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Lentil Tacos with Avocado Crema

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These tacos feature a seriously delicious lentil-walnut-mushroom taco “meat,” silky-smooth avocado crema, and a zesty, spicy cabbage slaw. They're shockingly tasty but also nutrient-rich!
Prep 25 minutes
Cook 20 minutes
Total 45 minutes
4.9 from 22 votes

Plain lentils? Never heard of ‘em. I like my lentils dressed to the nines, which is precisely what’s happening in these super meaty and flavor-packed Lentil Tacos with Avocado Crema!

This recipe goes way beyond adding plain lentils to tortillas. Instead, a lentil, mushroom, and walnut mixture is transformed into an incredible vegan taco “meat.”

After you mix the taco meat into perfection with your hands (so much fun!), you’ll schmear your tortillas with a luxurious homemade avocado crema. You’ll then add the taco meat and a crisp, refreshing cabbage slaw for endless flavor and texture in every bite!

Table of Contents:
1. Why this recipe works
2. Ingredient notes
3. Step-by-step instructions 
4. Tips for making this recipe
5. Frequently Asked Questions
6. Recipe card with notes

one corn tortilla taco topped with avocado crema, lentil taco meat, and cabbage slaw.

Why this recipe works

It’s wholesome and flavor-packed 

Confession time: this vegan taco meat is a repeat of the “meat” in my Vegan Crunchwrap Supreme, which is one of my early classics. Y’all love the crunchwrap supreme so much, so I figured why not transform it into weeknight-friendly tacos!.

As before, this vegan taco mix has realistic meaty flavors but is made from a handful of wholesome plant-based ingredients. Seriously—lentils, walnuts and flaxseed meal, and mushrooms are major health wins, packed respectively with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and (my fave) antioxidants

But that’s not it! The creamy, buttery avocado crema is home to a variety of minerals and healthy fats, and the cabbage slaw adds extra vitamins and fiber

Flavor-rich and nutrient-rich? What else could you need in a taco recipe?

PS: These tacos are gluten-free and soy-free. Just be sure to use 100% corn tortillas to keep them gluten-free. While they do contain nuts, the walnuts can be subbed with sunflower seeds. 

Texture? Texture.

A little crunch goes a long way in just about any dish—the lettuce on your favorite veggie burger isn’t there just because it’s green. This is why I’ve finished these lentil tacos with a crunchy cabbage slaw. 

Dive into these tacos, and you’ll be met with chewy taco “meat,” crunchy slaw, tender tortillas, and silky-smooth avocado crema. These components form the perfect balance of textures for a taco. 

No-fuss Taco Tuesday 

Prepping components in advance has changed my life for the better. Time back on weeknights? Check. That feeling of pride when I open my fridge and see all the ingredients I’ve lovingly prepped and arranged in their cute little containers? Also check.

I highly recommend cooking the lentils, toasting the walnuts, and making the avocado crema in advance. Prep them the Sunday before Taco Tuesday, and you’ll be so much happier after a draining workday that you aren’t spending your whole night cooking.

That’s actually the thrust behind our weekly meal plan subscription, Meal Plans by Rainbow Plant Life!

These meaty lentil tacos are featured in an upcoming plan this summer—and like every weekly plan—this particular plan will show you which prep steps you can take during meal prep to streamline your weeknights so you spend less time in the kitchen and still enjoy seriously tasty meals.

From categorized grocery lists complete with substitutions to efficient meal prep steps that will make your weeknights a breeze, each weekly plan is jam-packed with useful information that will empower you to become the home cook you’ve always dreamed of becoming.

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3 tacos arranged diagonally on parchment paper filled with lentil taco meat and cabbage slaw.

Ingredient notes

ingredients for vegan lentil tacos laid out on a gray board, with ingredients labeled.

Lentils

Lentils are hands down my favorite legume. From fresh and herbaceous salads to vegan shepherd’s pie to these protein-packed tacos, I’ll find any excuse to add them to my plate.

I eat store-bought vegan meat substitutes only occasionally, and lentils help me spend way less time in the plant-based meats aisle than you might think. 

Tip: Use brown or regular green lentils for the vegan taco meat (affiliate links). Red or yellow lentils won’t work—they’ll turn to mush, which is not what you want here. And while I love French green and black beluga lentils, they’re a bit too firm for this use case. 

