This vegan taco filling is the perfect recipe for anyone looking to incorporate more plant-based proteins into their diet—ideal for vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike!  Made with crunchy walnuts and hearty lentils, it’s a protein- and fiber-rich alternative to a traditional taco filling that doesn’t compromise on taste.

vegan taco filling, lentil walnut taco meat as taco filling

Want to know one of the easiest dietary habits you can start today to improve your health? Swap out some of the meat in your diet for plant-based proteins, like this lentil walnut taco meat!

Preparing this vegan taco filling is simpler than you might think and an excellent way to introduce a variety of nutrients into your meals without sacrificing flavor. Whether you’re a seasoned vegan or just looking to reduce your meat consumption, this recipe is designed to be straightforward and satisfying. The ingredients listed below, while few, come together to form a “meat” that can be enjoyed in a myriad of dishes beyond just tacos. So, let’s dive into what you’ll need to bring this delectable and nutritious plant-based taco meat to your table.

What you’ll need to make this vegan taco filling

This lentil walnut taco meat requires only a handful of easy-to-find ingredients:

  • Walnuts: Walnuts are unique for their ability to mimic somewhat the texture, color, and consistency of ground meat when chopped and cooked correctly. They not only provide a meaty texture but also contribute heart-healthy fats and a nutty flavor to this vegan taco filling.
  • Canned Lentils: Pre-cooked and easy to use, canned lentils reduce prep time significantly. They blend well with walnuts to create a hearty, protein- and fiber-rich base.
  • Taco Seasoning: You can use a pre-made mix or make your own blend of chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Feel free to adjust the amount in the recipe according to how spicy and flavorful you like your taco ‘meat.’
  • Olive Oil: Olive oil is blended into the mixture for moisture and richness, and also used for sautéing the mix to achieve the perfect consistency.
  • Salsa: Incorporate your favorite salsa to add moisture and extra flavor to this vegan lentil walnut taco meat. It helps to bind the ingredients together and adds a zesty flavor that complements the other components perfectly. It’s best to use a less chunky salsa for this recipe.
vegan taco filling, lentil walnut taco meat

Health benefits of walnuts

Walnuts are renowned for their nutritional value, particularly due to their rich content of the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), of which they provide 2.5 grams per ounce. Their abundance in antioxidants, such as quercetin and ellagitannins, further boosts their health benefits, offering protection against oxidative stress and overall disease risk. The versatility of walnuts allows them to work well as a key ingredient in this vegan taco filling, making them an excellent choice for improving dietary quality. This substitution is not only beneficial for the heart but also introduces important nutrients like fiber and magnesium into the diet, supporting overall health.

Research has elevated walnuts from a mere nutritional component to a functional food with potential prebiotic properties, enhancing gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and reducing inflammation. Consumption of walnuts was shown to increase the abundance of beneficial bacteria, including butyrate-producing species, and to decrease production of pro-inflammatory bacterial metabolites (specifically, secondary bile acids that may play a role in colon cancer).

Furthermore, a 2023 review highlighted that walnuts contribute to reduced inflammation and improved digestive health due to the ellagitannins mentioned above, which are metabolized into anti-inflammatory, disease-fighting compounds known as urolithins by gut microbiota.

Walnut consumption has also been shown to help decrease LDL-cholesterol (aka “bad” cholesterol) and blood pressure levels, two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Additionally, regular intake of walnuts may support brain health due to their high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants like polyphenols and vitamin E. Including walnuts in daily meals, like in this vegan taco filling, offers a simple way to tap into these health benefits, contributing to heart, brain, and gut health.

Are nuts good for weight loss?

Nuts have long been considered high-fat saboteurs of the waistline, as they are indeed rich in fat and therefore calorically dense, so the logic makes sense at face value. However, many studies have found that the consumption of nuts, like walnuts, can actually suppress hunger and decrease subsequent food intake therefore offsetting some of their calories.

Plus, it’s estimated that up to 20% of the calories in walnuts, aren’t even absorbed because of how the fat in them is stored in their cell walls, which don’t break down easily during digestion. You can rest assured that the weight of the evidence does not indicate that nuts pose a threat to your waistline.

In fact, regularly incorporating tree nuts, such as walnuts, into your diet—for example, by enjoying this vegan taco filling—could help prevent long-term weight gain and support weight loss efforts, as evidenced by a meta-analysis showing a 4% decrease in the risk of becoming overweight or obese with each additional weekly serving of tree nuts.

