We rounded up six ways to cook with lentils so that they’ll stop collecting dust in your pantry!
Six to eight million American adults eat no meat, fish or poultry. About 2 million are vegan and forego all animal products. With the rise of vegetarianism and veganism in the United States, plant-based and protein-rich ingredients like tofu, beans and some grains frequently replace meat in typically carnivorous dishes.
Even when they’re not replacing meat, plant-based ingredients are downright delicious and pack a serious nutritional punch. There’s one miraculous ingredient many people have yet to discover: the lentil.
Not only are lentils nutritious, they’re also easier to prepare than dried beans and peas. They don’t require soaking prior to cooking them, and they’re extremely versatile in both hot and cold dishes. Lentils can replace ground beef and compliment soups and salads. They’re the star in wonderful side dishes. They can even be ground in the food processor to make pitas (seriously, see below).
Whether you are a vegetarian or vegan, observe “Meatless Monday” or simply enjoy the occasional meat- free meal, lentils are an ingredient to add to your repertoire.
Health Benefits of Lentils
Aside from their versatility in the kitchen, lentils bring a lot of nutrition to the table without a ton of calories. Considered a nutritional powerhouse, lentils are a one-stop shop for many important nutrients.
They contain an astonishing amount of folic acid, iron, vitamin B6, zinc and vitamin K to name a few. They’re also an excellent source of protein. One cup of lentils contains roughly the same amount of protein as that of a three-ounce serving of beef, poultry or fish — but without the high level of saturated fat and cholesterol content found in animal products.
Protein isn’t the only thing lentils have going for them. One cup of cooked lentils contains about 16 grams of dietary fiber, which has been linked to digestive health and successful weight management, as well as protection against cancer and cardiovascular-related health problems.
Six Ways To Cook With Lentils: Dynamite Recipes You’ll Want to Eat Every Week
There is so much variation in the following six recipes, you’ll forget they all contain the same star ingredient.
1. Lentil Tacos
Seasoned lentils replace ground beef in this vegan and gluten-free lentil taco dish. Turn the dish into a Mexican-themed meal by pairing the tacos with a side of quinoa, black beans and corn.
2. Lentil, Mushroom and Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie
Shepherd’s pie is a classic, stick-to- your-ribs meal that’s great in the wintertime. This lentil, mushroom and sweet potato shepherd’s pie version is totally vegan without forgoing the hearty body of the traditional dish. Mushrooms add the meatiness, and the sweet potatoes are so good on top that you won’t notice they’ve replaced mashed white potatoes.
Bonus points: the elements of this dish can be made ahead of time and refrigerated before baking.
3. Lentil Fritter Pitas With Red Cabbage Slaw
These lentil pitas can be stuffed with anything, but the red cabbage slaw is a tangy filling that’s full of great texture.
4. Lentil ‘Meatballs’
It’s difficult to find a meatless recipe that truly satisfies meatball cravings, but these lentil meatballs have the right texture. The lentils are pulverized in the food processor and combined with the traditional meatball ingredients. They taste great alone, with pasta or in a sandwich. Score!
5. Barley and Lentil Salad
Barley has a pasta-like texture and has its own store of nutrients, which make this barley and lentil salad both tasty and wholesome. Feel like making this dish extra pretty? Consider julienning the carrots or using a spiralizer instead of chopping them.
6. Fridge-Clearing Lentil Soup
Have you ever needed a recipe that helps you use a ton of vegetables and other ingredients from your refrigerator at once? This recipe is a keeper. Basically, whatever you’ve got in your fridge’s crisper drawer will taste great in this hearty lentil soup: cauliflower, leafy greens, carrots — you name it. Chopped herbs and onion top this soup for extra flavor.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to this nutritious and versatile ingredient. Try any of the above recipes, and see how quickly lentils become a staple in your pantry.
About the Author: Sarah Landrum
Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and career blogger, sharing advice on finding happiness and success in your career and in life. Passionate about both food and living a balanced life, Sarah is always on the lookout for healthy new recipes and ways to get fit. Share your favorites and check out more from Sarah by following her on Twitter @SarahLandrum
photo sources: Pond5