Walnuts

Crushed walnuts take the meatiness to another level. Just like in my Lentil Bolognese, they bring layered chewiness and rich flavor to these tacos, especially when you toast them ahead of time (more on that in the Tips section). 

Nut-free? Sunflower seeds are my fave substitute here. Toast them just like with the walnuts.

Mushrooms + shallots

Mushrooms and shallots work together to give the vegan taco meat upgraded earthy and umami flavors. After blitzing them in the food processor with the walnuts, they’re stirred into the rest of the vegan meat mixture and cooked in a hot, well-oiled pan.

I like using baby bella or cremini mushrooms in the taco meat because they have a mild flavor and that signature meaty chew, plus they’re pretty inexpensive. 

Taco seasonings

Two things make this taco seasoning special: (1) a base made from nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, and store-bought taco seasoning, and (2) the optional but recommended mix of porcini mushroom powder and vegan beef broth seasoning powder (or a crumbled bouillon cube).

The base seasonings add plenty of flavor to the “meat”, but the two optional seasonings take the umami and meatiness way up a notch. Don’t care about this tasting like meat? Just skip them.

Where to buy: I buy my porcini mushroom powder online, although alternatives are sometimes sold at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Vegan beef broth seasoning can be found online or you can crumble up a bouillon cube (affiliate links). 

Substitute: If you have dried mushrooms (affiliate link) at home, pulverize them in a food processor or spice grinder until they’re finely ground up. Simply skip the vegan beef seasoning powder. 

Avocados 

Mashed avocados, vegan sour cream, cilantro, and a few pantry staples are transformed into a rich avocado crema for this recipe. It makes these tacos hearty, and, honestly, a bit indulgent.

Tip: Make a double batch of the avocado crema! It’s a creamy, cooling all-purpose sauce for other vegan tacos (they’re fantastic on my Tempeh Tacos!). I also love dolloping it over a plate of vegan nachos or a loaded vegan burrito bowl. And if you store the crema with the avocado pit, it’ll stay fresh in you fridge for 5 days!

Green cabbage 

With just about half of a small green cabbage head, you’ve got everything you need to perfect these tacos with a fresh, zesty, spicy-ish cabbage slaw. (If you’re one of my Babymouths, I promise I didn’t forget about you! Just ditch the green chile pepper in the slaw.)

Green cabbage is my go-to, but red cabbage or Napa cabbage will work too. You can also save time (she’s always of the essence) by using store-bought pre-sliced cabbage or a coleslaw mix instead.

You can thinly slice or shred cabbage with a sharp chef’s knife, a mandoline, a box grater, or a food processor slicing disc. is by slicing it with a sharp knife, but you can also use a box grater or quickly pulse it in a food processor. 

Not sure whether you need a mandoline in your kitchen arsenal? Learn why it might speed up your meal prep in my kitchen equipment guide.

Tortillas

A cold store-bought tortilla does not a good taco make. Instead, heat your favorite small flour or corn tortillas on a cast iron skillet until warm and pliable, then layer on the avocado crema, vegan meat, and cabbage slaw. 

Tip: Gluten-free? Buy 100% corn tortillas, or ditch the tortillas and serve the lentil meat, crema, and slaw over a bed of greens or cooked rice.

closeup on lentil tacos with avocado crema and cabbage slaw on a wooden cutting board.

Step-by-step instructions 

Cook the lentils (slightly undercook just a bit). Drain and add to a food processor. Pulse in a food processor until partially blended. Transfer to a bowl. 

Toast the walnuts in a frying pan until nutty and golden brown in spots. Blend briefly until you have fine crumbs.

Add the roughly chopped mushrooms and shallots to the walnuts and blend a few times, followed by a few pulses until everything is very finely chopped.

Transfer to the bowl with the lentils and stir in the rest of the seasonings: nutritional yeast, flaxseed meal, smoked paprika, taco seasoning, salt, pepper, and if using, mushroom powder and vegan beef seasoning. 

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium/medium-high heat with olive oil.

Fry ⅓ to ½ of the taco meat (to avoid overcrowding) for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until browned and slightly crispy. Repeat with the remaining taco meat. 

vegan lentil taco meat fried and golden brown in a frying pan.

Make the avocado crema: add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.

