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Smoky Vegan Lentil Tacos With Cornmeal Tortilla & Pico de Gallo

Smoky Vegan Lentil Tacos With Cornmeal Tortilla & Pico de Gallo

Last Updated on November 27, 2022 by Practical Cooks

Vegan recipes often set out to imitate everyday meaty meals. This is very evident in the amount of vegan substitutes we see lining the supermarket shelves lately.

From breaded chicken-less nuggets to meat free sausages,meatless mince, fake steaks, fake steak bakes and even the humble rasher has had a vegan makeover.

But rarely does a meat-free recipe get the texture AND the taste right as with this smoky lentil taco filling. Cooked lentils look similar to cooked ground beef.

The grated carrot adds a little crunch, while quinoa grain and three kinds of lentils of different sizes make for an even more interesting texture on the plate.

Make up a batch of this tasty and satisfying meat-like filling, not just for Taco Tuesday but for quesadillas, burritos and nachos too.

Why limit the mix? Stuff a shepherd’s pie, layer up in a lasagna or serve it with spaghetti, rice or chips!

Recommended recipes to accompany this dish: Yellow Cornmeal Tortillas and Pico de Gallo.

cornmeal tortillas with pico de gallo

Very versatile!

This base recipe really wants to be switched up and swapped around. It is practically begging for you to put your own gastronomic stamp on it.

Have a low tolerance for spice? Make it mild. Prefer the roof of your mouth tingling with a spice level that’s off the charts? Go all out and add more peppers until your eyes begin to water.

Want to increase the smoky taste and deepen the flavor or bring your own favorite spices to the table in this culinary creation? Add a small amount of liquid smoke, or more paprika or a dash of smoked salt instead of table salt.

The result will be a tasty, textured meat substitute, very high in fiber, high in protein, low in fat and simply bursting with umami flavor.

But don’t just take our word for it…


  • 100g green lentils
  • 100g brown lentils
  • 100g red lentils
  • 100g quinoa
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Stevia
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried coriander
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoky paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic granules
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion granules
  • 1 teaspoon seaweed flakes
  • 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 teaspoon fine dark cocoa powder
  • Bunch of fresh coriander
  • Bunch of fresh parsley


  1. Soak and drain the lentils and quinoa and rinse thoroughly as advised on the packets. Pay attention as different lentils require different soaking times, some even overnight, so it is advisable to plan in advance.
  2. In a large pot, put pre-soaked lentils and quinoa in 2 liters of water, add a vegan stock cube, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes until the lentils are tender.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pan, fry off a diced onion, grated carrot, 2 cloves of garlic and ½ a chili pepper in 1 tablespoon of oil. Gently stir in the spices, nutritional yeast, cocoa powder and soy sauce. In a separate bowl, dissolve a vegetable stock cube and the teaspoon of Stevia in 250ml water, and add to the pan.
  4. Add the lentils and quinoa to the smoky sauce, gently reheat and mix to combine so the lentils can soak up the flavors. Fold in the juice of a lime, a handful of fresh coriander and taste, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.

Transfer to a large dish or terrine, top with a sprig of fresh coriander and remember to provide a large serving spoon or two. Your guests won’t be able to get enough!

taco meal with tortillas and pico de gallo

Smoky lentils are perfectly paired with cornmeal tortilla and topped with a spoonful of fresh and tangy Pico de Gallo. The addition of quinoa adds to the nutritional profile of the dish.

Related: Red Lentil Pancakes recipe

The lentils hold their shape well after cooking, the rich umami flavors and smells of mixed spices and the distinct underlying note of cocoa make this dish a truly memorable one.

Be sure to prepare enough to share with family and friends.

Leftover taco filling can be stored in a tightly lidded container in the fridge for up to a week, but there is little point even saying that, as there simply won’t be any leftovers. Trust us!