This nourishing vegan taco salad is total food court nostalgia, with a super quick lentil walnut taco “meat” and a zesty vegan taco salad dressing made with fresh lime juice and tahini. Customize with your favourite toppings and you’ll have dinner in 20 minutes!

hand crushing tortilla chips on vegan taco salad
This super quick vegan taco salad will crush your nostalgic food court cravings!

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Growing up, dinner at the food court was a treat. I lived for New York Fries, Orange Julius and of course, Taco Time (we didn’t have Taco Bell in Canada when I was a kid!). So needless to say, I didn’t grow up eating the authentic Mexican cuisine that I now have access to in a big city. 

And my favourite thing at Taco Time? Yes, the tater tots…but also, the taco salad, in all of its creamy, cheesy, crunchy glory. And that’s what I wanted to recreate, but as a plant-based recipe. Because you don’t stop craving your childhood faves just because you go vegan!

This super quick vegan taco salad is the kind of meal you make when you’re tempted to get take out: something super tasty that doesn’t take a ton of energy to cook. We’re talking minimal chopping and just 20 minutes start to finish! Because honestly, this dietitian is a real lazy cook on a weeknight.

The base is a lentil walnut taco “meat” that you heat through on the stovetop with taco seasoning in 5 minutes flat. Inspired by the lentil walnut tacos in my book, Eat More Plants, I love this combination because lentils are protein rich  – each serving has about 14 grams of plant-based protein – with a “meaty” flavour and the walnuts add a firmer, more toothsome texture more like real ground.

For the vegan taco salad dressing, I opted out of a yogurt-based dressing as I find there is so much variation in the flavour of vegan yogurts. Instead, I use creamy, earthy tahini as the base and get that tang from fresh lime juice. It’s the perfect compliment to the full flavoured taco meat.

Once those two components are made, the variations on this salad are endless! Choose your favourite taco salad toppings or use this as an opportunity to use up whatever ingredients have been languishing in your fridge. It will be delicious no matter what you choose! And if you really want to switch it up – or you need a nut free option – you can use the tofu taco ground from my crumbled tofu taco recipe!

How to make this healthy vegan taco salad

All you need is 20 minutes for this protein and fibre-packed food court-style vegan taco salad! 

avocado, lentil, walnuts and lettuce in bowls
Endlessly customizable, with a 5 ingredient lentil-walnut taco meat as the base, this salad is super fun to eat!

Step One: gather your ingredients. For the lentil walnut taco meat, you’ll need lentils, walnuts, corn, tomato paste and taco seasoning (either store bought or homemade!). For the taco salad dressing, grab some tahini, fresh lime, maple syrup, garlic powder and chili powder. Then you’ll need your salad base – I like a mix of cabbage and romaine – and your favourite toppings…I’ve got some ideas below!

Step Two: whisk (or blend) up the creamy vegan dressing and set aside. You can make this in advance or, make a double batch to last the week!

Step Three: chop any salad toppings you’re using. Using pre-washed salad mixes and coleslaws will save time.

Step Four: warm through the lentil-walnut taco meat. Start by warming the lentils, walnuts and corn with oil in a large skillet until steaming, about 2-3 minutes. Then add the taco seasoning, tomato paste and water and simmer, stirring to combine, until the water is absorbed, another 2-3 minutes.

Step Five: assemble your salad and dig in! These make a great meal prep as salad jars too. Place your dressing on the bottom, followed by your lentil-walnut taco meat, your firmer toppings then your lettuces on top! They’ll keep well for 2-3 days. Just invert into a bowl, mix and enjoy. 

Customize your favourite taco salad toppings

This salad is SO flexible…so use whichever toppings you like! And if you want a change up from the lentil-walnut taco meat, you can use the taco ground from my low FODMAP tacos.

For the base, I like a crisp mix of shredded Romaine lettuce and shredded red cabbage but you can use any pre-washed salad mix you like to save even more time. 

When it comes to toppings, I crushed tortilla chips, vegan cheese shreds, tomatoes, pickled jalapenos and diced avocado for a mix of crunchy, cheesy, juicy, creamy and spicy! A few options for you to choose from:

  • Fresh: grated carrots, thinly sliced snap peas, diced jicama, thinly sliced bell peppers, diced cucumber, diced mango
  • Creamy: guacamole, vegan queso, vegan sour cream
  • Tangy/spicy: salsa, pickled jalapenos, quick pickled onions, black olives
  • Crunchy: fried jalapeno chips, crushed tortilla chips, spicy pepitas

Want to add even more protein? Add some black beans to each bowl. A ½ cup serving will add 8 grams of protein, for a total of 22 grams of plant-based protein (plus any other protein-rich toppings!)

More vegan Mexican- and Tex Mex-inspired meals

hand crushing tortilla chips on vegan taco salad

20 Minute Vegan Taco Salad with Creamy Dressing

This nourishing vegan taco salad is total food court nostalgia, with a super quick lentil walnut taco “meat” and a zesty vegan taco salad dressing made with fresh lime juice and tahini. Customize with your favourite toppings and you’ll have dinner in 20 minutes!
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Lentil Walnut Taco "Meat"

  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil, or any neutral flavoured oil
  • 2 cups cooked lentils
  • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste

Creamy Tahini Lime Dressing

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice, use 2 tbsp for less tang
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup, or sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Salad Ingredients…see blog for customizations!

  • 8 cups your favourite salad greens, I like shredded red cabbage and romaine
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup vegan cheese shreds
  • ¼ cup pickled jalapeno slices
  • 1 cup crushed tortilla chips


  • In a small bowl, whisk up the tahini, water, lime juice, maple syrup, chili powder, garlic powder and salt. Or, you can blend it with an immersion blender in a wide mouthed blending cup. Set aside.
  • Prep any salad ingredients: shred cabbage, slice veggies, crush chips. Set aside.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the lentils, walnuts and corn with oil until heated through, about 2-3 minutes. Add the water, taco seasoning and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally until the water is absorbed, about 2-3 minutes more.
  • Assemble your salads: place greens in bowls, add lentil-walnut taco meat and toppings and drizzle with dressing.