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Load Up On Lentils

By Alana Sugar, June 20, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Alana Sugar
I was a youngster the first time I had lentil soup – I’m guessing maybe 11 or 12 years old. I liked it a lot, and after that I always associated lentils with soup. Until one day I was “enlightened” by a younger (oh, horrors!) girl working at a health food store in Honolulu who declared: “Lentils aren’t just for soup.” Wow. My mom never made lentils, so how was I supposed to know? Once grown and on my own, I began experimenting and discovered one of my very favorite meals was a simple, yet hearty lentil loaf with a fresh green salad. Lentils are the world’s oldest cultivated legume, appearing on the scene somewhere in the neighborhood of 7000 BCE! The name comes from the fact that the shape of a “len”til looks like the “len”s of an eye. And, like eyes, lentils vary in color ranging from black to brown to reddish orange, coral, gold and slate green. They’re easy to prepare and cook more quickly than many other legumes. Different varieties have different textures and are generally used in different types of recipes. For example, brown and green lentils hold their shape well and are great for casseroles, salad, or to ladle over grains or potatoes, whereas split red or yellow lentils disintegrate easily when cooking and are perfect for soups and stews. Adding lentils to your diet is a tasty way to improve your health. Consider that they are high in fiber, packed with plant protein, low in fat and low on the glycemic index, which means they don’t cause a spike in blood sugar after eating. The USDA Nutritional database shows that one cup of cooked lentils contains:
  • 220 calories
  • 17 grams of protein
  • Less than 1 gram of fat
  • 15 grams of fiber
  • 0 cholesterol
  • Iron, phosphorus, folate and plenty of other good stuff
Lentils can help keep your digestive system working “regularly”, help you keep blood sugar levels healthy, and help you keep healthy cholesterol levels. How? The fiber they contain is both soluble and insoluble. Fiber also helps keep you fuller longer, which helps you eat less. While you can buy canned lentils, they are so easy to cook from dried that I really encourage you to give it a try. Here’s a basic recipe:
  • 1 cup washed and drained lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • Sea salt and pepper
Bring lentils and water to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until tender, about an hour. Drain excess liquid if needed. Add seasonings to taste. While lentils are for more than just soup, it can be a great place to start. Here are a couple to get you started: Hearty Lentil Soup and Lentil Soup with Smokey Ham. And here are some “more than soup” ideas: All varieties of lentils are good but my favorite is the little French green variety, also called Le Puy lentils. They are about 1/3 the size of the more common green lentils. Although originally cultivated in France, they are now grown in Italy and North America. They are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, similar to blueberries and black grapes. And they are high in minerals, especially iron and magnesium. Here’s a wonderful recipe for French Lentils with Onion and Carrot. Do you love lentils? Got a favorite lentil recipe? I’d love to hear about it!

 

