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August 19, 2022

by Alyssa

Quinoa & Lentil Vegan Taco Meat

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This Quinoa and Lentil Vegan Taco Meat is a healthy plant-based alternative to ground beef. It’s easy to make and loaded with bold Mexican flavors for a delicious vegetarian spin on Taco Night!

Three vegan tacos on white board with garnishes and lime wedges

I usually make tacos at least once a week, and my go-to method is to pile spicy black beans into tortillas with our fave toppings. Sometimes, though, we want a filling that's a little closer to meat. We've bought the faux meat crumbles at the store, but I'm not a fan. I don't like the ingredients and I don't like the taste. 

Enter: this plant-based quinoa and lentil taco meat. After seeing this recipe for quinoa taco meat from Minimalist Baker, I decided to create my own vegan taco meat at home using lentils and quinoa!

Overhead view of quinoa and lentil taco meat in skillet

Is Quinoa a Good Substitute for Meat?

In many cases, quinoa is a great substitute for meat! I find that cooked quinoa has a very similar texture to ground beef or turkey, which is why it works so well in this vegan taco recipe.

I've also used quinoa to replace meat in other recipes. My vegan sloppy joes and my vegetarian quinoa chili are both awesome plant-based recipes that have a somewhat “meaty” texture.

Quinoa is also a good substitute for meat from a nutritional standpoint since it’s a complete protein with all 9 essential amino acids. 

Overhead view of ingredients for vegan taco meat made with quinoa and lentils

What You’ll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

  • Spanish Quinoa – If you don't want to make the Spanish quinoa, cook a cup of quinoa, add 1/2 cup of chunky salsa, and increase the baking time by 10 minutes.
  • Cooked lentils – You can use brown, green, or black lentils for this vegan taco meat, but don’t use red lentils, as they fall apart when cooked.
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Chili powder
  • Ground cumin
  • Ground coriander
  • Smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Can I Substitute Regular Paprika for Smoked Paprika?

You can, but smoked paprika brings so much flavor to the table, and it’s used often in vegan cooking to replicate the smoky flavor of meat. An alternative to the smoked paprika would be minced chipotle in adobo, which will also add some smoky flavor.

Wooden spoon scooping vegan taco meat from sheet pan

How to Make Vegan Taco Meat

Since this vegan taco filling freezes well, you may want to double or even triple the recipe and stick some in the freezer for future meals! 

Prepare. Preheat your oven to 400ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper, if desired.

Side-by-side photos showing vegan taco filling being mixed in glass bowl

Stir together the ingredients. Place all of the taco filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Side-by-side photos of vegan taco filling before and after baking

Bake. Pour the taco filling onto the baking sheet and spread it into a thin, even layer. Bake on the center rack for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

Ways to Use This Vegan Taco Meat

Naturally, you can use your Quinoa and Lentil Taco Meat for filling tacos—I love using my gluten-free quinoa tortillas, then piling on mango salsa, vegan sour cream, and spicy guacamole. But you can also use this vegan taco meat for:

  • Nachos
  • Topping baked sweet potatoes
  • Burritos
  • Taquitos
  • Taco salads

Tips for Success

Here are some simple hints and tips for perfect Quinoa and Lentil Vegan Taco Meat:

  • Don’t over-cook the lentils. Brown lentils especially have a tendency to get soft when cooked too long, and that’s not the texture you want to replicate ground beef. 
  • Use a baking sheet with edges. A rimmed baking sheet will make sure none of the filling falls off the sides of the pan!
  • Make it your own. This recipe is highly customizable, so don’t be afraid to experiment! Using different salsas, adding cayenne or hot sauce for a kick, or substituting your favorite homemade taco seasoning blend are all options.
Overhead view of quinoa and lentil vegan tacos

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

This vegan taco filling stores well, which means it’s also a great option for meal prep. Place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. You can reheat it in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat.

Can This Recipe Be Frozen?

You can freeze Quinoa and Lentil Vegan Taco Meat for up to 3 months in an airtight container or freezer bag. I recommend letting it thaw in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.

Vegan taco filled with lentil and quinoa "meat"

Quinoa Lentil Vegan Taco Meat

This easy vegan taco filling is a delicious and healthy plant-based alternative to ground beef!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 8 tacos
Calories 138kcal
Print Pin
Overhead view of quinoa and lentil taco meat in skillet
4.34 from 109 votes

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400ºF. If you baking pans are prone to sticking, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Stir together until everything is evenly incorporated.
  • Transfer the contents of the bowl onto a baking sheet and spread it out into a thin layer.
  • Bake on the center rack for 35 – 40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so to ensure even baking.
  • Serve immediately with your favorite taco ingredients or allow to cool completely and reheat as desired.

