This time of year I tend to do a bit of head scratching when it comes to what to make for dinner. Not that I don’t have plenty to choose from; the issue is more that I don’t know what I want to eat. On the one hand, spring’s just begun and we’re getting a ton more daylight than just a few short weeks ago. I’m starting to get excited for lighter meals that are packed with veggies. On the other hand, most days there’s still a nip in the air, and most of my favorite summer produce isn’t yet in season.
I guess that’s why the whole meal-in-a-bowl concept is so popular in spring. Is it just me, or are these things all over the place this time of year? It makes perfect sense if you think about it: a bowl is kind of like a salad, but still packed with warm, hearty comforting ingredients. The best of both worlds, and the really awesome part is that you can adjust the degrees of light and salady versus cozy and filling, depending on what kind of day your having.
With this recipe in particular, go right ahead and load up on the lentils and roasted veggies if things are cold and gloomy, or salad things up a bit on warmer days. The only real requirements are the lentils, tortilla strips and tahini cheese sauce, so be sure to include them all. Lentils are a perfect taco filling, or in this case taco bowl filling, because they’ve got a natural savory flavor and crumbly texture. The tahini cheese sauce is something I discovered inadvertently a while back when I was looking for something to dress some veggies in. As it turns out, adding just the right combination of spicy, salty and sour elements to tahini makes it taste a lot like nacho cheese. The tortilla strips are key to creating a “taco” you can eat with a fork. They’re incredibly delicious, easy, and dangerous in that you might be tempted to snack them all away before these bowls hit the table. Make extra!
For the lentil taco filling:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ medium red onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
- 1 cup dried brown lentils
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- Salt & pepper to taste
For the roasted veggies:
- 3 cups cauliflower florets about 1 small crown
- 1 red bell pepper sliced into strips
- ½ medium red onion sliced into strips
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the tahini cheese sauce:
- ¼ cup tahini
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes optional, but recommended for cheesy flavor
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 teaspoons sriracha
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
- ½ cup unflavored soy or almond milk or water
For the tortilla strips:
- 6 corn tortillas sliced into ½-inch wide strips
- Olive oil mister or cooking spray
- 4 cups shredded lettuce
- 1 medium tomato seeded and diced
Make the lentil taco filling:
- Coat the bottom of a medium saucepan with oil and place it over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin and ancho chile powder. Cook 1 minute more, until fragrant. Add the broth and lentils, and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 30 minutes, adding a bit of water to the pot during cooking if needed. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Make the roasted veggies:
- While the lentils simmer, preheat oven to 400°F. Place the cauliflower, bell pepper and onion into a roasting pan or oven-safe skillet. Add the olive oil and toss to coat. Place in oven and roast until the cauliflower is tender and browned in spots, about 25 minutes, flipping once about halfway through cook time. Remove from oven and toss with lime juice and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Make the tortilla strips:
- Arrange the tortilla strips on a parchment-lined baking sheet and lightly spray with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Place in the oven with the veggies and bake until the strips begin to brown and crisp, about 8 minutes.
Make the tahini cheese sauce:
- Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl, thinning with as much water or milk as needed to reach desired consistency. Taste test and adjust seasonings to your liking.
Assemble the bowls:
- Divide the lettuce among 4 bowls, then top with diced tomatoes, lentils, roasted veggies and tortilla strips. Drizzle with tahini cheese sauce and serve.
Add any or all of your favorite taco toppings, like avocado slices, jalapeño peppers or jarred salsa.
Made this tonight, it was delicious, even my non-vegetarian husband really enjoyed it, so thank you. Just a quick question- How do you get the tahini to thin out? It remained somewhat chunky in the sauce despite whisking.
Thanks Lindsay! So happy to hear it! With tahini, I've noticed that certain brands tend to separate heavily, and the separated ones can be impossible to smooth out. Also, the older a jar of tahini is, the more it separates. So maybe try a different brand and when you're buying it check the dates and shake the jars around a bit to see if they feel bottom heavy. I've also heard that storing the jar upside down prevents separation.
Hi Alissa, love this recipe!
Made sunday night as a sort of festive dinner because my boyfriend came home from a weekend trip.
It was awesome 🙂 and we had more than enough for lunch the next day.
Normally I do not spice my lentils when I cook them, but it was way tastier like this.
A few things to mention:
I only used 4 (big) tortillas for the chips and it was more than enough!
The tahini cheese sauce I made with my small blender (I think comparable to a magic bullet) and it was very smooth. Even a little thin for me, but that's just a matter of taste. Next time I will probably make more of the sauce as it was also great to dip the tortilla chips in 🙂
Thanks a lot for and I will be making this again for sure.
Awesome! Glad you hear you enjoyed it! I use the sauce as a dip too - it's become my favorite quick vegan cheese substitute. 🙂
If you're not vegan I recommend making a real cheese sauce. I was feeling like a more traditional 'taco salad' (though love the healthy components of this) and the tahini didn't work for me. It's really strong and I tried mellowing it out with more milk and cheddar cheese but still all I could taste was tahini. I like the idea of using lentils and roasted veges as the base and would make this again but with a different sauce, just plain ol' cheese.
Ah! Sorry you weren't into the tahini sauce. I usually find the flavor of tahini to be pretty mild, but I know plenty of people who find it to be bitter or the sesame flavor overpowering. Regular cheese sounds like a good swap for anyone that isn't vegan. Glad you enjoyed the other parts of this recipe.
So funny how I never the read the name at the top of a post before reading it. And EVERY TIME I get super excited about a recipe (like this taco bowl...) it is either Alyssa or Kiersten! You ladies share my taste for food! Great job!
I'm blushing! Thank you so much Anie!!
Done! I tried it and it was delicious. The day before I added some garlic to the "cheese" sauce and let it sit in the fridge. Also added big pieces of mushroom to the grilled veggies. Yummy! Thanks Alyssa.
Yay! Glad you enjoyed it! Those sound like awesome additions too!