Don’t love lentils? We’re here to convince you otherwise. People have been eating lentils for millennia; they’re common in Mediterranean, Asian and Indian cuisines.
That’s no surprise: These tiny legumes are packed with dietary fiber, protein and valuable nutrients including folate and magnesium, so they’re healthful additions to your plate. In fact, they are one of the best meatless protein sources.
Beyond those benefits, though, they’re just delicious: pleasantly earthy in flavor, with a hearty texture that’s really satisfying. (In fact, if you don’t love lentils, you may have found them mushy and overcooked.) Lentils are typically sold dried—you’ll find black (Beluga), red, green or French (du Puy) varieties—and they’re super easy to cook and incredibly versatile. Here are 10 great ways to make lentils a healthy part of your diet:
Lentils 1, 2, 3
Think 1, 2, 3: 1 cup of dried lentils plus 2 cups of water yields about 3 cups of cooked lentils. You can double or reduce the amounts to suit your recipe. Lentils freeze beautifully, so you’re smart to cook a double batch and freeze what you don’t use right away.
Cooking Lentils, Part 1
To cook black, green or French lentils: Place the dried lentils in a colander and rinse under cool water; pick out any debris or shriveled lentils. Bring lentils, water and a generous pinch of salt to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Begin tasting for doneness after 20 minutes; you want the lentils cooked al dente, like pasta—cooked through, but not at all mushy.
Cooking Lentils, Part 2
Red and orange (and some green) lentil varieties are commonly split, so they cook much faster than their darker cousins. Also, they get softer with cooking, almost disintegrating, so red and orange lentils are great for soups or for Indian dishes. Use the same proportions of water and lentils, and cook for about 10 minutes.
Lentil Soup with Spicy Italian Sausage
Bacon or sausage are flavorful partners to lentils, and this easy soup features big chunks of root vegetables and rounds of cooked Italian sausage; substitute chicken sausage if you’d like.
Lentil Vegetable Soup
Soup is what most people associate with lentils, and here’s a great vegetarian version, with garlic, onion and carrots. The recipe calls for soaking the lentils overnight, though that’s not necessary.
Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup
Another variation on lentil soup, this one is a real favorite. It’s super quick to make if you use already cooked lentils from your freezer. A topping of saffron-infused yogurt makes this lentil soup recipe really sing.
Herbed Bulgur and Lentil Salad
Lentils have tons of uses beyond the traditional soup. This hearty salad—perfect as a dinner side or as a take-to-work lunch—packs plenty of whole-grain fiber and protein, with a zingy dressing of garlic, lemon and olive oil.
Lentil Salad with Chard and Tomatoes
This salad was inspired by the Lively Up soup recipe above; it makes a great lunch option that can help you stay full and fueled all afternoon. Pack it along with some baked pita chips and hummus. Photo courtesy of writes4food.com
Lentil and Chickpea Burgers
Lentils form the basis of a great veggie burger. This SparkPeople member recipe blends cooked lentils and canned chickpeas, lots of spice and some bread crumbs to hold it all together. Cook these burgers in a skillet.
Salmon with Lentils
These little legumes make a lovely bed for a piece of grilled or oven-roasted salmon, in a super heart-healthy combination. Sauté diced onion, carrot and celery in olive oil; season well with salt and pepper and toss with cooked French lentils. Serve a generous spoonful of lentils and vegetables, with the fish on top.
What is your favorite way to eat lentils?