Lentil & Walnut Taco Meat

August 28, 2020


By: Chris Petrellese 

Learn how to make this simple and delicious lentil and walnut taco meat. It’s a delicious vegan, gluten-free and soy-free alternative to traditional taco meat, still filled with the same familiar flavors and textures that we all love, but without the meat. It’s perfect for tacos, salads, and more. 

macro image of lentil and walnut taco meat in pan

It’s taco time! Learn how to make this delicious lentil and walnut taco meat. We are using simple, wholesome, ingredients that you may already have in your pantry.

If you’re looking for a simple replacement for taco meat made from whole food ingredients, you’ve come to the right place. This dish riffs off of our Mushroom Walnut Vegan Taco Meat recipe, if you’ve ever tried it. Instead of mushrooms, we are using lentils which provide some nice flavor, texture, and additional protein.

overhead image of ingredients on speckled platter

Taco night is very popular in our household. While we sometimes will cook up vegan beef crumbles like Beyond Meat or Impossible, we do like this lentil and walnut taco meat as a less-processed alternative.

overhead image of lentil walnut tacos loaded with fixings on white speckled plate

This lentil and walnut taco meat is perfect for meal prep. It works well as a topping for many dishes aside from just tacos. You can make a large batch and keep it in your fridge to enjoy throughout the week.

open taco on white board filled with lentil walnut taco meat

Here are some of our favorite ideas to use this taco meat:

  • Taco Salad
  • Stuffing potatoes (white or sweet)
  • Mixing in with pasta
  • Tostadas
  • Burritos
  • Quesadillas
macro image of taco being picked up

If you’re looking for more meals that are perfect for meal prep, here are some good ones:

Make sure you tag us on Instagram @sweetsimplevegan and @consciouschris and hashtag #sweetsimplevegan if you recreate any of our recipes, we love to see your photos!

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macro image of lentil and walnut taco meat in pan

Lentil & Walnut Taco Meat

  • Author: Jasmine @ Sweet Simple Vegan
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: About 6 servings
  • Diet: Vegan


Learn how to make this simple and delicious lentil and walnut taco meat. It’s a delicious, vegan, gluten-free and soy-free!


  • 3/4 cup unsalted walnuts
  • 1 cup uncooked green lentils
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke 
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh lime juice, as desired


  1. In a small bowl, add in the walnuts along with enough lukewarm water to fully submerge the nuts. In a separate bowl, add in the lentils also with enough lukewarm water to cover them. Soak both the walnuts and lentils for about 30 minutes.
  2. Once the walnuts have finished soaking, drain them and transfer them to a cutting board (or a food processor). We just let the lentils continue to sit in the water during this time. Roughly chop the walnuts until they have broken down into a “meat crumble”-like texture. You don’t want them to be powder, you want them to still have some texture in the mixture. 
  3. In the medium-sized pan, add in 1 tablespoon of cooking oil along. Once warm, add in the onions and garlic, and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. 
  4. Add in the chopped walnuts, cumin, chili powder, oregano and cayenne, and cook for 1 minute more. 
  5. Drain the lentils and add them into the mixture along with the liquid smoke, tomatoes, and broth. Mix until everything is combined and then bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Allow the mixture to simmer covered for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Remove the lid from the pan and continue sautéing until the liquid has cooked off and the lentils are soft. 
  7. Remove from heat and add in the cilantro. Mix until well combined and serve warm. Enjoy!


  • You can skip the walnuts if you would like.
  • We used green lentils for this recipe but you could really use any variety that is available to you. 
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: Stovetop

Keywords: Vegan, Gluten-free, Soy-free, entree, taco, lentil, walnut

Nutrition facts label provided by Nutri Fox.

Disclaimer: The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional’s advice. This page may contain affiliate links, which simply means that we earn a commission if you purchase through those links, but your price remains the same. Thank you for supporting Sweet Simple Vegan!

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Recipe rating

  1. Aariah says:

    This recipe was amazing! We loved the texture the walnuts added. Will be making this often in the future.

  2. Rose says:

    Hi Jasmine. Do you know if this dish freezes well? Thanks!

    • Chris Petrellese says:

      Yes, it should freeze well. It may dry out a bit, but if it does you can simply add a little bit of liquid when reheating in a pan to fluff it up.

  3. Amber says:

    I’m making this tonight, followed instructions to a t, except where it says to add water in step 5, I added 2 cups broth from the ingredients list. Not sure if this is what was meant?
    It’s still way too watery after simmering for 30 minutes, going to keep cooking it down, the flavor is good, hope the liquid cooks off.

    • Chris Petrellese says:

      Hey Amber,

      The two cups of broth are for cooking the lentils. Did you use uncooked lentils for the recipe? If cooked covered, the liquid should cook-off in 20-25 minutes. How did the recipe end up working out?

      • Amber says:

        Update, I ended up simmering for a good while, probably an hour on low heat, until the liquid cooked down. But the result was delicious, froze half the batch and am defrosting today for more yummy tacos with homemade corn tortillas. I did use dry lentils when I originally made this recipe, maybe my lentils were just funny. Thanks for a great taco meeeeeeet.

        • Chris Petrellese says:

          Hey Amber, happy to hear that the recipe ended up working out for you! I appreciate you sharing your experience. I will update the recipe to note that it may take a little longer to cook down. Enjoy and have a happy holiday!

      • Andrea says:

        Hello, excited to try this recipe! But am a little confused about the instructions. I saw your comment above about how the broth is to cook the lentils – so did you cook the lentils in advance or where you said “water” in step 5, was that intended to be the 2 cups broth? Thanks!

        • Chris Petrellese says:

          Hey Andrea,

          Thanks for the question! Yes, the water in step 5 is intended to be broth. Just fixed it 🙂 Thanks for pointing that out!

  4. Karen says:

    Yaaay! For Christmas I am giving my daughter some organic blue masa harina so we can make nachos Christmas Eve. This filling will be PERFECT for them. Thanks.
    BEST gift ever for my 2 yr old granddaughter was a tortilla press! She loves helping her parents make tortillas and they taste SO good.

    Merry Christmas you two. Love your youtubes and this website SO MUCH.

  5. Kelly says:

    THIS SOUNDS SOOOOOO GOOD. I’m stoked to try this. Thanks!

  6. Kiriakitsa says:

    Can onion powder and garlic powder be substituted? Love your show!

    • Chris Petrellese says:

      Yes! We’d recommend using 2 tsp of garlic powder and about a tablespoon of onion powder. Thanks so much 🙂

  7. Nicole says:


  8. LB says:

    I have everything to make this, but wondered if it can be done in the instant pot? We are gluten free meat eaters and finding filling meatless dishes for our 2 growing boys is a challenge, excited to try this!

    • Chris Petrellese says:

      We’ve never tried this recipe in an instant pot, so it’s hard to say. Sorry about that!!

  9. Colleen Peters says:


    Can you use this in a Shepherd’s Pie recipe? I recently made it using a brand name ground and it was too soft & no flavor.

  10. Rachel says:

    pretty tasty. i like the spice blend. didn’t end up looking as close to taco meat as in the pictures posted for some reason but it does taste good with black bean chips so that’s good enough

  11. Jessica says:

    I stumbled upon this recipe and knew I just had to try it. I made this tonight and it is so freaking delicious. Both the taste and texture is great. Even my 6 year old and 17 month old ate without any problems. We’ve decided we like this better than ground beef. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe.

  12. Jessica says:

    We aren’t a vegan family, but I have been looking for ideas on incorporating more vegetables in our diets and eating healthier. This recipe is so delicious. We now prefer this over meat options. Thank you so much for sharing.

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