Cauliflower Lentil Tacos

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Cauliflower Lentil Tacos with Walnuts, a Meatless Monday and Taco Tuesday win! Filled with a veggie-forward homemade lentil walnut taco meat, these plant-based tacos are healthy, hearty, textural, & satisfying. Best of all, it's a totally easy one-pot recipe that comes together in less than 1 hour with simple pantry staples – the perfect weeknight meal! Naturally vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, & gluten-free.
An angled close up shot of Cauliflower Lentil Tacos arranged on a white cement surface, topped with cilantro lime crema sauce & chopped cilantro. There are a few lime wedges surrounding the tacos.

Real Talk…Can You Replace Meat with Lentils?

Y-E-S, you can! And it’s seriously delish!!! 🙌🏼

In case you missed it, we’re kinda obsessed with tacos here at PWWB – especially when they’re seriously easy, seriously tasty plant-based tacos. The really fun part? You seem to love them as much as we do! Our Easy Roasted Veggie Tacos & Black Bean Quinoa Tacos continue to be a couple of the most popular recipes here on PWWB. So, it’s with great excitement that we share our newest plant-based taco creation with you today – Cauliflower Lentil Tacos!

Aside from the fact that it’s a a seriously good-for-ya, seriously easy, & seriously weeknight-friendly meal, what makes this recipe shine is the vegan lentil taco ‘meat’. It’s absolutely loaded with plant-based protein & healthy fats, delivers a sneaky serving of veggies in the form of riced cauliflower, & has great texture thanks to the perfect combination of hearty walnuts & Bob’s Red Mill Brown Lentils.

When it comes to stocking my pantry with high-quality, versatile staples, Bob’s Red Mill is forever my first choice! Bob’s is my longtime favorite natural food brand; I count on Bob’s for seriously high-quality staples that I can put to use in a variety of different ways. It’s been especially fun to see more & more of their products pop up at my co-op & other grocery stores here in Minneapolis in recent years. I’m thrilled to partner with them throughout 2021 to highlight some of my favorite products!

Cauliflower Lentil Tacos arranged on a white cement surface, topped with cilantro lime crema sauce & chopped cilantro. There are a few lime wedges surrounding the tacos & a bunch of full cilantro leaves in the resting in the middle of three of the tacos. In the bottom right hand corner of the frame there is a bag of Bob's Red Mill Brown Lentils, used as the main ingredient in this recipe.

Cauliflower Lentil Tacos Recipe Highlights

You’re going to love this vegan lentil tacos recipe because it’s…

  • PLANT-BASED GOODNESS! Centering around a lentil walnut taco ‘meat’ made with protein-rich lentils, hearty walnuts, & some sneaky cauliflower for good measure, these tacos are hearty, satisfying, & completely vegan.
  • A ONE-POT WONDER. Everything – from building a flavorful base to simmering the lentils – happens in the same pot for the easiest weeknight meal without a pile of dishes to wash!
  • SERIOUSLY VERSATILE. Use the lentil taco filling in tacos, of course, or use it to vegan-ize your favorite Mexican & Tex-Mex dishes – burrito & burrito bowls, taco salad, tostadas, nachos, quesadillas – you name it!

Meatless Monday has never looked so good! ♡ Read on to learn more about these Cauliflower Lentil Tacos, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!

Lentil Tacos Key Ingredients

Among the reasons why these cauliflower lentil tacos are so great – & there’s a lot of them, trust me! – is the fact that they’re made nearly entirely with staple pantry ingredients. As long as your pantry is stocked, it’s a seriously quick & easy dinner to throw together.

Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

You will need…

  • Lentils – Of course! With 11 grams of protein & 9 grams of dietary fiber per 1/4-cup serving, lentils are one of my favorite plant-based proteins. It’s best to use brown lentils for this particular lentil tacos recipe, since they hold their shape nicely & have great texture once cooked. Bob’s Red Mill Brown Lentils are my favorite – you’ll always find a bag in my pantry!
  • Cauliflower – Another must-have for cauliflower lentil tacos! In order to keep this an easy, one-pot operation, I use riced cauliflower. You’d never guess it’s there, since it simmers alongside the lentils & absorbs all of the glorious spicy flavor. It’s a great way to sneak some extra veggies in!
  • Walnuts – Which lend wonderful hearty texture, plus a good dose of antioxidants & healthy fats.
  • Simple aromatics – Namely a yellow onion & some garlic to add plenty of flavor to the base of the lentil walnut taco meat.
  • Taco spices – My quick homemade taco spice is a simple blend of chili powderground cumin & smoked paprika. For these lentil tacos, I also like to add a chipotle pepper or two for smoky flavor & a nice kick of heat. Chipotle peppers are simply smoked jalapenos. You can typically find them in a can packed in adobo sauce in the ‘international’ aisle at the grocery store.
  • Vegetable stock – To simmer the lentils. I prefer using vegetable broth or stock (as opposed to water) since it adds more flavor to the lentil walnut taco meat. 

Meal Prep Tip!

Since it’s a one-pot recipe, nearly all of the active prep work involved in making these lentil tacos comes from prepping the aromatics. Take care of the prep in advance – it takes 5 minutes, top! – to eliminate all active prep time involved at dinnertime. Check the Recipe Card, below, for full meal prep suggestions!

How to Make Lentil Tacos – A One-Pot Recipe, Perfect for Weeknights!

The thing I love most about these cauliflower lentil tacos is that it’s a one-pot recipe. From toasting the walnuts, to building a flavorful base, to simmering the lentils – it all happens in the same pot, resulting in lentil walnut taco meat that’s mega-flavorful without a mountain of dishes to wash. A total win-win!

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, provided in the Recipe Card, below.

Here’s what you’ll do:

  • First, toast the walnuts: Add the walnuts to a saucepan & cook for a few minutes, just until toasty & fragrant. Transfer to a plate & set aside. Why? ⇢ Toasting draws out the walnuts’ natural oils, making them even more fragrant & flavorful.
  • Next, cook the aromatics: Sauté onion & cauliflower in a little bit of olive oil. Once softened, add garlic, chipotle pepper, taco spices & tomato paste. Stir to coat the cauliflower & cook for a couple of minutes, until fragrant. Why? ⇢ Cooking the aromatics intensifies their flavor. Giving these flavors the chance to develop & richen is especially important for plant-based recipes that don’t have the natural built-in flavor of animal fats & proteins.
  • Simmer the lentil taco meat: Add the lentils to the skillet, along with the toasted walnuts & a good amount of vegetable broth. Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Partially cover the pot, stirring the lentils occasionally as they cook to prevent sticking. How do you know when lentils are ready? ⇢ I personally like lentils best when they’re tender but still have some texture, similar to al dente pasta, after about 25 minutes of simmering for this recipe.
  • Finishing touches! Once the lentils are tender, squeeze in some fresh lime juice to liven up the rich flavors of the lentil walnut taco meat a bit, then fluff with a fork & serve!
A stainless steel skillet filled with Cauliflower & Lentil taco filling. A wooden spoon lifts a spoonful of the filling from the skillet. The skillet is placed on a braided kitchen hot pad and the hot pad & skillet sit atop a white cement surface.

Lentil Walnut Taco Meat Serving Suggestions + Easy Recipe Tricks & Tips:

Aside from its ease & flavor, the thing you’ll love most about this lentil walnut taco meat recipe is its versatility.

Build any of your favorite Mexican & Tex-Mex dishes around it – use it to make the best lentil tacos, stuff it into an epic plant-based burrito with rice & beans, pile it on a lentil taco salad, or make a vegan burrito bowl. It’s also a fabulous add-in for nachos, tostadas, & makes a killer quesadilla. You can’t go wrong!

My go-to? Lentil tacos, of course! I char up corn tortillas over a gas burner, then load ’em up with lentil walnut taco meat & toppings. When it comes to taco toppings, I prescribe to a ‘more is more’ philosophy. You can’t go wrong with a simple sprinkle of chopped cilantro or a squeeze of fresh lime juice, but if you want something really special try my Cashew Crema (the creamiest dairy-free sauce pictured here!), these Quick AF Quick Pickled Red Onions, & a good dollop of guacamole.