Make the spicy cabbage slaw: massage the shredded cabbage with lime and salt, then fold in the jalapeños and agave.

Assemble the tacos: warm up your tortillas, then spoon some avocado crema into the center of each. Top with some taco meat and finish with cabbage slaw. 

Tips for making this recipe

Slightly (only slightly!) undercook the lentils 

Cook the lentils until they’re slightly tender and still have some bite—just al dente, like the best pasta (we all know this is true). If the lentils are cooked until soft, the taco meat won’t brown or crisp as nicely. 

Show your food processor some love

Your food processor is a total machine (literally) when it comes to grinding up food, and it’ll have a longer lifetime if you don’t overwork it. Roughly chopping the mushrooms and shallots before blitzing them takes a load off your food processor and also gets you the right consistency way more quickly.

Toast the walnuts, even when you’re in a jiffy

Always, and I mean always, toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, until they’re slightly golden and very fragrant, before breaking them up in the food processor. This step draws out the walnuts’ hidden umami flavors and tempers their natural bitterness, giving the meat a rich, star-making depth of flavor.

Tip: Since walnuts are a nutrition powerhouse, I like to roast a large batch of walnuts in the oven on a sheet pan, then store them in a jar in my pantry for a couple of weeks for snacks and salads. 350ºF/175ºC for 8 to 10 minutes, tossing halfway through.

Steer clear of sticky situations

When making the taco meat, blend the lentils separately from the walnuts and mushroom-shallot mixture before mixing them together in a large bowl. Blending them all at once overworks the mixture, which can lead to very sticky vegan taco meat. 

Don’t overcrowd the pan

When you have too much of the taco meat cooking in one pan, it can’t release its moisture as well. This means it won’t brown up and get that one-of-a-kind crisp, meaty texture.

For the best results, fry the taco “meat” in two or three batches, depending on your skillet’s size

3 corn tortilla tacos on parchment paper filled with avocado crema and lentil taco meat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of lentils should I use?

Brown or regular green lentils have a soft and tender texture but still hold their shape well, making them a perfect ground meat substitute in this recipe and so many others. 

Don’t use red, yellow, or canned lentils as a substitute. They’re all too soft and mushy to ever get meaty.

I’m allergic to nuts. Is there a substitute for walnuts?

You can use sunflower seeds, but be sure to toast them first. The taste may a tad more bitter, so add more salt to taste. 

How else can I use the lentil taco meat?

Better question: How can’t you use the lentil taco meat?

It’s a great source of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids—and, of course, flavor—in burritos (and burrito bowls), lettuce wraps, salads, and sprinkled over loaded smashed potatoes.

Got leftover taco meat and crema? They’re great served over rice as a rice bowl.

How do you store leftovers?

Store unfried lentil taco meat in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Fry it using the instructions in the recipe card.

You can also store fried lentil taco meat for a few days. Reheat in a frying pan, adding a touch of oil as needed, and cook until warmed through. 

Leftover avocado crema lasts for about 5 days when stored in an airtight jar or container (place the avocado pit directly in the sauce to prevent it from browning).

Cabbage slaw will last 1 to 2 days in the fridge, but is best made fresh (and so quick to make).

closeup on one taco filled with avocado crema, lentil taco meat, and slaw.

If you love these Lentil Tacos with Avocado Crema, be sure to leave a review below :) 

Big Vegan Flavor

Techniques and 150 recipes to master vegan cooking.

Lentil Tacos with Avocado Crema

4.9 from 22 votes
These tacos feature a seriously delicious lentil-walnut-mushroom taco “meat,” silky-smooth avocado crema, and a zesty, spicy cabbage slaw. They're shockingly tasty but also nutrient-rich!
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican-inspired
Diet Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Serving size: 4

Ingredients

Taco Meat

  • cup (135g) brown or green lentils
  • ¼ packed cup (32g) walnuts
  • 8 ounces (227g) cremini mushrooms, stems removed & very roughly chopped
  • 2 medium shallots, roughly chopped (or ~80g roughly chopped onions)
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon porcini mushroom powder (optional, see Note 1)
  • 2 teaspoons vegan beef broth seasoning or bouillon cube crumbled (optional, see Note 1)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil or cooking oil of choice

