Tacos are a classic part of most Cinco de Mayo celebrations, but most are made with meat. I decided to develop a vegan taco filling as a lighter, meatless option to beef, chicken and fish. Why should meat eaters have all the fun? Believe it or not, I think I like these Vegan Lentil Cauliflower Tacos better than any meat version I’ve tried. The texture is terrific, and the spice blend gives these tacos savory depth. I really love them!
Lentils are a great meat substitute in many dishes. They are popular now, but they haven’t always been. During Classical times wealthy Greeks would not eat lentils, as they were deemed a “poor man’s food.” Hippocrates, recognizing their many health benefits, prescribed lentils to his patients that suffered from liver ailments. We now know that the high amounts of choline found in lentils help to improve liver function by aiding in filtering toxins from out of the bloodstream, proving once again that Hippocrates was ahead of his time. Though lentils have been a food staple in the Middle East and Mediterranean for centuries, they didn’t really catch on in the U.S. until World War II, when they became a popular meat substitute during wartime rationing.
These healthy tacos are lacking meat, but don’t worry, they are loaded with flavor. Combining cumin with turmeric and a hint of cinnamon gives the lentils a truly special essence. The addition of tender, sautéed cauliflower adds a more hearty texture. Top them with sour cream or vegan sour cream for another layer of goodness. These tacos are truly special. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
Other Great Mexican-Inspired Recipe Ideas
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- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/3 cup dried lentils (or substitute 1 cup cooked or canned drained lentils)
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (divided)
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- 2 lbs cauliflower florets (cut into small bite-sized pieces)
- 3 tbsp water
- Corn tortillas or taco shells (use vegan tortillas or taco shells for vegan, or gluten free to make GF)
- Diced tomatoes
- Fresh cilantro
- Sliced jalapeño peppers
- Sour cream or Greek yogurt (use vegan sour cream for vegan)
- To prepare dried lentils: In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tsp grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add the lentils and toss to coat.
- Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
- Add 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Drain and set aside. If using canned or pre-cooked lentils, do not prepare them, simply reserve them and the minced garlic.
- To make the taco filling: Heat 1/4 cup grapeseed oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the cumin, turmeric, salt and cinnamon and heat until fragrant. If you're using canned or cooked lentils, go ahead and heat up the minced garlic here along with the spices.
- Add the cauliflower and sauté until lightly colored.
- Add the cooked lentils and 3 tbsp water. Stir to combine, then cover and cook until tender, about 5-10 minutes.
- Serve the warm vegetable mixture in warm corn tortillas or taco shells and top with your favorite taco toppings (suggestions above).