A pantry staple, dried lentils are often overlooked for convenient canned beans. These little legumes are packed with nutrition and are an easy way to add extra protein without meat to every meal.
Lentils were one of the first plants to be domesticated, and these nutritional powerhouses are used in cuisines all around the globe. Red, orange, yellow, brown or green, lentils are a good non-meat source of potassium, iron and protein. Unlike other beans and legumes, lentils don’t need to be soaked before cooking; use a 2-to-1 ratio of water to lentils and you’ll be good to go in about 25 minutes (or more if you want to mash them).
Not only do you get a great bang for your buck, but lentils are a “meaty” legume, meaning they have the ability to turn sometimes-wimpy vegetarian dishes into hearty meals.
If you’re looking to decrease the amount of meat in your diet, use mashed lentils to replace part (or all) of the ground meat in dishes like meatballs, meatloaf and stuffed dumplings. But if meat is still on the table for you, pair lentils with fats like duck and pork (think bacon) to add a bit of richness to this mild-flavored legume.
Whether you’re trying a meatless meal or making a hearty stew, lentils are a go-to pantry staple that deserve to come out of the pantry to shine this winter.
- Alton Brown’s classic Lentil Soup (pictured above) will be sure to warm you up during the next cold spell. The trick to good lentil soup is to make sure all of the vegetables are finely chopped, about the size of a cooked lentil.
- Instead of going out to eat, try making your own Ethiopian spread at home. Serve Red Lentils with chicken stew (doro wat), braised cabbage, braised beef and injera flat bread.
- Bal’s Lentil Cookies, made with lentils, whole-wheat flour and rolled oats, are healthier than the average cookie, but brown sugar and chocolate chips still hit the sweet spot.
- Rachael Ray turns lentil soup into a full meal with her Sausage, Kale and Lentil Soup.
- Salads aren’t just for summer; warm French Lentils with Walnuts and Goat Cheese is a protein-packed vegetarian lunch option.