Video

Notes

* if you don't want to make the Spanish quinoa, add 1/2 cup chunky salsa and increase baking time by 10 minutes.
** inspired by Minimalist Baker
Store leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cups | Calories: 138kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 23mg | Potassium: 327mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 425IU | Vitamin C: 0.6mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 2.9mg

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About Alyssa

Hey there, I’m Alyssa Rimmer, a certified Holistic Nutritionist, yoga-lover, dog mom, and founder of Simply Quinoa. It’s nice to meet you! I created SQ as a way to provide solutions for women just like me, who were struggling to find helpful information about how to live a healthy and fulfilled life. My hope is that you will find inspiration here on SQ – in my story, in my recipes, in the hundreds of wellness articles, and in our amazing community. Welcome!

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  1. Did you use all the quinoa, 1 cup uncooked yields 4 cups cooked. That seems like a lot. I just added cooked quina, and chopped walnuts, a litle at a time with salsa until it looked good. We loved it. Made more the next night. We double the recipe the next time.

    • The nutritional yeast adds flavor, you could leave it out but taste your recipe before serving and add more seasonings if you find it needs any

  2. Just made these! Except i skipped the baking part, i just combined the lentils and quinoa together and cooked them on the stove, and then added in the rest of the ingredients and let that all simmer for 10/15 mins or so (after the Q and L were cooked 🙂 )Great recipe!!!

  3. I’m planning to make these tacos tonight but two questions first. How is Spanish quinoa different from tri-colored quinoa (can one be substituted for the other) ? And, how spicy is this “meat” ? I can’t do spicy. Thank you.

  4. I absolutely love this recipe. I have made it without the lentils (didn’t realize I was out!) and it still tasted great! Ive been making cold taco salads with this and it’s delicious. Great job!

    • Thank you so much!! It’s such a great sub for taco meat. I’m glad you liked it as much as I do 🙂

  5. Fantastic recipe. By far one of the best meatless options. Perfect as is. No need to make alterations, however that being said, it does well by switching things up a bit also. I’ve used Italian seasonings and made into a “meat sauce” for spaghetti. I have use it in chili, sloppy Joe’s. Such a great recipe. Even the meat eating critic (aka hubby) likes it. At first he didn’t even know he was eating a meatless meal. Ha…. thats how you know its a keeper. 😉 Thank you SO MUCH

  6. This is becoming my go go to Mexican night meat, I’ve used it for sweat potato boats, leftovers became omelette filling, and today making it to use in tacos. Love your recipes!

  7. Thank you for this recipe!! This is a game changer in this WFPB home. We’ve used this as taco meat (AH-MAAAHHHHZZZINNGG). Last night I made a batch modifying the taco seasonings a little and added BBQ sauce to make sloppy joes (my husband was in heaven! K, I was too ;-)) and we plan to do a batch with Italian seasonings to add to pasta dishes. Today we added it to leftover mac n’ cheese (vegan) for a “Hamburger Helper” type dish as well as adding it to a baked sweet potato with a little rice and some vegan chipotle sauce and avocado. This is my go-to meat recipe, and we are discovering so many options! Thank you thank you!!

  8. Made this last night and it was so good 😊 I didn’t make the Spanish quinoa so I took your suggestion with salsa and increased cooking time and it had great flavor.

  9. Wow! This turned out amazing and sooo easy! The rest of my family is not vegan so I cook stuff just for me, but this was enjoyed by all!

  10. I made the recipe as is. I’m floored with the amazing texture and taste. Needs no alteration or substitutions. Already texting everyone this recipe. Love. Love. Loveeeeeeee!

  11. I just wanted to write and say Thank you! I love this taco ‘meat’! I make it once a week and and am soooo happy when I eat it! I used to eat prepared tofu crumbles(Full of weird ingredients) for my burritos and Chili but no more! I love all your recipes! I have shared this one with so many people! ❤️

  12. Just made these for super bowl half time. Honestly, one of the best tacos ever. Followed your recipe for the Spanish quinoa and the taco meat, yum!!!

  13. It was a hit with my husband. One mistake I made was not spraying the baking sheet or using parchment paper. Please add this key point to your instructions. Had to soak my pan overnight to do the cleanup because the taco meat was stuck to the bottom of the pan. Need to spell everything out in a recipe for people like me. 🙂

  14. Absolutely loved these!! It does make a lot, but it re-heats great! Nice to have in the fridge for a quick re-heat meal. I added spicy guacamole, so amazing! I much prefer these to the frozen meatless crumbles from the grocery store.

  15. Oh my yum! I’ve made this twice now. First time I used couscous. Second time I didn’t have enough quinoa so I added oats and chia seeds to the recipe. You can use this “meat” for so many different things! I just made vegetarian breakfast tacos. I recommend mixing in a splash of water before reheating…then you’re good to go!

  16. This was excellent! My meat eating nephew loved it and asked if this was really meat! Would be awesome as meat substitute in tomato sauce on pasta as well, maybe changing up the spices. Thank you for this, solid win tonight!

  17. hi. could you tell us what kind of lentils you used? since some cook faster than others, esp. red lentils which can turn to mush.

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