For serving

Instructions

  • Cook the lentils. Bring some water to a boil in a saucepan and lightly salt the water. Once boiling, add the lentils. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the lentils for just 8 to 10 minutes. You want to slightly undercook them: they should be mostly but not fully cooked with a distinct bite, as they’ll get cooked later.
  • While the lentils cook, toast the walnuts. Heat a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Add the walnuts and toast for 4 to 5 minutes until they smell toasty and are darker in spots.
  • Drain the lentils well, then add to a food processor. Blend for several seconds, followed by a few pulses, until partially blended with a few pieces still intact. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Wipe out the food processor bowl.
    Watch this Youtube video at the 11:26 mark to see the desired texture.
  • Add the toasted walnuts to the food processor. Blend briefly until you have fine crumbs, but don’t over-blend into walnut butter. Add the roughly chopped mushrooms and shallots to the food processor with the walnuts. Blend a few times, followed by a few pulses until they are very finely chopped.
    Watch this Youtube video at the 11:39 and 11:46 marks to see the desired texture.
  • Make the taco meat filling. Add the walnut-veg mixture to the bowl with the lentils. Add in the flaxseed meal, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, 2 tablespoons taco seasoning, plus mushroom powder and beef broth seasoning (if using). Use your hands to mix the taco meat until the mixture comes together with your hands. It should easily come together but not be very sticky.
    If the mixture is too sticky, add a tablespoon or two of flour and toss to combine.
  • Cook the taco meat. Heat a large (12-inch) nonstick skillet over medium/medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, add ⅓ to ½ of the mixture to the pan (to avoid overcrowding) and break the taco meat up with a wooden spoon or angled spatula into as small pieces as you can. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until browned and slightly crispy. Repeat with remaining taco meat, adding more oil as needed.
  • Warm the tortillas. Add a few tortillas to a cast iron (or other) skillet over medium-high heat. Warm for about 30 seconds per side. Stack and wrap tortillas in a dish towel to keep them warm.
  • Assemble. Dollop some Avocado Crema onto each warmed tortilla and spread out. Top with taco meat and Spicy Cabbage Slaw. If desired, sprinkle a bit of cilantro onto each taco, and serve with lime wedges.

Notes

  1. The porcini mushroom powder adds a punch of umami (you can also use a mushroom seasoning blend, like those sold at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s). And the vegan beef seasoning makes the taco meat taste “beefy.” Both are optional. If you don’t care about making this taco “meat” taste like meat, feel free to skip.
  2. Use 100% corn tortillas to keep this recipe gluten-free.

Calories: 392kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 691mg | Potassium: 828mg | Fiber: 19g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 389IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 219mg | Iron: 5mg

Big Vegan Flavor

Techniques and 150 recipes to master vegan cooking.

Avocado Crema

4.9 from 22 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Mexican
Diet Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Serving size: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 or 1 ½ medium ripe avocados
  • ¼ cup (60g) vegan sour cream or tangy coconut yogurt
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 juicy limes
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 handful (12g) cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

  • In a food processor bowl*, add the avocado flesh, sour cream or yogurt, garlic, 3 tablespoons (45 mL) of lime juice, cumin, cilantro, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and several cracks of pepper.
    *Note: You can also use a small-capacity cup blender, or place all the ingredients in a wide-mouth jar and use an immersion blender.
  • Blend until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides as you go. Season to taste, adding more lime juice or salt and pepper as desired.

Big Vegan Flavor

Techniques and 150 recipes to master vegan cooking.

Spicy Cabbage Slaw

4.9 from 22 votes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mexican-inspired
Diet Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

Ingredients

  • 5 to 6 cups (~275 to 330g) shredded or very thinly sliced green cabbage
  • Kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1 juicy lime
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, very thinly sliced (omit for mild; use a serrano pepper for a spicier version)
  • A drizzle of agave nectar

Instructions

  • In a medium or large bowl, add the cabbage, 2 teaspoons of lime juice, and a couple pinches of salt. Massage with your hands for about 30 to 60 seconds to soften.
  • Fold in the jalapeño and drizzle in a bit of agave, tossing to combine. Taste, adding more lime juice, salt, or agave to taste.

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4.91 from 22 votes

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33 comments on Lentil Tacos with Avocado Crema

  1. Dave

    5 stars
    Made the taco meat with green Mung beans and they turned out great.

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