Fast and Frugal Easy Lentil Taco Filling

If you have a tight food budget, then lentils may be just the ticket to saving more money. When it comes to a fast and filling meat substitute, you seriously can’t beat lentils. They cook in 20 minutes, contain a boatload of fiber and protein, and are incredibly versatile. I keep several pounds of lentils on hand at all times in the pantry.

Add to that the fact that you can buy the for about $1.00 a pound, it’s no wonder that they have become a family favorite. Aldis has recently begun carrying them and have the lowest price. Dollar Tree carries them for $1.00 a pound.

Check the availability and prices at ethnic Middle Eastern or Mediterranean shops. Finally, you may find that you are able to lower the price per pound by purchasing lentils in a bulk bag of twenty-five or fifty pounds.

Our favorite way to enjoy this quick-cooking legume is to create a meaty taco filing out of it. The process is incredibly simple, taking just 20 minutes from start to finish. A pound of dried lentils (2 1/3 cups) will yield approximately 7 cups of cooked lentils, easily feeding a family of 4-6 people.

Lentil Taco Filling Is

  • Quick
  • Easy
  • Filling
  • Thrifty
  • A family pleaser
  • Tasty
  • Versatile

How to Serve Lentil Taco Filling

We like to simply pile some of the filling on a bed of fresh greens, adding traditional taco toppings like finely chopped onion, peppers, olives, avocado, and salsa.

However, it is equally good on top of a corn or wheat tortilla. I generally make our tortillas from scratch. They really don’t take too long and at about 4¢ per tortilla, they are 60% cheaper than the store-bought variety.


  • 1 pound lentils – 2 1/3 cups – (rinsed well)
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp chili seasoning
  • 2-3 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder


Rinse one pound of lentils and sort through them to remove small bits of dirt or rocks. Lentils are notorious for being gritty if they are not properly washed before use.

Place the lentils in a pan along with 3 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes – until the water is absorbed and the lentils are tender.

While the lentils are cooking, choose your taco toppings and cut them into bite-sized pieces if necessary.

When cooked, the lentils should be soft, yet still maintain their shape. If cooked too long, they will become mushy.

Remove the lentils from heat and add all the spices. Stir to combine.

Make traditional tacos, using corn or wheat tortillas. You may also create a delicious main dish salad, using mixed greens as a base.

Suggested Toppings

  • Diced tomatoes
  • Salsa
  • Avocado or guacamole
  • Diced onions
  • Sliced green onion
  • Lettuce or fresh spinach (cut into a chiffonade)
  • Corn
  • Olives
  • Hot peppers (sliced or diced)
  • Creamy salad dressing
  • Fresh lemon or lime juice
  • Hot sauce

Need the recipe?

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If you make this recipe, post a photo (along with your thoughts) and tag me on Instagram @underthemedian.

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8 thoughts on “Fast and Frugal Easy Lentil Taco Filling”

  1. Thank you for your recipe!! We LOVE lentils.
    my meat loving sons really like lentils tacos……in fact one of them ask for lentil tacos every year for his birthday dinner.
    originally found my recipe on Taste of Home, which has your seasons plus a bit of cumin and dried oregano; then I tweaked it a bit more to our liking. We serve them with the lentil taco mix, grated cheese, squeeze of lime, bit of salsa and sour cream.

  2. Wow! I just made this for my family tonight. I sautéed onions and garlic, doubled the spices and then added the lentils and mashed it a bit. All four of my kids devoured this “different kind of meat”. I’m actually shocked. My husband even thought there must be some beef in it. I am shocked! I’ll be adding lentils to our meals more often!

  3. I made these, with the spices. Additionally I added a smidge of liquid smoke and about a scant 1/2 teaspoon of hot Mexican chili powder. I served on a soft street-size tortilla with tomato and avocado. These were served to non-vegetarians. Everybody loved them. I’ve been a vegetarian-vegan for 26 years and never used lentils that much. You can be sure that I will be eating more of them. Thank you for your recipe.

    • Debby,
      I’m so glad that you enjoyed the lentil taco filling. It’s definitely one of our favorites. Your additions were absolutely perfect.


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