Shake up taco night with these quick and easy lentil tacos. That’s right, I said lentils. As crock pot recipes go this is about as easy as it gets. It only take a few minutes to prepare the ingredients then the crock pot does the rest.
- Super easy recipe for a yummy family dinner.
- High in fiber and protein. Very low in fat.
- Easy to double the recipe for a crowd or to freeze for later.
I love talking about food (particularly ways to make healthy eating more attractive and attainable) which is a good thing since it is not unusual for me to strike up a conversation with a stranger and suddenly be listening stories of their struggles with healthy eating.
I talk to people about their diet and eating habits on a daily basis. There are unique challenges but there are also many common struggles. Lately I find myself offering the same advice over and over: eat lentils.
- To a vegetarian who struggles to eat enough protein – eat lentils.
- To an expectant mother who needs iron and fiber – eat lentils.
- To a busy mom who needs a quick and healthy dinner – eat lentils.
- To my frustrated friend who wants to host dinner for her extended family with numerous dietary restrictions, you guessed it – cook them lentils.
Over and over I suggest lentils as the solution to common healthy eating struggles. A power house of nutrients, lentils are one of the super-est of the super foods and they are quick and easy to cook (simmer with water until tender).
It turns out my advice is not only practical it is trendy. Throughout 2016, the United Nations is celebrating the International Year of Pulses. Pulse is the broad term for dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), and lentils.
The trouble is, most people I talk to eat a fairly typical American diet which does not include lentils. Many have had lukewarm to unpleasant encounters with a greyish-green bowl of lentil soup that dampened any interest in revisiting lentils as a whole. When I encourage anyone to try an unfamiliar food I look for ways to make an easy swap rather than an abrupt change.
Which leads me to another reason I love lentils! These little legumes are a fantastic blank slate for seasonings. You don’t have to buy the muddy green ones either. There are all sorts of varieties; some are better for soups while others make lovely salads, and all lentils are excellent flavor sponges.
In our house taco night is always a big hit. The kids and I love it for the same reason, everyone gets to make their own meal. Most of the ingredients for tacos are set out in individual containers, cheese, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo or salsa, and so on. However, the protein is made from scratch specifically to fill our tacos.
Not long ago I decided to break out of the usual routine and replaced our ground beef with lentils. I also made things super quick and easy by cooking the lentils in the crock-pot for a few hours. While they simmered the lentils absorbed the familiar taco seasoning flavors so when the kids arrived home that evening they immediately wanted to know what smelled so good. Truthfully, I expected the kids to take one look at the lentil taco filling and reach for the cheese.
Uninhibited by any cool factor, my two-year-old dug right in making quick work of his first taco. My 6 year-old has become much more discerning about his food and cast some very suspicious glances at the lentils before reluctantly agreeing to an adventure bite. We were all surprised when his eyes lit up and he plopped a big spoonful onto his tortilla. Both boys eagerly asked for seconds. While they gobbled their traditionally assembled lentil tacos, I made myself a taco salad with nice scoop of taco flavored lentils in the middle. No plate was exactly the same and everyone was happy.
If lentils sound way out of your comfort zone but tacos are staple on the weekly menu, I highly suggest giving this recipe a try. Lentil tacos won’t be the same as your usual ground beef fare but you may find they are quite enjoyable and that is a darn good place to start.
- 1 cup dry red lentils
- 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, no salt added
- 2 medium carrots, finely grated
- 1 small red onion, finely grated
- 1 tbsp low-sodium taco seasoning
- 2 cups water
- Place all ingredients in a 4-quart crockpot and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Serve with avocado crema your favorite taco accompaniments.