Monday, April 08, 2013

Recipe for Vegetarian Lentil Taco Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Avocado

Vegetarian Lentil Taco Salad with Tomatoes, Olive, and Avocado
This Vegetarian Lentil Taco Salad with Tomatoes, Olive, and Avocado can easily be vegan if you skip the optional Ranch Dressing and cheese.

I guess I'm officially settled into the new house, because I had my first cooking session with my nephew/cooking assistant Jake, and we loved having the the new bigger kitchen so both of us have plenty of room to work.  The new house also has big windows and great light for photos, but I found there's almost too much light, and I'm going to have to do some experimenting to get the light filtered just right for food shots.  All those big windows are also going to make taking photos of the kitchen a bit of a challenge, but I promise some kitchen photos will be coming soon!  The house still has quite a few boxes to get unpacked, but on Saturday my brother Rand and I hung pictures and arranged my collection of African art, so the house is starting to look like it's mine.

This Vegetarian Lentil Taco Salad with Tomatoes, Olive, and Avocado is a recipe I came up with after I had "lentil lettuce wrap tacos" on my to-cook list for months and months.  I think it was the Thai-Inspired Ground Turkey Larb Salad that gave me the idea to turn the lentil tacos into a lentil taco salad, but Rand, Jake, and I all gobbled this up, even though it came at the end of a day of recipe testing when none of us were overly hungry.  For this Meatless Monday recipe you can easily make the recipe vegan by cooking the lentils in vegetable stock and skipping the Ranch Dressing and cheese, which we all agreed were completely optional for the salad.  Please don't skip the step of seasoning the lentils with green chiles, cumin, taco seasoning, and hot sauce, because the taco-flavored lentils is what makes this recipe so flavorful. 

(You can find more meatless recipes by using the label Meatless Monday or checking Vegetarian Recipes in the recipe index.  I'm also doing a meatless slow cooker recipe each Monday on Slow Cooker from Scratch.  For more Meatless Monday ideas from other bloggers, follow our Meatless Monday board on Pinterest, or check Meatless Monday at BlogHer.)

Cook the lentils in 6 cups water until they are softened but not falling apart; drain well.

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil and saute chopped onion for a few minutes.  Then add green chiles, ground cumin, and Taco Seasoning and cook about 2 minutes more.

Add the lentils, 2 T of Green Tabasco Sauce or other hot sauce, and chicken stock or water and simmer just until the liquid has evaporated.  (Don't skip this step, which flavors the lentils.)

As soon as the liquid in the lentils has evaporated, turn off the heat and let lentils cool a little while you slice the green onions, olives, and tomatoes.

Also chop the avocado and toss with lime juice.

Coarsely chop enough romaine lettuce to make about 6 cups, then wash in salad spinner.  (Iceberg lettuce would also be great in this if you're an iceberg taco salad fan.)

When you're ready to toss the salad, it's important to use a really big bowl so you can mix it up.  Put the lettuce in the bowl and add the partly-cooled lentils over the lettuce.

Then use your best salad tossing equipment to toss the lettuce with the lentils so the taco flavoring ingredients coat the lettuce.  (This is what makes additional dressing optional in the salad.)

Then add tomatoes, green onions, and olives and toss again.  Serve salad immediately, with diced avocado (and optional Ranch Dressing and grated cheese if desired) to add at the table.

Vegetarian Lentil Taco Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Avocado
(Makes 4 generous taco salads; recipe created by Kalyn and Jake with inspiration from many lentil taco recipes seen around the web.)

Salad Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, cooked in 6 cups salted water
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 can (6 oz. drained weight) black olives, cut in half
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1-2 avocados, diced
2 T fresh-squeezed lime juice
6 cups chopped Romaine or Iceberg lettuce, washed and dried
Ranch Dressing for serving (optional)
grated cheese for serving (optional)

Lentil Seasoning Ingredients:
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 can (4 oz.) diced green chiles with juice (not jalapenos, unless you really like it spicy)
1 T ground cumin
1 T Kalyn's Taco Seasoning (or use your favorite purchased taco seasoning)
2 T (more or less to taste) Green Tabasco Sauce (or other hot sauce)
1/2 cup chicken stock or water

Put lentils, 6 cups water, and a little salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  When the water boils, reduce to a low simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes.   Drain lentils well.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the chopped red onion and saute for a few minutes, until the onion starts to soften.  Then add the can of diced green chiles with juice, ground cumin, and Kalyn's Taco Seasoning and saute about 2 minutes more.  Add the lentils, Green Tabasco Sauce, and chicken stock or water and simmer until the liquid has all evaporated (about 10 minutes.)  Turn off the heat and let the lentils partly cool while you prep the other ingredients.