Cauliflower Lentil Tacos arranged on a white cement surface, topped with cilantro lime crema sauce & chopped cilantro. There are multiple lime wedges surrounding the tacos & a few bunches of fresh cilantro leaves nestled between tacos. A speckled ceramic bowl filled with pickled red onions rests on the surface in the upper left hand corner of the frame.

Other Tips & Tricks:

  • Storage & Reheating: The cauliflower lentil taco meat stores absolutely beautifully! Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through.
  • Freezer instructions: To freeze, allow the vegan taco meat to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container or freezer bag. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator & reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through. The texture will likely be a little less fluffy, though you can always doctor it up with flavorful & textured toppings!
Cauliflower Lentil Tacos arranged on a white cement surface, topped with cilantro lime crema sauce & chopped cilantro. There are a few lime wedges surrounding the tacos & a bunch of full cilantro leaves in the resting in the middle of three of the tacos.

I cannot wait for you to give these Cauliflower Lentil Tacos a try! They’re easy, good-for-ya, & so satisfying – I know you’ll love them just as much as we do! If you do give them a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!

Love easy, plant-based dinners? You’re in the right place! 🙌🏼 Try this Lemony Basil Vegan Pasta, this Damn Good Vegan Lentil Soup, or these Sheet Pan Veggie Shawarma Bowls next. Happy cooking! ♡

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Cauliflower Lentil Tacos arranged on a white cement surface, topped with cilantro lime crema sauce & chopped cilantro. There are a few lime wedges surrounding the tacos & a bunch of full cilantro leaves in the resting in the middle of three of the tacos. A speckled ceramic bowl filled with pickled red onions rests on the surface in the upper left-hand corner of the frame.

Easy Cauliflower Lentil Tacos

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4 1x
  • Category: Tacos, Burritos & Enchiladas Recipes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Mexican & Tex-Mex, American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

These Cauliflower Lentil Tacos are filled with a veggie-forward homemade lentil walnut taco meat that’s healthy, hearty, textural, & totally satisfying. Best of all, it’s a totally easy one-pot recipe that comes together in less than 1 hour – a Meatless Monday and Taco Tuesday win! (Naturally vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, & gluten-free.)


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 8 ounces cauliflower rice (roughly 2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 chipotle pepper (from a can, packed in adobo sauce), finely chopped OR 1 tablespoon adobo sauce for less spice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Brown Lentils, rinsed well & picked over (see Recipe Notes)
  • up to 3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
  • for serving, as desired: charred corn tortillas, mashed avocado, cashew crema, pickled red onions, chopped cilantrosalsa of choice, lime wedges, etc.

Instructions

Prep note: Once you begin cooking, these tacos come together very quickly! I suggest you start by getting all of the chopping, measuring & other prep odds & ends out of the way so cooking is a smooth process: dice the onion, mince the garlic, grab your spices & tomato paste, rinse the lentils, measure the veggie stock, etc. Place everything within an arm’s reach from the stovetop.Cauliflower Lentil Tacos ingredients arranged on a white cement surface: chopped walnuts, olive oil, yellow onion, cauliflower rice, garlic, chipotle pepper, tomato paste, chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, bay leaf, Bob's Red Mill Brown Lentils, vegetable stock, and lime.

