Tiny but mighty, lentils are a powerhouse of a legume that shine just as bright in the background of a dish as they do at the forefront. There are several types of lentils out there, often distinguishable by their color and more specifically by the ways that you might cook with them. Loaded with protein, fiber, folate, and B vitamins, lentils are a great resource for bulking up dishes like soup, stew, and salads with plenty of plant-based goodness.
You can get as creative as you'd like with lentils (think nachos and meatballs) or keep things as simple as possible — that's the beauty of such a versatile legume. If you're new to cooking with lentils or just need some fresh ways to incorporate them into your diet, our best lentil recipes just might make you fall completely in love with them. Also, regardless of which lentils you keep stocked in your pantry, be they red, green, or black, there's a recipe that will showcase them effortlessly, or at the very least incorporate them for a simple nutritional boost. Read on to see our favorite lentil recipes.
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Easy Spiced Lentils
Lentils often find themselves the base of many recipes, but they make for a great centerpiece too, as proven by this spiced lentils recipe. Brown lentils in particular shine in this quick and easy dish, with spices like cumin, garam masala, and smoked paprika adding flavor that pairs well with the natural earthiness of the legumes themselves.
The process of cooking lentils is a pretty quick one, and somewhat similar to cooking rice. You'll kick off this recipe by sautéing garlic, then you'll add in the rinsed lentils, broth, tomato sauce, and all of the spices. From there, it's just a matter of letting the lentils simmer and absorb all of that liquid. A fresh squeeze of lemon juice adds the perfect hint of acidity, while cilantro adds an herbaceous element. The finished dish works well as a hearty side or as a main course paired with rice, chicken, or tofu.
Recipe: Easy Spiced Lentils
Pasta E Lenticchie (Pasta With Lentils)
Much like pasta e fagioli pairs pasta with beans, this pasta e lenticchie recipe pairs ziti or rigatoni with — you guessed it — lentils. As it turns out, the two ingredients make for quite the dynamic duo, with the pasta making up the bulk of the dish and the lentils adding some texture. Other ingredients include onion, garlic, carrots, tomato paste, thyme, and red pepper flakes, all of which contribute to a ragu-like sauce.
This recipe does require some quality time in the kitchen, though most of it is spent allowing the lentils to cook. Once all is said and done, you'll have a hearty pasta dish that yields four servings, so you can feed the whole family or reserve all of it for yourself. Top off your plate of pasta e lenticchie with a sprinkling of Parmesan and dive right in.
Lentil-Walnut Vegan Tacos
Of all the things you can stuff into a taco, we bet that lentils and walnuts aren't at the top of your list ... or even on it at all. But, hey, there's a first time for everything, and if you're looking for ways to both get creative with tacos and incorporate more plant-based recipes into your repertoire, then this lentil-walnut vegan tacos recipe checks those boxes.
If you've got some pre-cooked lentils chilling in your refrigerator, or you stumble upon some at the grocery store, then you've already got a headstart on this recipe. (You can use uncooked lentils, but keep in mind that you'll have to cook them before starting the recipe.) The taco filling comes together nice and quick on the stovetop, then it's just a matter of assembling and topping off your tacos — tomatoes, red onion, lettuce, and avocado are all great options.
Recipe: Lentil-Walnut Vegan Tacos
Red Lentil Soup With Lemon
If you're looking for a quick, easy, and nutritious lunch or dinner option, then this red lentil soup with lemon recipe will get the job done each and every time. You'll need some lentils, of course, along with other soup basics like olive oil, garlic, onion, and chicken broth. The lentils are the star of the show here, lending their distinct texture to a soup that's thick, chunky, and super comforting.
Believe it or not, this soup comes together in less than 30 minutes, so it really is ideal for those days when your pantry is running low on supplies and you're running even lower on time. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice and lemon zest also adds a nice touch of acidity and brightness to this simple soup.
Recipe: Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
Roasted Garlic Tomato Lentil Bowls
Bright, zesty, and loaded with lentil and vegetable goodness, this roasted salad recipe is ideal for those who aren't fans of the typical lettuce-based variations. This salad, which features green lentils as a base and roasted tomatoes, onions, and garlic as flavorful additions, proves that you don't need romaine or arugula as a base — lentils get the job done quite well.
Of course, regardless of what serves as the base, no salad is complete without a good dressing. You'll whip up a simple but irresistibly tangy one for this recipe — olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and Dijon mustard help round out the flavors. When it comes time to serve, you can easily enjoy this roasted salad all on its own for lunch or for a light dinner, though you could also bulk it up with the addition of grilled chicken or salmon.