19 Comments

Comments

Erika - In Erika's Kitchen says ...
I also prefer the lentils from Le Puy (which, actually, I first tried in Le Puy, France!). I like using them in this French-style lentil salad: http://www.inerikaskitchen.com/2009/01/romantic-lentils-of-le-puy.html Enjoy!
06/23/2010 10:10:38 AM CDT
Tina Ramirez says ...
Love lentils
06/23/2010 4:54:42 PM CDT
Steve Golden says ...
Here is one we love from Mark Bitt man. Spiced Red Lentil Dal 2 tablespoons peanut oil 1 large onion, chopped 1 cup dried red lentils, washed and picked over 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 tablespoon mustard seeds 2 cloves 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper Salt 2 tablespoons cold butter (optional) Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish. 1. Put oil in a skillet over medium high heat; when it is hot, add onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes; set aside. 2. Meanwhile, combine all remaining ingredients except the salt, butter and cilantro in a saucepan. Add water to cover by about 1 inch, and bring to a boil. Adjust heat so mixture bubbles gently, and cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, until lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and more pepper and keep cooking to desired tenderness. Lentils should be saucy but not soupy. 3. Remove cloves from pan and add reserved sautéed onion. Stir in butter if you are using it. Taste and adjust seasoning, then garnish with cilantro and serve. Yield: 4 servings. NYT Bittman And another we got from the back of a bag of lentals Lentil Sausage Soup 2T Olive Oil 2 cups sliced leeks (some green) (I used onions) 1T minced garlic 1T salt 1t dried thyme (I used 4 sprigs fresh) 1/2t pepper 1/2t fresh ground cumin seeds 1 1/2 cups carrots 1/2 cups celery 6 cups chicken broth 16 oz lentils 2T tomato paste 1 lbs kielbasa in slices (I used Italian Sausage) Heat oil Saute sausage set aside, saute leeks,garlic, salt when leeks are soft add carrots ,celery, cumin, pepper,thyme after 5 more minutes add chicken stock, lentils and tomato paste simmer 50 minutes add sausage simmer 10 minutes more 6 servings
06/23/2010 9:00:27 PM CDT
Alicia Kirschenheiter says ...
Food exploration is great. I was never a fan of beans of any variety growing up. Now that I am older and vegetarian, I had to live and learn a variety of better food choices for myself. Great article.
06/27/2010 10:38:36 PM CDT
Sarah says ...
Not a specific recipe, but my absolute favorite thing to do with lentils - sloppy lentils! Just cook a cup of dried lentils. Stir into whatever sloppy joe sauce you want! I usually make my own with tomato sauce, ketchup, chopped very finely & sauteed onion/garlic/green pepper, Tabasco, red wine vinegar, and dijon mustard. So good, and the texture emulates meat relatively well, too. One of my absolute favorite meals. :)
06/28/2010 12:06:25 AM CDT
Deborah says ...
The sloppy lentils is a great idea, Sarah! Thanks for the tip. :)
06/30/2010 9:44:59 AM CDT
Patti says ...
I LOVE lentils any way they're cooked! So good for you, so tasty, so frugal!
06/30/2010 9:48:38 AM CDT
Paul says ...
I never had lentils until I had to change my diet about 1 1/2 years ago. Now I feel like I was deprived all those years :) As Patti said, they are great just about any way you cook them. I've really enjoyed trying out all the different types, of which there are many. They have fantastic health benefits, and I make them in some form at least once a week. Thanks for the burger recipe!
07/04/2010 7:57:30 AM CDT
Jane says ...
I substitute lentils for beans in chili recipes; they taste great and make a great chili for chili dogs, etc. My family much prefers them over regular chili beans.
07/17/2010 6:44:35 PM CDT
Katie says ...
Dear Alana, Would it be possible to obtain the recipe for Whole Foods' "Biblical Lentils," which are available at the store in La Jolla, CA? They are delicious! Thanks! Katie
05/04/2011 12:07:03 AM CDT
bepkom says ...
@Katie: Our stores and regions create their own recipes, which we don't keep record of. Please contact the La Jolla store and ask if they'll share the recipe with you. Thanks!
05/04/2011 9:53:47 AM CDT
lizzy says ...
I too would LOVE the biblical lentil recipe from la jolla... they are the best!! i went to the store and asked, but they said they dont give out their recipes :(
11/24/2012 8:02:30 PM CST
Jaag says ...
I second the comment about Biblical Lentils at La Jolla. Can you please share the recipe for it?
11/25/2012 10:34:54 AM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@LIZZY & @JAAG - Wow, those lentils must be amazing! I was not able to find anything on our overall website for the recipe but the La Jolla store might be able to offer up a recipe, since it's probably something they developed. You can reach them directly at 858.642.6700.
11/26/2012 1:46:39 PM CST
Maria says ...
Is it possible to prepare lentils in advance? For example, I generally do all of my prep for a week (or longer sometimes) in one day. Could I take a pound or two of lentils and prepare them as indicated in the "Basic Recipe" and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer? If so, what would be the time perimeters and how would I go about packaging them? Thanks!
09/21/2013 4:47:20 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@MARIA - You can definitely make them in advance! You can keep them in the fridge for up to 5 days and you can freeze them. I would suggest if you freeze them to try to get as much of the air out of the package that you store it in as possible.
09/23/2013 11:40:00 AM CDT
Kimberly Duke says ...
Whold Foods corporate: Please publish a 'Best of' Whole Foods cookbook. I'd buy it for the "Biblical Lentils" recipe alone.
02/02/2014 3:02:13 PM CST
Sam Petronakis says ...
I cant seem to find the 365 Organic black lentils in any of your stores,. Why were they discontinued? All my friends are upset and so am I that we cant buy them at whole foods any more
04/09/2014 4:34:28 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@SAM - Have no fear...they have not been discontinued. They are just temporarily out of stock and should be back on the shelves in the next few weeks!
04/10/2014 2:09:41 PM CDT