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Quinoa & Lentil Vegan Taco Meat

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"
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 50 minutes



  • 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.



* 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.


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
cuisine: Mexican
course: Entree

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