Lentil Soup With Herbed Yogurt
Brown lentils make up the bulk of this lentil soup recipe, but they certainly don't stand alone — onion, carrots, celery, parsley, and tarragon all contribute to this soup, with that latter ingredient adding a subtly bittersweet undertone. Though it does take about an hour to make the soup, most of it is spent waiting for the lentils to simmer, so it's a passive task that you can mostly leave to the stovetop to take care of.
We'd be remiss to not highlight the herbed yogurt that you'll dollop on top of your bowl of lentil soup; it adds a delightful creaminess to the soup, not to mention an extra hit of herbaceousness. Whipping up the yogurt sauce involves combining Greek yogurt, tarragon, parsley, and lemon zest — a task so simple that you'll be surprised just how much it elevates the soup.
Recipe: Lentil Soup with Herbed Yogurt
Instant Pot Lentil Sloppy Joes
Sloppy Joes are a classic dish, beloved by many parents who need a quick and easy meal on the dinner table in a pinch on busy weeknights. While traditional Sloppy Joes typically feature beef, this lentil Sloppy Joe recipe offers a plant-based solution, not to mention extra ease thanks to the Instant Pot. Lentils can take a while to cook, but thanks to the nifty kitchen appliance, this whole dish will be ready to go in about 30 minutes.
Despite the bulk of the Sloppy Joe "meat" consisting of brown lentils instead of beef, you'll still notice a similar flavor to the classic dish thanks to a tangy, tomatoey sauce that even features liquid smoke. When it comes to assembling your Joes, the toppings are up to you, though a good pile of coleslaw and some pickles are foolproof options.
Recipe: Instant Pot Lentil Sloppy Joes
Cheesy Lentil Bolognese Baked Ziti
There's no denying the comfort factor that a cheesy baked ziti with meaty bolognese provides, but as this recipe proves, you can achieve all that comforting goodness in plant-based form. While this recipe isn't vegan due to the inclusion of ricotta and mozzarella cheese, it is completely vegetarian — instead of making a beef-loaded bolognese, you'll make a lentil-loaded one.
Before you can dive into making the bolognese, you'll have to boil the lentils and pasta first. Then comes the fun part, which is building the sauce, which features mushrooms, fire-roasted tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and of course, lentils. Finally, you'll assemble the pasta dish itself and bake it, resulting in an ultra-cheesy creation that makes for the perfect weeknight dinner. Contrast all of that cheesy goodness with a simple side salad and your dinner is complete.
Vegan Refried Lentil Nachos
Nachos are a blank slate just begging for creativity — you could answer the call by going with classic toppings like beef, beans, or jalapeños, or you could think outside of the box. This recipe takes the latter approach, topping off a platter of chips with refried lentils and a cashew-based nacho cheese sauce. This fully vegan appetizer is an impressive one, showcasing just how much you can transform plant-based ingredients into something so delicious that you might not even notice that there's no real cheese involved.
You'll kick off this recipe by making the cashew nacho cheese, which involves soaking cashews and carrots and then blending them with spices and water. Next, you'll focus on making the refried lentils — a simple task that involves cooking brown lentils on the stovetop and then mashing them up to a refried bean-esque texture. When it comes to assembling, the toppings are up to you; to stay on the vegan theme, think of options like avocado slices, tomatoes, and diced red onion.
Recipe: Vegan Refried Lentil Nachos
Korean BBQ-Inspired Lentils
If you're looking for a way to switch up the flavor profile of your lentil side dish, this Korean BBQ-inspired lentil recipe is just the solution. Asian pear, soy sauce, ginger powder, and sesame oil contribute to the savory and subtly sweet flavor profile of these lentils — a welcome change from so many recipes that call for using cumin, cayenne, or chili powder.
This is an ideal recipe to make when you're low on pantry ingredients but you want a nourishing side dish to round out your dinner spread. These lentils are vegan and work well alongside other vegan staples like tofu and rice, though they also complement bulgogi beef, grilled chicken, and fish all the same. You could even make these lentils part of a bigger home Korean BBQ spread if you're looking to get extra creative.
Recipe: Korean BBQ-Inspired Lentils
Roasted Eggplant And Lentil Salad
It's easy to associate lentils in the context of warm, comforting dishes because that's how they're most often served. That said, lentils also shine in lighter contexts, and this roasted eggplant salad recipe is a great example. Hearty lentils pair alongside roasted eggplant in this unique salad, which features arugula as its base and extra inclusions like cherry tomatoes and feta cheese.
