Looking to change up Taco Night at home? This recipe for Walnut Lentil Taco Meat is high in protein, satisfying, and ready in under 30 minutes. Try it in lettuce wraps or on top of nachos!
What is walnut lentil taco meat?
Lentil walnut taco “meat” is a high protein vegan dinner recipe made by blending chopped and toasted walnuts with cooked lentils and spices. It’s very hearty and a nice way to bring added flavor and protein to a plant-based, Mexican-inspired dinner. It is ready in under 30 minutes, making it a perfect solution for a busy weeknight. We call it “meat” but in reality it is a filling that’s perfectly suited to take the place of true meat in burritos, tacos, and on nachos.
Lentils make up the base of the filling. I use brown lentils as they are the most accessible typically and hold their shape fairly well. Do not use red lentils as they will fall apart too easily when processed. Using precooked lentils (Trader Joe’s sells some) would definitely save a few minutes if you’re really looking to cut down on time.
Walnuts also form the bulk of our filling; they add some heart-healthy omega-3s and have a nice, nutty texture when toasted for a few minutes. They can burn very easily in the oven so if you’d like to skip this step, that is OK.
Cumin, oregano, chili powder, and optional cayenne pepper add a traditional “taco” flavor profile to this dish. Feel free to use more/less of these spices to your preference.
Fresh garlic adds a characteristic bite; you can also substitute some garlic powder for convenience (or just leave this out).
Salt is essential, as per usual! Here I use a coarse sea salt, so if you’re using Diamond Crystal or Morton Kosher salts you may need more/less than recommended. Always taste as you go. If it feels “flat,” this could be a sign that more salt is needed.
Olive oil contributes a level of richness and also helps bind the filing together.
Can you freeze walnut lentil taco filling?
Yes! This recipe is easily made ahead. Ideally to freeze, spread taco meat on a small tray and chill it quickly before moving to a container or bag for longer term storage. This will help the filling stay in individual “clumps” as opposed to one large, mushy mass. However, I often just throw this in a freezer-safe box and pull it out to thaw when ready to eat. It will last for a few months in the freezer or 4-6 days in the refrigerator. Therefore, it’s great for meal prep!
What to Serve It With
Sautéd peppers and onions are a classic pairing for this dish. To make, slice and de-rib one large Bell pepper. Peel and slice one small yellow onion into rounds. Heat a skillet over medium heat with 1-2 TBS neutral oil. Add pepper and onion with a pinch of salt and sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking, until browned.
Some other serving ideas for this recipe include:
- Lettuce wraps (Romaine or butter lettuce)
- Tortillas or tortilla chips
- Romaine lettuce
- Avocado or guacamole
- Pico de gallo
- Lime wedges
Other Vegan Mexican-Inspired Recipes
Creamy Kale Potato Tacos (from Chaia)
Vegan Mexican Street Corn (Inspired by Elote)Print
Walnut Lentil Taco Meat
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 5 servings 1x
- Diet: Vegan
Looking to change up Taco Night at home? This recipe for Walnut Lentil Taco Meat is high protein, satisfying, and ready in under 30 minutes. Try it in lettuce wraps or on top of nachos!
- 1 cup raw walnut pieces
1 cup dry brown or green lentils (a little over 2 cups cooked, if using pre-made)
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper, optional if you like some heat
1 clove garlic, or ½ tsp garlic powder
¾ tsp sea salt
2 tsp olive oil
Water to thin
Options to serve: lettuce wraps, tortillas, chips, salsa, avocado, cashew cream, vegan queso, or sautéd peppers and onions
- Toast the walnuts. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Add walnuts to a baking sheet and toast until lightly browned and fragrant – 6 to 8 minutes. Alternatively, feel free to toast the walnuts in a skillet on the stovetop. To do this, heat over medium-low and stir walnuts consistently until they look a bit more golden and smell nutty. Be warned – they can burn very easily! Feel free to skip this step if you are running low on time.
- Cook the lentils. Rinse lentils in a fine mesh strainer, checking for any debris. In a small saucepan, add lentils and a few cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook until lentils have absorbed most of the water and are soft, about 15 minutes. Drain lentils and let cool slightly.
- Process ingredients to blend. Add lentils to a food processor along with walnuts, cumin, oregano, chili powder, cayenne if using, garlic/garlic powder, salt, and olive oil. Pulse to combine a couple of times. You do not want to fully blend the mixture; instead, you want to see visible chunks of walnuts and lentils. Add a few TBS of water until you have a crumbly, tacky mixture that resembles ground meat. Taste a bite to see if it’s to your liking, adding more spices as needed (I love cumin so will often go “heavy” on that).
- Serve! I like to serve this with sautéd peppers and onions inside of a tortilla or lettuce wrap (more details in the post about this). However, feel free to use whatever taco fixings you typically enjoy.
Walnut lentil taco meat can be stored in the refrigerator for 4-6 days and in the freezer for a few months.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: Mexican
- Serving Size: One fifth of recipe
- Calories: 261.7 calories
- Sugar: 0.9 grams
- Sodium: 352.9 milligrams
- Fat: 17.4 grams
- Saturated Fat: 1.7 grams
- Unsaturated Fat: 15.7 grams
- Trans Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 19.3 grams
- Fiber: 6.2 grams
- Protein: 10.7 grams
- Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
Keywords: lentils, walnuts, tacos, mexican
Thank you for reading!