Lentils are my favorite go-to protein for fast, healthy, tummy-pleasing meals. Unlike many other legumes, lentils cook quickly and generally don’t require soaking. They’re ideal for vegetarians (Lentil Sloppy Joes opens in a new tab) as well as omnivores (Lentils with Cauliflower and Chicken Sausage opens in a new tab) — adding flavor and versatility to your menus.
Like most legumes, lentils are low in fat and high in fiber and protein. They come in a variety of colors, ranging from brown to green and red to yellow. While mostly interchangeable in recipes, here’s a quick lesson on lentils:
Brown lentils are hearty and earthy in flavor. They stand up well to long simmering. Great in chili and soups, like in this Lentil Chili opens in a new tab.
Green lentils take a little longer to cook than other types, but like their brown cousins, they tend to keep their shape while cooking. Try them in salads and side dishes like in this Warm Kale and Lentil Salad with Sundried Tomatoes opens in a new tab.
Red lentils can range in color from yellow to orange to red. They are delicate, slightly sweet and mild. They tend to disintegrate easily when cooking, which makes them wonderful in stews, dals and spreads. Here’s a basic recipe for Red Lentils with Garlic and Onions opens in a new tab.
Try some of these recipes and serving ideas:
Lentil, Butternut Squash and Collards Pie opens in a new tab: This delicious quiche-like main dish is packed with a host of nutritious ingredients: black lentils, collard greens and sweet butternut squash.
Add cooked lentils to raw and cooked vegetable-based salads or try our Winter Four-Bean Salad opens in a new tab.
Cook with your favorite spices and ladle lentils over brown rice, millet or quinoa, like in this French Lentils With Onion and Carrot opens in a new tab.
Use Italian seasonings and serve over polenta or pasta with a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil.
Lentils are a mainstay of Indian cooking. Try this Lentil Curry with Cashews and Yogurt opens in a new tab or this Indian Dal opens in a new tab for a simple weeknight meal.
Go Tex-Mex by making tostadas with smashed lentils instead of black or pinto beans. Or make lentil tacos instead of beef tacos. They are totally delicious with typical taco fixings like shredded lettuce, fresh salsa, guacamole, sour cream and cheese.
Make a “bed” of lentils for salmon, chicken or sliced lean beef. Add leafy greens for a delicious, healthy balance and a colorful meal.
Stuff seasoned lentils into baked potatoes. Garnish with chives or sliced green onions.
For a simple delicious meal, try French Lentils with Onion and Carrot opens in a new tab. Serve with a warm baguette or crusty garlic bread.
Make baked lentil enchiladas – cook lentils with onion; roll up in whole wheat flour or corn tortillas. Bake topped with enchilada sauce and cheese or non-dairy cheese alternative.
Make soup featuring lentils: Try Indian Red Lentil Soup opens in a new tab, Moroccan Spiced Chickpea and Lentil Soup opens in a new tab or Hearty Lentil and Sausage Soup opens in a new tab.
Mash cooked and seasoned lentils for a great sandwich filling. Enjoy with a steaming bowl of colorful vegetable soup.
Want more? Check out our primer on Split Peas and Lentils opens in a new tab. If you love lentils and have a special recipe, I’d love to know.