While the lentils are cooling drain and slice the olives, cut tomatoes in half and slice the green onions.  Dice the avocado into smallish pieces and toss with the lime juice.  Coarsely chop the lettuce and wash/spin dry with salad spinner, or wash in the sink and dry with paper towels.

To assemble the salad, place the lettuce in a very large bowl with plenty of room to toss the ingredients.  Add the partly cooled lentils on top of the lettuce and toss well, so the spicy taco flavoring is coating quite a few of the lettuce pieces.  Add sliced olives, tomatoes, and sliced green onions and toss again.

Serve salad right away, with diced avocados (and Ranch Dressing and/or grated cheese) to add at the table as desired.

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South Beach Suggestions:
All the low-glycemic ingredients in this salad are a great choice for any phase of the South Beach Diet.  Lentils are a limited food for Phase One but if you stick with the recommended serving size you can eat this for Phase One.  (If you use the optional Ranch Dressing and cheese, they should be reduced fat varieties for South Beach.)
Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Vegetarian Foods with Mexican Flavors:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Lentil and Cauliflower Rice Tacos ~ Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Seven Layer Tostadas ~ Kalyn's Kitchen
Vegetable Soft Tacos with Chipotle Sour Cream ~ Eat Live Run
Easy Guacamole Tostadas ~ Kalyn's Kitchen
Vegetarian Taco Rice ~ La Fuji Mama
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!


  1. I love using lentils in tacos in place of meat! This salad sounds so tasty!

    And yay for all that light...I guess having too MUCH light is a good problem? Maybe you can put some kind of light cloth in front of the windows?

  2. Great idea! I never think to flavor lentils with Mexican seasonings. And I suppose, for those who must have their tacos in a tortilla, you could roll the whole thing up, lettuce and all, in a whole wheat or oat bran tortilla.

  3. Thanks Joanne; we did love it. And I do have vellum to filter the light on the windows, just don't have everything quite organized yet, lol!

    Lydia, this would be great in a taco shell, but I loved the simplicity of just eating it as a taco salad.

  4. I'm always looking for more ways to use lentils. This sounds fantastic!

  5. Thanks Becky. We definitely ate it up quickly.

  6. I came here yesterday looking for something to make for dinner, and saw this recipe -- and perfect! I had all of the ingredients on hand, and some of them really needed to be used. Anyway, I made this for dinner -- and LOVED it! I had the leftovers for lunch today -- equally yummy! Thanks for a fabulous recipe! I need to cook with less meat - and this is a perfect recipe. Even the kids liked it (for the most part. :))

  7. Oh my goodness, this was delicious, even though I substituted chick peas for lentils because I didn't have lentils on hand. This is definitely going into regular rotation this summer!

  8. Joann and Sheila, so glad you enjoyed it.

  9. This would be a great way to get my family to eat lentils.

  10. Barbara, you could even mix the lentils with meat if you don't care about it being vegetarian!

  11. oooh, can't wait to see the kitchen!! I don't use lentils enough I think I'd really love this!

  12. Deborah, we loved the salad. Hope you get to see the kitchen on Wednesday, but if not it will be online soon.

  13. Oh my goodness, these were so delicious! I ate them as you wrote the recipe, but turned to subterfuge to get my husbnad to eat them. He's anti-bean, so I added 1 cup of the lentil mixture to ground beef - he had no idea! Thank you, Kalyn, for a wonderful recipe!

  14. Louanne, so glad you enjoyed it, and I love the idea of combining lentils with ground beef.

  15. Ooooh, yum! This a perfect lunch salad for warmer weather. Pinning!

  16. this was so yum! thanks for sharing :)


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