Frugal, Easy Filling for Tacos, Burritos, Taquitos & More
Here’s a frugal, healthy meal that takes no time to prepare and is incredibly versatile. This 5-minute recipe is the foundation for Burrito Bowls, Tacos, Nachos, Dip, Burritos, Taquitos, and Chimichangas. It even gets away with being meatless.
3 Key players make this dinner a winner:
The slow cooker takes this baby from 1 hour of preparation (in my world, needing to watch the pot for boiling and burning is extra work) to 5 minutes. Then I forget it until dinner time.
If you’ve never tried these tiny brown legumes, you’re missing a frugal goldmine. Versatile, tasty, and quick to prepare, lentils bring the frugality of dried beans into the budget without the need for overnight soaking.
In my opinion, spices are a game changer when preparing a crowd-pleasing meatless meal. This recipe brings one of my favorites to play – paprika – in addition to the classic chili powder and cumin we associate with tacos.
- 1 1/2 cups brown lentils, dried
- 1 cup rice (white or brown)
- 1/2 cup quinoa (or more rice)
- 1 cup tomato sauce (One 8-oz can)
- 1 tbsp minced onion (or 1 cup fresh onion, diced)
- 1 tbsp oregano, dried
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 8 cups broth or water (chicken, beef, and vegetable stock work here)
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients but toppings in a slow cooker. Stir well.
Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 3-5 hours.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve as desired (see Recipe Notes).
The fastest and most allergy-friendly variation of this recipe is to simply spoon the filling into bowls, and top it as desired. This is our go-to.
Very similar to burrito bowls, but this makes a very frugal dish to bring to a party. Simply spoon the warm mixture into a glass baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese first (to let it melt), then layer salsa, sour cream, and any other desired toppings. Shredded lettuce, black olives, banana peppers, diced tomatoes, and cilantro are our favorites. Spoon onto plates and serve with tortilla chips.
Spoon filling onto a bed of shredded lettuce. Top with tomatoes, peppers, black olives, banana peppers, shredded cheese, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream.
Serve the lentils and rice in taco shells or tortillas. Top as desired.
Spread tortilla chips on a baking sheet in one layer. Spoon a thin layer of lentils and rice over them. Top with salsa and shredded cheese (black olives, jalepenos, and banana peppers taste great here too). Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional toppings as desired.
Spoon 1/2 cup lentils and rice onto the middle of a large tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese and 2 tbsp. salsa. Follow these instructions to win at folding a burrito. Line burritos in a cake pan (seam side down to keep the filling inside), sprinkle with cheese, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Alternatively, you can warm them individually on a griddle, turning to heat and crisp evenly. Serve with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole, as desired.
Make burritos, but instead of baking, fry them in a little oil until lightly golden brown, turning them with a spatula to brown both sides. Serve with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole, as desired.
Spoon 1/3 cup lentils and rice onto the middle of a large tortilla. Spread evenly until it is an inch from the edges. Sprinkle with cheese and 2 tbsp. salsa. Gently roll the tortillas into a long tube. Line them up in a cake pan (seam side down to keep the filling inside), brush with a little oil, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes, until edges are a light golden brown. You can also warm them on a griddle, turning to heat and crisp evenly. Serve with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole, as desired.
If you want to add meat, simply stir 1-2 cups of browned ground beef, turkey or shredded cooked chicken in the crockpot after cooking. You can add it before, but I think it tastes overcooked after sitting in the slow cooker that long.
You can also toss an uncooked chicken breast into the crockpot, let it bake with the lentils and rice, then use two forks to shred it before serving.
Leftovers make a great freezer meal. Here are two simple methods:
- Spoon the filling into a freezer bag, squeeze out the extra air, and smooth it out until the bag lays flat (it's easier to store and faster to thaw this way). Store in freezer, thaw overnight, and use for any variation listed above.
- Wrap filling in soft tortillas for burritos or taquitos. Line them seam side down in a freezer bag and lay flat in the freezer. You can heat them immediately after removing them from the freezer. Simply bake a little longer. You can also warm them on a griddle, turning to heat and crisp evenly.