Friends, I’m so excited to share this recipe with you! What started as a “tempeh taco ‘meat’” experiment/flop turned into a major success.
Without further ado, let’s make vegan “barbacoa!”
I was initially hoping to make tempeh taco meat. But because tempeh benefits from some sweetness in a marinade/sauce, I just couldn’t get the flavor right.
So I pivoted and remembered how the mixture of carrots and lentils in my Best Vegan Pulled “Pork” Sandwich blew me away. I decided to try to morph that recipe into vegan “barbacoa.” Total win!
The base of this 1-pot recipe is onion, garlic, shredded carrots, and cooked lentils (I used canned to save time). The smokiness comes from ground smoked paprika, cumin, and cloves. And the heat comes from chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – a favorite ingredient for adding smoky, earthy spice.
To balance the spice and smokiness, I added some coconut sugar for sweetness, lime juice and apple cider vinegar for acidity, and coconut aminos for that “umami” flavor. Then I let it simmer to deepen in color and flavor until it was tender, delectable, and insanely flavorful. Like whoa.
I hope you guys LOVE this “barbacoa!” It’s:
Easy to make
& Super delicious
This would make the perfect topping for dishes like tacos, taco salads, nachos, and more! And I think it would be insanely delicious inside enchiladas (added to my recipe list!) and taquitos.
This barbacoa is delicious on its own, but it would also pair extremely well with things like my 5-Ingredient Ginger Beer Margaritas, 10-Minute Chimichurri Sauce, Mexican Quinoa Salad, Kale Chip Nachos, Vegan Mexican 7-Layer Dip, and Grilled Corn with Sriracha Aioli. And if you’re into vegan meat substitutes, be sure to check out my Eggplant Bacon, Coconut Bacon, Tempeh Breakfast Sausage, and Quinoa Taco Meat!
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive or grape seed oil (or sub water)
- 1/2 white or yellow onion (55 g), minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups (300 g) cooked green or brown lentils (I used canned, rinsed and drained)
- 1 1/2 cups packed (200 g) finely shredded/grated carrots (I used my food processor + grater attachment)
- 2-3 Tbsp (24-36 g) coconut sugar or organic brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp each salt and black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1 1/2 tsp ground smoked paprika
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (canned) + 1-3 tsp adobo sauce (more or less to preferred spice level)
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) coconut aminos (or sub 1 Tbsp (15 ml) tamari or soy sauce if not GF)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) lime juice
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) water (more as needed)
- optional: 2 bay leaves
- Corn or flour tortillas
- Shredded red cabbage
- Sliced radish
- Lime wedges
- Hot sauce / Salsa / Chimichurri
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add oil (or water), onion, and garlic. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, or until tender and slightly browned.
- Next, add cooked lentils, carrots, coconut sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, cumin, cloves, oregano, chipotle peppers + adobo sauce (start with 1 tsp for low spice level), coconut aminos, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, water, and bay leaves (optional). Stir to combine.
- Cover and cook over medium-low heat for at least 15 minutes (or up to 30-40 minutes on low heat) or until the carrots are tender and the color has deepened. Stir occasionally and add more water as needed if it dries up.
- Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more paprika or cumin for smokiness, salt for saltiness, coconut sugar for sweetness, lime for acidity, coconut aminos for “umami” flavor, or chipotle peppers for spice. I added more chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, coconut aminos, lime, paprika, and salt.
- Optional: Scoop half of the mixture into a food processor and (using the “s”-shaped blade) mix/pulse to mash some of the lentils and carrots together. This creates a more cohesive texture, which I prefer.
- Serve the mixture on tortillas (I used corn tortillas heated over an open flame for 20 seconds on each side). For toppings, I went with shredded red cabbage, sliced radish, and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges or hot sauce for more flavor.
- Store leftover “barbacoa” covered in the refrigerator for 4-5 days or up to 1 month in the freezer. Reheat on the stovetop until hot, adding water as needed to add moisture back in.