@nutrition.daily Wanna know of the easiest dietary habits you can start TODAY to improve your health?! Swap some of the meat in your diet for plant-based proteins! Like this easy 10-min lentil walnut taco “meat”!🌮😍 • #dietitian #meatless #meatlessmonday #nutritiontips #meatlessmeals #vegetarianrecipes #plantbasedrecipe #healthydinnerideas #plantbasedmeat ♬ What You Won't Do for Love – Bobby Caldwell

Health benefits of lentils

Lentils are a cornerstone in the pantry of health-conscious individuals, thanks to their impressive nutritional profile. Lentils are a fantastic source of dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble, which is essential for digestive health, helping to prevent constipation and promoting a healthy gut microbiome.

Packed with both fiber and plant-based protein, legumes, like lentils, offer a sustainable, affordable alternative to animal proteins, challenging the conventional belief that meat is the superior source of satiety. In fact, studies have shown that meals based on legumes, such as bean patties, can be just as filling as those made from meat, despite having lower protein content. This is largely due to their high fiber content, which not only aids in digestion but also prolongs feelings of fullness. Additionally, unlike their animal counterparts, legumes contain no saturated fats but are rich in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, exclusive to plant foods, which contribute to overall health and wellness.

Integrating legumes, like lentils, into your diet could lead to significant health improvements, including reduced risks of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and colorectal cancer. Regular consumption of these nutritional gems has been linked to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, better blood sugar control, and effective weight management.

Despite common misconceptions perpetuated by certain dietary trends, legumes, like lentils, have anti-inflammatory properties, demonstrated by their ability to lower blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation. By making legumes a daily staple, potentially starting with just a half-cup serving, you could not only bolster your health but also find a natural, fulfilling approach to weight management, leveraging the concept of energy density to eat more nutritiously while maintaining or reducing body weight.

vegan taco filling, lentil walnut taco meat as salad topper

Health benefits of “meat swapping”

The average American consumes more than two hundred pounds of chicken, pork, and beef a year—which comes out to over half a pound per day, every day. For many people, animal proteins play a starring role in most meals, likely at least two out of three meals a day.

One of the simplest yet most impactful dietary changes you can make today to boost your health is swapping out some of the meat in your daily diet for plant-based proteins. This includes a variety of options like legumes, soy products, and even nuts, with walnuts and lentils being notable examples due to their ability to mimic some of the consistency and color of ground meat.

Replacing even a small portion of red meat with these plant proteins—even just swapping one serving a day—is backed by science to support a healthier heart. And research suggests shifting as little as 3% of calories from animal proteins to plant proteins could have a large effect on longevity.

How to make this lentil walnut taco meat

Now that you’re ready to take advantage of all the health benefits this vegan taco filling has to offer, here’s how to whip up this nutritious and delicious alternative to traditional meat fillings:

  • Pulse the walnuts: Start by placing walnuts in a food processor and pulsing several times until roughly chopped. Tip: Don’t grind them too fine; maintaining some texture will help mimic the consistency of ground meat.
  • Mix in lentils: Add lentils to the food processor with the walnuts. Pulse until well combined yet still crumbly, ensuring the mix doesn’t turn into a hummus-like consistency. Tip: Using pre-cooked canned lentils saves time and ensures a consistent texture.
  • Season the mixture: Incorporate taco seasoning and olive oil into the walnut-lentil blend and pulse again just until the mixture is evenly seasoned.
  • Cook the mixture: Transfer the walnut-lentil mixture to a pre-heated skillet and cook until browned.
  • Add salsa: Stir in some of your favorite salsa for extra flavor and moisture, and cook just a bit longer. Tip: Choose a less chunky salsa.
  • Serve: Use the prepared lentil walnut taco meat as a filling for tacos, a topping for salads, or in any dish where you’d typically use ground meat!

vegan taco filling, lentil walnut taco meat as salad topper
5 from 1 rating

Lentil Walnut Taco Meat (Vegan Taco Filling)

Yield: 4
This vegan taco filling is the perfect recipe for anyone looking to incorporate more plant-based proteins into their diet—ideal for vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike!  Made with crunchy walnuts and hearty lentils, it’s a protein- and fiber-rich alternative to a traditional taco filling that doesn’t compromise on taste.


  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 1 15-oz can lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup salsa


  • Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse several times until roughly chopped. Avoid over-processing; you want them to retain some texture.
  • Add the drained and rinsed lentils to the food processor. Pulse several times until the mixture is well combined but still crumbly. Do not let it turn into a paste.
  • Add the taco seasoning and one tablespoon of olive oil to the walnut-lentil mixture. Pulse again until everything is just combined.
  • Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.
  • Transfer the walnut-lentil mixture to the skillet. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until the mixture is nicely browned, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the salsa to the skillet and continue cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring until the mixture is well combined, heated through, and not too wet.
  • Serve this lentil walnut meat as a delicious topping for a taco salad, a filling for traditional tacos, or however you'd typically enjoy taco meat!
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