 minutes, use a fork to “fluff” it (gently separating the quinoa pieces).
Step 2: Prep Vegetables and Other Ingredients
While the quinoa cooks, prep other ingredients. Wash and chop the onion, bell pepper, mushrooms and cilantro. You can cut the vegetables into large or small pieces.
The smaller you cut your veggies, the more they’ll blend into the texture of the quinoa and lentils, creating something closer to the texture of ground meat.
I love veggies and don’t bother chopping them too small because I love getting larger pieces throughout my taco!
You’ll also need to drain and rinse a can of lentils, then juice a lime.
If you don’t have taco seasoning on hand, whip up a batch!
Step 3: Cook Taco Filling
Once you’ve cooked quinoa and prepped everything else, warm some vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.
Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, until it begins to soften and turn translucent. Then, add bell pepper and mushroom and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until the pepper and mushrooms are softened.
Then, add cooked quinoa, lentils, taco seasoning, nutritional yeast and vegetable broth. Toss everything around until the quinoa and lentils are evenly mixed and coated in seasoning.
Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes to combine these flavors. Remove your pan from heat and stir through the lime juice and cilantro.
Step 4: Serve
Serve the quinoa taco “meat” hot, in either a tortilla wrap, bowl or over a bed of lettuce to create a taco salad.
Serve alongside all your favorite taco toppings!
How to Create a Balanced Vegan Meal
A balanced vegan meal should ideally contain a good source of plant-based protein, carbohydrates, veggies and healthy fats.
Lentils (and other legumes including soy) are a good source of plant-based protein which is why they’re such a great addition to this recipe.
This taco filling is also packed with complex carbohydrates coming from the lentils and quinoa. Complex carbohydrates are often found in high fiber foods like legumes, whole grains and starchy vegetables.
This taco “meat” contains some veggies, but you can easily serve with additional vegetables. Tomato, corn, red cabbage or shredded lettuce, salsa, avocado or guacamole and jalapeno peppers are all tasty taco toppings!
Lastly, a balanced meal should contain fats to help fill you, keep you feeling full and satisfied and to help with nutrient absorption. This recipe is fairly low in fat so adding avocado or guacamole is a great addition. Vegan sour cream and/ or vegan cheese shreds are also tasty additions!
Vegan Taco Variations
There are endless ways to make delicious, nutritious vegan tacos! I have a few other taco recipes you may enjoy, including:
- TVP tacos
- Lentil walnut tacos
- Vegan “fish” tacos (made with beer battered tempeh)
You can also get creative with what you add to your tacos and how you serve them. In a tortilla, a bowl or over a based of chopped lettuce – tacos are always a delicious meal!
How to Store Leftovers
Refrigerate extra quinoa taco meat in an airtight container for up to a week. Reheat leftovers in the microwave or in a pan on the stove, over medium heat until warmed through. You could also serve this cold in a taco salad.
If you make this recipe, please rate and comment below to help others benefit from your experience!
Quinoa Taco “Meat” with Lentils
- Medium-sized pot (with lid)
- 1 cup quinoa (uncooked)
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup onion , diced
- 1 cup bell pepper , diced
- 2 ½ cups mushrooms , diced (button or cremini)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 cups lentils (19 oz/ 540 mL can, drained and rinsed)
- ⅓ cup vegetable broth
- 3-4 tablespoons taco seasoning
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- ¼ cup cilantro , chopped
Step 1: Cook Quinoa
- Leftover quinoa is ideal for this recipe if you have some available. If not, add quinoa and water to a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.1 cup quinoa, 2 cups water
- Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer (medium-low), place a lid on the pot and cook the quinoa with the lid on for 12 minutes. At this point, all the water should be absorbed (if not, continue cooking for another couple minutes until all water is absorbed).
- Once water is absorbed, remove the pot from the heat and allow quinoa to cool for about 5-10 minutes before fluffing it with a fork.
Step 2: Prep Vegetables and Other Ingredients
- While the quinoa cooks, wash and chop the onion, bell pepper, mushrooms and cilantro along with any other vegetables you want to serve with your tacos.1 cup onion, 1 cup bell pepper, 2 ½ cups mushrooms, ¼ cup cilantro
- Rinse and drain a can of lentils.2 cups lentils
- If needed, prepare a batch of homemade taco seasoning.3-4 tablespoons taco seasoning
Step 3: Cooking Taco Filling
- In a large pan, warm some vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, until it becomes slightly translucent.2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 cup onion
- Then, add bell pepper and mushrooms and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until the vegetables have softened to your liking.1 cup bell pepper, 2 ½ cups mushrooms
- Add the quinoa to your pan along with the lentils, vegetable broth, nutritional yeast and taco seasoning.2 cups lentils, ⅓ cup vegetable broth, 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 3-4 tablespoons taco seasoning
- Toss to evenly coat everything with the seasoning and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the vegetable broth is absorbed.
- Taste the mixture and adjust the amounts of seasoning to your liking (salt and heat).
- Remove pan from heat and stir through the lime juice and cilantro.1 tablespoon lime juice, ¼ cup cilantro
Step 4: Serve
- Serve the quinoa taco “meat” hot in a tortilla wrap or create a taco bowl. Add any taco toppings you enjoy!
More Vegan Main Meal Recipes
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About Nicole Stevens
Nicole is a vegan Registered Dietitian (RD) and founder of Lettuce Veg Out.
She helps people thrive on a vegan diet with balanced recipes and easy-to-understand nutrition science.
Big Game James
I fooled many meat eaters with this recipe. Can’t talk the difference and it’s healthy! Great flavor and texture. I used only two cups of taco seasoning and worked well.
I also put a fried egg on the leftovers and it was spot on the next morning !
Glad everyone enjoyed!