Thug Kitchen: Vegan Tacos


What is it about tacos?? They are the kind of thing you can eat with one hand, and you can pretty much make them with anything. They are a delicious, self-contained unit that includes all four food groups. And you know what else?? They’re really, really fun. There’s a reason many families have “do-it-yourself” taco nights–because building your taco and all the different flavour combinations make it so much fun.

vegan tacos thug kitchen

Any good taco has 5 great parts:

  1. Shell: some folks like the texture of a crispy shell, others appreciate the soft shell
  2. Protein: you can go with pretty much anything here. Traditionally, it’s cheaper cuts of meat, like ground beef or slow-roasted pork shoulder. Fish, of course, is awesome if you live on the ocean. But you can go vegetarian and vegan tacos, quite easily with a product like Yves Veggie Ground Round, or the lentil technique I’m about to show you.
  3. Veggies: veggies add texture and crunch. Traditionally, it’s lettuce, but I like a nice cabbage-based slaw, as well. Again, pretty much anything goes, here.
  4. Cheese: smoothes everything out, gives you that creamy mouthfeel. Easy enough to sub in a vegan cheese like Daiya if you are vegan or lactose-intolerant.
  5. Condiments: salsa, hot sauce, sour cream (if you need to cool it down), you can go as spicy or as mild as you like.

I made two different versions; one vegetarian taco, and one vegan taco. I used the same base recipe, made from black lentils. The vegan version I topped with a crunchy kale, green apple and jicima slaw, and the vegetarian option I topped more traditionally, with cheese, lettuce, tomato and sour cream.

vegan tacos
On the left, Vegan with a kale/jicima/apple slaw, on the right, more traditional toppings, including cheese, lettuce and tomato.

The great thing about this base is that you can let you imagination fly. You could create a tortilla pie (kind of like a Mexican version of lasagne) with it, or make it into enchiladas. It would also be great melted into quesadillas.

Thug Kitchen Vegan Tacos

(adapted from The Thug Kitchen Cookbook)

Ingredients for the base: 

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup black lentils (beluga), rinsed
  • 1 cube vegetable stock (or substitute the 3 cups water for your own homemade vegetable stock)
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, chopped small
  • 1 tbsp soy or tamari (to keep it gluten free)
  • 2 tbsp apple juice or cider
  • 1 package taco seasoning OR use the following spices to your taste: chili powder, cumin, chili flakes, paprika
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • additional water as needed


  1. Bring water (with vegetable stock cube dissolved in it) or stock to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the lentils and stir well. Bring to a simmer and cook, half-covered, for about half an hour, until tender. Drain the excess water off (if there’s any left) and reserve.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat, and then add in the onion. Stir well and allow to soften, about 3 minutes. If you are using fresh spices, and not a taco seasoning mix, now is the time to add them. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and cook until the mushrooms start to lose some of their liquid, about another 3 minutes. Add the lentils, soy sauce, and apple juice. Stir well, then add the taco seasoning, if using it. Add the apple juice and stir well.
  3. At this point, taste for seasonings, and more salt, pepper, chili or cumin if needed. I like to mash mine up a little with a potato masher or a fork so that they aren’t totally uniform. Add more water if you need to, to get the lentils to that stewy consistency.
  4. Serve with soft or hard taco shells, and your favourite toppings.



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