If a tasty, easy--but fun--recipe for Cinco de Mayo is what you're looking for, you can't go wrong with these Vegan Enchiladas with Smoky Lentils.
Food doesn't get any better than this: soft corn tortillas are dunked in a bright red, flavorful enchilada sauce, stuffed with a smoky mix of lentils, carrots, leeks and celery, smothered in vegan cheese and baked until the edges are crispy and the cheese is melting and golden-brown.
Serve with toppings like salsa and guacamole and you have a winning recipe that'll have everyone begging for more.
I took inspiration for my vegan lentil stuffing from these creamy vegan lentils with ancho that I shared with you in the past. But I did tweak it to make it simpler as I was making these on a weeknight and speed was important. Instead of the ancho paste, I used chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce which also add smokiness and heat.
There's more smokiness in the enchilada sauce with smoked paprika and oregano. I smothered it all in vegan cheese shreds because I cook in the real world for a real preteen and sometimes I need to give a little to get him to eat and lick his plate clean.
Try it, and let me know if you do. I know this is going on my regular rotation for easy meals that everyone loves.
Why you'll love these vegan enchiladas
- They're delicious, with so many explosively flavorful elements layered on top of each other.
- They're healthy. Lentils and veggies--it doesn't get any better than that.
- They're easy to make. You can make the enchilada sauce and the lentils ahead of time and just put it all together before eating. Even if you were to make everything from scratch the same day, you shouldn't need more than an hour, with some clever planning, to make these.
- They're kid-friendly. If you have little ones around, you can be sure they will love 'em. There are so many amazing flavors here and colors, and the golden-brown crispy cheese and edges are sure to have them coming back for seconds--and thirds.
- The tortillas: Corn tortillas work best for enchilada casseroles, and are traditional. However, you can use flour tortillas if you'd rather.
- The lentils: I used brown lentils here. French puy lentils work just as well. You can also use another legume, like black beans or pinto beans. For the stuffing, in addition to the lentils you will need leeks (or onions), carrots, celery, garlic, ground cumin, oregano, paprika and chipotle chilis in adobo sauce.
- The red enchilada sauce: This is a divine sauce, so full of flavor, but it's also incredibly easy to make. All you need to do is make a roux with oil and flour, whisk up the remaining ingredients -- smoked paprika, tomato paste, onion powder or flakes, oregano, garlic powder, ground cumin, salt and ground black pepper-- in a bowl. Add this to the roux, and let it all cook until it boils and thickens.
- The cheese: I used Daiya vegan mozzarella shreds, but any other vegan brand would work just as well.
How to make vegan enchiladas
- Assemble your ingredients and cookware: There are a few different things you will need here, so make sure you have everything on hand before you begin. This includes the ingredients, two saucepans--a small one for the red enchilada sauce and a bigger one for the lentils--and the baking dishes (this recipe makes about 16 enchiladas and I needed two baking dishes to fit them all in).
- Make the lentils: Begin by making the lentils, which need the most time. Chop all the vegetables--leeks or onions, carrots and celery--in small pieces, you don't want big chunks in the filling. Saute the veggies with the garlic and ground cumin, then add the lentils and water or vegetable stock. Let the lentils cook about 15 minutes or until tender (they don't need to be mushy), then stir in the ancho chili and paprika. Cook until the lentils are quite dry and almost all of the visible moisture has evaporated. Set aside to cool.
