A spicy mix of lentils and walnuts is served up over greens in a crispy tortilla bowl to make this scrumptious vegan taco salad!
I don’t post many salad recipes on this site, and that’s because you guys don’t seem to get super excited over salads. I totally understand! I eat a ton of salad, but I don’t generally get super excited over it either. I don’t tend to click on salad recipes I see on the internet. A salad’s a salad, you know? I’m pretty capable of putting one together, and I don’t need some blogger to tell me how.
In order for me to get really excited about a salad, it has to be pretty darn special.
This salad is just about as special as it gets.
First, let’s talk vegan taco meat. A couple of years ago I made some lentil walnut chorizo, and the texture is still one of my favorites when it comes to DIY meatless meats. The filling for these taco salads is pretty much the same thing, but with some differences in seasonings. (If you’re a big fan of the chorizo, feel free to use it as your salad filling. I’m sure it will be good.)
Then there’s the crispy shell. Super important! When I waited tables in my younger days I worked at a place where we dished up taco salads in greasy fried taco bowls, and everybody loved them. In fact, more often than not, the customer would polish off the shell and leave me a plate of veggies to haul away. We’re not going to do that, because the fillings for these salads are way better than the ones I served up way back when, but the shell’s great too! You’ll eat the whole salad, if you can fit it, I’m sure!
Instead of frying my taco bowls, I baked them. (I can’t take credit for the idea, I’ve seen this done all over the internet for years, and used some guidance from this tutorial when making these bowls.) Just spritz a big flour tortilla with cooking spray, drape it into an oven safe bowl, and bake. You can also drape it into a tortilla bowl pan if you want super perfect looking bowls (obviously I didn’t go that route). Either way, it won’t be as crispy as something that’s been fried like crazy, but it’ll be delicious, and you’ll feel way better after eating it.
Lentil Walnut Vegan Taco Salad in a Crispy Tortilla Bowl
For the Crispy Tortilla Bowls
- 4 large (burrito size) flour tortillas
- Oil mister or cooking spray
For the Lentil Walnut Taco Filling
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 cups cooked brown lentils
- 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/3 cup tomato sauce
- Salt to taste
For the Avocado Dressing
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 cup unflavored soy or almond milk
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
- Salt to taste
For the Salad
- About 8 cups lettuce or your favorite salad greens
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup black olives
- Your favorite salsa and taco fixings
Make the Crispy Tortilla Bowls
- Preheat the oven to 400°. Use a mister or cooking spray to lightly coat both sides of a tortilla with oil. Drape it into a large oven safe bowl, or you can use a tortilla bowl pan. Repeat for the remaining tortillas. (You can work in batches if you need to. I used a couple of small stainless steel mixing bowls, and baked the tortillas 2 at a time).
- Bake until the tortillas are lightly browned around the edges, about 12 minutes. Carefully remove the bowls from the oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before removing the tortillas.
Make the Lentil Walnut Taco Filling
- Coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil and place it over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute more, until very fragrant.
- Add the lentils, walnuts, soy sauce, liquid smoke, cumin, ancho chile powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper to the skillet. Cook until the mixture dries up a bit, about 5 minutes, flipping occasionally and very gently with a spatula. Add the tomato sauce and cook about 2 minutes more. Season with salt to taste if desired.
Make the Avocado Ranch
- Place the avocado, milk, lime juice, and garlic into a blender and blend until smooth. Add the parsley, cilantro, and chives. Pulse until everything is finely chopped and mixed into the dressing. Season with salt to taste.
Assemble the Salads
- Divide the greens, cherry tomatoes, and olives among the tortilla bowls. Top with lentil walnut filling, a scoop of salsa, avocado ranch dressing, and any other taco fixings you'd like to use. Serve.
Tortilla bowls adapted from Livestrong