Deconstructed Vegetarian Tacos

Name: Courtney Hopf
Class Year: 2001
Country of Residence: England

Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory? 

This recipe was born out of a craving for the (completely inauthentic) tacos I ate as a kid and the general dearth of Mexican flavours to be found in the UK.  A few years into my life abroad I found myself desperately wanting an Upstate-NY-backyard-birthday-party taco and discovered I could get Old El Paso taco seasoning mix in my local supermarket.  I have always found crunchy tacos messy and annoying to eat, though, so I decided to turn it into a salad, with the added bonus being I could ramp up the lettuce and tomato content and pretend I was being healthy. 

Over the years I have tweaked it to make it vegetarian (though it still works great with minced beef if you prefer that!) and pumped up the flavours with extra chili, onion and garlic.  So yes, it’s tacky as hell, and you are basically using broken up tortilla chips as salad croutons. But that’s what makes it so satisfying.

Deconstructed Vegetarian Tacos

Serves 3. Takes approx. 30  minutes


  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small chili, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 packet Old El Paso original taco seasoning
  • 1 400g tin black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 400g tin beluga, puy or brown lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 200g tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small head of iceberg lettuce, roughly chopped
  • 80g cheddar, grated
  • 1 bag salted tortilla chips
  • Salsa, to taste


Heat olive oil on a medium-low flame in a large sauté or frying pan with high sides and add the chili. Roll it around for a minute to season the oil, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.  Add the onions and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about five minutes. 

Add the lentils and black beans and get everything mixed together, then add the packet of seasoning mix and 2/3 cup water (as per instructions on the packet).  Stir to coat.

Turn the flame to low and while the bean and lentil mixture reduces chop up your tomatoes and lettuce and shred the cheddar.

To assemble the salad, divide the lettuce into four bowls and add a large handful of tortilla chips to each.  I like to break up the chips with my hands and toss together with the lettuce.  Put a large scoop of the bean and lentil mixture in the middle and top with cheese so it can melt.  Scatter tomatoes and top off with dollops of salsa and/or sour cream if desired.

NB:  If you cooking for two instead of four, halve the lettuce, tomatoes and cheese and save half of the cooked bean and lentil mixture for another salad the next day; it keeps perfectly.

Vegetarian Tacos Cooking Vegetarian Tacos


Own invention

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