- Make the enchilada sauce: While the lentils are cooking, whisk tomato paste, 2 cups water, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, ground cumin and salt and ground black pepper in a bowl. Heat oil in a small saucepan and add the flour. Let it cook a couple of minutes over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it becomes grainy and browns a little. Lower the heat and gently pour in the tomato-spice mix from the bowl. Whisk in the flour until there are no lumps visible, and let the sauce come to a boil. Whisk again and let it cook a couple more minutes before turning off the heat. Let the sauce cool a bit as you will need to dip the tortillas in it.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Assemble the enchiladas: This is the fun part. Divide half the lentil filling between the two baking dishes and spread it in an even layer in each dish. Make an assembly line with the tortillas, enchilada sauce and lentil stuffing. Dip each tortilla into the enchilada sauce so it has a light coating of the sauce on both sides (if you prefer you can just use a spoon to smear sauce on both sides of the tortilla). Place the tortilla on a plate, spoon in two tablespoons of the lentil stuffing, and roll it up into a tight cylinder. Place it in the baking dish and repeat with the remaining tortillas. I could accommodate eight tortillas in each baking dish I used, for a total of 16.
Sprinkle eight ounces of vegan mozzarella shreds on top of the enchiladas.
Place the baking dishes in the oven and bake 20 minutes or until the cheese is melting. Turn on the broiler for three to five minutes so the cheese melts further and browns a bit, and the edges of the tortilla get really crispy. Keep a close eye on the enchiladas at this stage because you don't want anything to burn.
Serve the enchiladas hot.
Vegan Enchiladas with Smoky Lentils
- Small saucepan for enchilada sauce
- Big saucepan for lentil stuffing
- Two baking dishes for 16 tortillas, or a very large one. I used two.
For the lentil stuffing
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 leek (green and white parts finely chopped. Can sub with an onion)
- 1 large carrot (finely chopped)
- 2 stalks celery (finely chopped)
- 4 cloves garlic (crushed into a paste or finely minced)
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 cup brown lentils (dry, rinsed in running water)
- 1 chipotle chili (with 1 tbsp of the adobo sauce. Use more or less based on your heat preference)
- 1 tsp paprika
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste.
For the enchilada sauce
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp all purpose flour (or gf all purpose flour or rice flour if gluten-free)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 6 oz tomato paste
- 1 tsp onion powder (or flakes)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 16 6-inch corn tortillas
- 8 oz vegan mozzarella shreds
- 2 tbsp cilantro (for garnish)
- Tomato salsa
Make the lentil stuffing
- Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, oregano and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and saute until the onions are transclucent and just beginning to brown, about five minutes.
- Add the cumin and oregano and stir it in. Add lentils to the pot and stir in 3 cups water or vegetable stock. Let the lentils come to a boil. Cover and let them cook at a simmer for 15 minutes or until tender (they don't need to be mushy).
- Stir in the ancho chili and paprika. Leave the lid off this time and continue to cook the lentils until all of the visible moisture has evaporated. Set aside to cool.
Make the enchilada sauce
- Whisk tomato paste, 2 cups water, smoked paprika, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, ground cumin and salt and ground black pepper in a bowl
- Heat the oil in a small saucepan and add the flour. Cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until grainy and light brown.
- Lower the heat further. Add the tomato-spice sauce in the bowl to the roux, whisking at the same time to break up any lumps. You can stop whisking once the sauce looks smooth.
- Once the sauce comes to a boil whisk once more and let it cook a couple of minutes before turning off. Set aside to cool.
Assemble the enchiladas
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Divide half the lentil filling between the two baking dishes and spread it in an even layer in each dish. Make an assembly line with the tortillas, enchilada sauce and remaining half of the lentil stuffing.
- Dip each tortilla into the enchilada sauce so it has a light coating of the sauce on both sides (if you prefer you can just use a spoon to smear sauce on both sides of the tortilla). Place the tortilla on a plate, spoon in two tablespoons of the lentil stuffing, and roll it up into a tight cylinder. Place it in the baking dish and repeat with the remaining tortillas. I could accommodate eight tortillas in each pf the two baking dishes I used, for a total of 16.
- Sprinkle eight ounces of vegan mozzarella shreds on top of the enchiladas.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes turn on the broiler and let the enchiladas continue to cook until the cheese starts to brown and edges of the enchiladas look crispy, no more than three to five minutes. Keep a close eye on them as things can burn easily under the broiler.
- Garnish the enchiladas with cilantro. Serve hot with guacamole and salsa.