If you have some leftover cooked lentils sitting in your fridge, then do yourself a favor and plan to make this recipe for lunch in the next few days. The eggplant roasts pretty quickly — in about 20 minutes — so you can focus on assembling the salad itself during that time frame. As for the dressing, a simple vinaigrette consisting of olive oil, lemon juice, honey, Dijon mustard, and oregano helps tie the flavors of the salad all together.
Roasted Carrots Over Lentil Hummus And Lemon Yogurt
Roasted carrots make for a great dinner side dish, but they're certainly not the most exciting thing you could bring to the table. Fortunately, this recipe will ensure that your roasted carrots are never boring again — between the lentil hummus and creamy yogurt sauce on the side, these carrots are bursting with flavor and just might be the star of the whole show.
The most time-consuming component of this recipe is the carrot prep itself, so before you do anything else, you'll get them roasting in the oven. Then you can turn your attention to the lentil hummus, which is very similar to your classic hummus recipe, but you swap out chickpeas in favor of red lentils. The yogurt sauce is the easiest component, requiring nothing more intensive than a bit of stirring. To assemble, you'll spread a layer of hummus out on the plate first, layer the carrots on top, then serve the lemony sauce on the side.
Vegetarian Lentil And Mushroom BBQ Meatballs
As it turns out, meat isn't a strictly necessary ingredient in meatballs — this vegetarian recipe proves you can make the classic savory balls with a combination of lentils and mushrooms instead. To take things a step further, this dish pairs the lentil-mushroom meatballs with barbecue sauce for the perfect sweet-savory-tangy flavor combo.
Though this recipe isn't any more difficult to make than your typical meat-based one, it does take a little more time since you will need to fully cook the lentils before turning them into ball form. Once the ball gets rolling (pun intended), however, completing the recipe is just a matter of rolling the "meat" into balls and baking. A final spread of barbecue sauce helps hone in on the tangy flavor profile of these plant-based spheres.
Savory Mushroom And Lentil Hand Pies
Hand pies are the grab-and-go snacks that your potluck, party, or family gathering will inevitably benefit from. This recipe showcases a savory mushroom and lentil filling, with carrots, onion, leeks, and an assortment of spices helping to round out the flavors. As for the hand pie crust, you don't need to worry about whipping up dough from scratch — puff pastry sheets will get the job done just fine.
Not only do these hand pies make for a great party appetizer or after-school snack, but they're also pretty easy to make. You'll start by making the mushroom-lentil filling, then you'll cut up the puff pastry sheets and load individual squares with the savory mixture. Give them a fold and pop them in the oven until golden brown, and your transportable treats are good to go.
Curried Roasted Pumpkin And Lentil Soup
Pumpkins and lentils are both known for their neutral, earthy flavor profiles, so it only makes sense to bring the two together in one cohesive recipe. This soup does just that, combining pumpkin, red lentils, and warming spices like coriander, cumin, ginger, mustard, and cinnamon into an ultra-comforting dish that also happens to be vegan.
Although this soup does have a certain fall flair about it — something even more evident thanks to the final garnish of pumpkin seeds — you still can (and should) enjoy it year-round. Easy to make and perfectly pairable alongside a grilled cheese sandwich, this pumpkin lentil soup is great for lunch or dinner.
Lentil Fattoush Salad With Mint Dressing
Mint doesn't always get the love it deserves, often going overlooked in favor of other herbs like basil, cilantro, or parsley. Well, this lentil fattoush salad recipe is here to give mint its turn in the spotlight — not only will you find fresh mint in the romaine-based salad itself, but you'll also use the herb to make a refreshing dressing.
Since this recipe calls for using precooked black lentils, you won't have to worry about doing any cooking with this recipe. Instead, it's a matter of chopping and assembling, starting with the romaine and ending with sliced radishes, a sprinkling of lentils, tomatoes, and that minty dressing.
Masala Lentil And Sweet Potato Croquettes
These masala lentil and sweet potato croquettes are a delicious spin on the classic potato croquette — between the spice blend of garam masala, coriander, cumin, and chili powder and a cilantro yogurt chutney, they're arguably more exciting than your typical potato pancake, too.
Sweet potatoes and red lentils make up the bulk of these patties, though there's no denying that the crispy exterior is what makes these appetizers as appealing as they are. As for that cilantro yogurt dipping sauce, a simple combination of plain yogurt, cilantro, lemon juice, and green chili helps build the flavors that pair oh-so-well alongside the crispy crunchy croquettes.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.