Lentils have been all but forgotten. These tiny little beans are nutritional powerhouses, inexpensive, easy to cook, and delicious. Quiet and unassuming, they have gone out of style. Shame. I have just recently learned about them. I don’t think my mother even knows what they are, much less ever cooked them. Which is a shock because we were so poor they should have been a staple for us.
Constipated? Anemic? Lentils have 16g of fiber per cup. That is half of the fiber needed in a whole day from one serving of lentils! If you have been diagnosed with anemia or low blood count, lentils provide 37% of your daily value of blood-building iron! But that isn’t all these little giants have, they also pack in half of the protein needed in a day, 90% DV of folate, 22% DV of thiamin, and most of the minerals needed in a day!
Lentils come in various colors and sizes, red, green, yellow, black, brown, dark, green, French, and beluga to name a few. I don’t notice a huge difference in the flavors but I do notice the textures and cooking times are slightly different. I tend to stick with the plain brownish green ones that you can get in a one-pound bag at Aldi’s for $.99. Recently available, lentil pasta has become a staple in our house. It is made from red lentils and makes great pasta salad or spaghetti, perfect for a grain-free, hearty meal.
Add dry lentils to every chili and soup recipe with no need to soak ahead of time. They will cook in a pressure cooker in 5 minutes. I add them to my 3-bean chili, converting it to 4-bean chili. I slip them into my vegetable soup too. They add heartiness to the soup and chili without any change in flavor.
One of my favorite ways to eat lentils is as “taco meat”. I just put a one-pound bag of sorted and rinsed lentils in a pot with the amount of water called for on the package. I add a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes and some taco seasonings, cover and simmer till they are tender and the water is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Then I use the “meat” in taco salad, nachos, and Mexican bowls with rice, roasted veggies, salsa, and avocado garnish. Left over lentils freeze beautifully and can be reheated for an instant Mexican feast later.
Easy to Use
Dry lentils can be sorted, rinsed (that means put them in a strainer, run water over them, swish them around with your hand and remove any debris) and added straight to recipes along with a little extra water. Cook according to package directions to eat as a side dish. Spice them up with salt, pepper, bay leaf, and garlic. Yum.
Put a bag of lentils in your grocery cart and you will have them on hand to make some taco “meat” or these yummy recipes.
Indian Spiced Cabbage and Red Lentils
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
1 cup dry red Lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2" piece ginger root, peeled and sliced
1/2 green cabbage, shredded (2-3 cups)
1 medium onion, cut into half-rounds
1 large jalapeno pepper, sliced (or other hot green chili)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 cup lemon juice, or to taste
Place the lentils and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam. Add the
turmeric and ginger root, reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are soft, about 45 minutes.
Add the cabbage and onions to a large skillet along with a little water and water-saute over medium-high heat until cabbage begins to soften.
Add the sliced jalapeno, chopped garlic, cumin and coriander to the cabbage and onion mixture. Continue cooking over medium-low heat until tender.
Stir the cooked lentils and lemon juice into the cabbage and onions.
If necessary, turn up heat to evaporate off most of the liquid (it should be a thick stew-like consistency, not thin).
Serve with rice.
Lentil & Walnut Mini "Meat" Loaves
Serve these with mashed potatoes and pinto bean gravy, and green beans. Yum!
1 cup dry brown/green lentils, washed
1/2 cup sprouted brown rice
1/4 cup wild rice
1/4 cup mixed rice medley (red, brown, wild, black)
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, grated
1 cup grated broccoli slaw mix
1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup hemp hearts
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
1. In a large saucepan, combine lentils, brown rice, wild rice, mixed rice and vegetable broth. Cover and bring to a boil
over medium heat. Reduce heat to minimum until rice and lentils are soft. The mixture should be slightly mushy and
not totally dry.
2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Saute carrots, broccoli slaw mix, onion, and garlic.
3. Once the rice and lentils are cooked, mix in the sauteed vegetables.
4. Add toasted walnuts and hemp hearts. Stir vigorously to mix well and help the mixture get sticky.
5. Add dried thyme and season with salt and pepper as needed.
6. Tightly pack into an oiled loaf pan (or mini-loaf pan).
7. Bake 45 minutes in a preheated 350°F oven until top is browned and crunchy.