A Mexican diet staple turned comfort food for Southern Californians of all walks of life. No surprise that the world’s first Taco Bell was opened in SoCal (back in 1962 in Downey, CA).
Of course, Taco Bell’s offerings are a far cry from the real, authentic Mexican tacos of my mom’s childhood. To her and others, it is almost blasphemy to refer to mass-produced, bleached white “tortillas” filled with canned refried beans and yellow cheese as anything remotely resembling a taco or Mexican cuisine.
But, that didn’t stop me from pulling up at the Taco Bell drive-thru and “treating myself” to some cheap, filling, beefy tacos and burritos… for years.
A guilty pleasure, indeed.
As much as my tastebuds savored devouring this stuff, my tummy and digestive tract were not happy with me. Within a couple of hours, I’d be regretting my decision, vowing to never order there again.
That is, until the next craving hit. Usually within a week or two. So it went.
Then, after going vegan, I discovered that Taco Bell was one of the few major fast food chains with vegan-friendly options.
While still not the most nutritionally-dense, I found that swapping a beefy, cheese-laden five-layer burrito for a bean and rice burrito with no dairy, plus potatoes, black beans, & fire sauce left me satisfied without all the cramps and nausea.
Other items at Taco Bell, like their power veggie burrito, crunchwrap supreme, tostadas, and yes, tacos, can be also be veganized.
Here’s how to order vegan at Taco Bell, if you’re curious: https://www.tacobell.com/how-to-eat-vegan
In any case, cooking at home is still a healthier (and often cheaper) option than going to the drive-thru.
These lentils make a tasty, hearty, vegan taco filling with plenty of protein and fiber.
Even better, there’s no cholesterol or artery-clogging animal fats in these tacos, so your tummy and your heart will thank you.
You can use pre-cooked or canned lentils, or even black beans if that’s all you’ve got. If you have some cooked quinoa on hand, throw some in there too for an extra protein/fiber boost.
I re-created the Taco Bell “experience” by using flour tortillas, Daiya cheddar block slices (found at Sprouts and other grocers), chopped lettuce, and of course, Taco Bell Fire sauce. Of course, feel free to make your tacos however you like.
You could also serve these lentils over rice or baked potatoes with avocado slices, salsa, etc. Get creative!
Vegan Lentil Tacos (Taco Bell Style)
- Diced onions (about 1/2 medium)
- Diced green bell pepper (about 1/2 medium, optional)
- Tomato paste (about 2-3 tablespoons)
- Cooked lentils (about 2 cups)
- Cooked quinoa (about 1/2 - 1 cup, optional)
- Seasonings, to taste (Suggested spices are chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, chipotle powder, nutritional yeast, salt & black pepper. Not all necessary; just use what you have and like.)
- Water, as needed
- Saute diced onions in water or olive oil over medium heat until softened. Add diced green bell pepper, if using, and cook another 1-2 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and water, stirring until fragrant. Add more water to make it saucy, then add cooked lentils and cooked quinoa (optional).
- Season as desired. You could also add hot sauce or cayenne for more heat.
- Simmer for a few minutes to desired consistency - add more water if it gets too dry, or cook longer if too soupy.
- Serve in tortillas with desired toppings - such as vegan cheese (I used the Daiya cheddar block), chopped lettuce, and hot sauce. You could also serve these lentils over rice or baked potatoes with avocado slices, salsa, etc.