  1. Optional: Toast the walnuts: Add the walnuts to a medium saucepan (with a lid) over medium heat. Cook, monitoring closely & shaking occasionally to prevent burning, for 3-4 minutes, just until toasty & fragrant. Transfer toasted walnuts to a plate & set aside. Carefully wipe out the saucepan & return to medium heat.How to make Cauliflower Lentil tacos, step 1: Toast the walnuts. Chopped walnuts rest inside of a large stainless steel skillet. The skillet sits atop a white cement surface.
  2. Sauté onion & cauliflower: Add the olive oil to the saucepan (use the same saucepan used to walnuts in Step 1 for less dishes!) over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent & fragrant, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower rice. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is softened, 4-5 minutes.How to make Cauliflower Lentil tacos, step 2: Sautéing a mixture of onions & cauliflower. A wooden spoon rests inside of the skillet for mixing & the skillet sits atop a white cement surface.
  3. Toast aromatics: Stir in the garlic & chipotle. Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, bay leaf, & tomato paste. Stir, coating the onion & cauliflower. Cook 1-2 minutes longer, until very fragrant.How to make Cauliflower Lentil tacos, step 3: Toasting the aromatics. A mixture of onions, cauliflower, garlic, chipotle pepper, chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, bay leaf, & tomato paste are combined & toasted until fragrant in a large skillet. A wooden spoon rests inside of the skillet for mixing & the skillet sits atop a white cement surface.
  4. Simmer the lentil taco meat: Add the toasted walnuts & lentils to the skillet, stirring to combine with the onion mixture. Pour in 3 cups of the vegetable broth. Increase the heat to high, bringing the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low to maintain a steady simmer. Partially cover the saucepan, placing the lid on the saucepan such that it’s just partially covered, allowing some steam to escape as the lentil taco meat cooks. Simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the lentils are tender but maintain their shape, about 25-30 minutes. If the lentils absorb all of the liquid before they’re tender, add in the reserved 1/2 cup of vegetable stock/broth. How to make Cauliflower Lentil tacos, step 4: Simmer the lentil taco meat. Toasted walnuts, onion, vegetable broth, & lentils are combined in a stainless steel skillet for simmering. The skillet is shown with a wooden spoon resting inside of it for mixing & the skillet sits atop a white cement surface.
  5. Finish the lentil taco meat: Once the lentils are tender, remove the saucepan from the heat. Squeeze the lime juice over the lentil taco meat, using a fork to fluff the mixture. Taste & season with additional kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Set aside for taco assembly. An overhead shot of a stainless steel skillet filled with Cauliflower & Lentil taco filling. A wooden spoon filled with the taco filling rests within the skillet. The skillet is placed atop a white cement surface.
  6. Assemble & serve: Add the cauliflower lentil taco meat to a tortilla. Finish with toppings of choice – cashew crema, chopped cilantro, lime juice, salsa, or any other toppings your taco-lovin’ heart desires. Enjoy!Cauliflower Lentil Tacos arranged on a white cement surface, topped with cilantro lime crema sauce & chopped cilantro. There are a few lime wedges surrounding the tacos & a bunch of full cilantro leaves in the resting in the middle of three of the tacos. A speckled ceramic bowl filled with pickled red onions rests on the surface in the upper left-hand corner of the frame.


Notes

  • Lentils prep: Unlike many other dried legumes, there’s no need to soak lentils prior to cooking. To prep, simply sift through your lentils to pick out any small rocks or pebbles (which sometimes sneak their way into the mix) & rinse well to remove any dirt or debris from the surface.
  • Storage, Reheating, & Freezing:
    • Storage & Reheating: The cauliflower lentil taco meat stores absolutely beautifully! Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through.
    • Freezer instructions: To freeze, allow the vegan taco meat to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container or freezer bag. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator & reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through. The texture will likely be a little less fluffy, though you can always doctor it up with flavorful & textured toppings!
  • 10-Minute Meal Prep: These lentil tacos come together really quickly once you get to cooking! To make this an even faster weeknight dinner, eliminate all active prep time by prep a few ingredients in advance:
    • Dice 1 small yellow onion. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. (<5 minutes active prep.)
    • Prep taco toppings. Prep a batch of cashew crema, a batch of quick pickled red onions, or whatever taco night fixings you love most! (Active prep time varies.)

Keywords: lentil tacos, cauliflower lentil tacos, lentil taco meat, vegan taco meat, easy, weeknight, vegan, plant-based, vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free

Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

Cauliflower Lentil Tacos arranged on a white cement surface, topped with cilantro lime crema sauce & chopped cilantro. There are a few lime wedges surrounding the tacos & a bunch of fresh cilantro leaves resting between two of the tacos.

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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