I have fallen in love with lentils! For a long time, the only thing I thought lentils were good for will a leftover ham bone soup, and while I really enjoy that recipe it only scratches the surface of what is possible with these amazing lens-shaped legumes.
What do Lentils taste like? The simple answer is mild and earthy with a slightly nutty taste. But the real answer is so much more exciting and detailed- it is really a conversation about what type of lentils, what kind of flavors you like, and what kind of meal. Braised black lentils and lentils and red wine lentils can taste rich and velvety. Or they can feel bright and fresh in salads with avocado and lime cilantro or with feta and pomegranate.
It can even taste like meat in Italian stuffed peppers, green tacos, or red lentil koftas. While many people think of lentils in soup, you may be surprised by the range of different flavor profiles lentils can take on in a simple soup, from a bright and citrus lemon and dill lentil soup to hearty mushroom soup and their red curry lentils with sweet potatoes.
We will explore the different types of lentils, their taste profiles, health benefits, and the best ways to cook and incorporate them into your meals. Whether you're a fan of lentil soup, side dishes, or lentil salads, we have you covered.
What are Lentils? Lentils, part of the legume family, are essential dietary staples in many cultures worldwide. From Indian cuisine with its masoor dal to Middle Eastern dishes like mujadara, lentils have been an integral part of traditional diets for centuries. Popularity in the United States and are now widely available in grocery stores.
Exploring Different Types of Lentils:
- Brown/ Green Lentils: The most common variety, brown lentils have an earthy flavor and hold their shape well when cooked. They are a versatile option for soups, stews, and side dishes.
- Red Lentils: With a sweet and nutty flavor, red lentils cook quickly and become soft and creamy. They are commonly used in Indian dal and make a great addition to soups and curries.
- Yellow Lentils: Mild in flavor, yellow lentils are often used in Indian cuisine, particularly for dal. They have a creamy texture and can be seasoned with various spices to enhance their taste.
- Black Lentils (Black Beluga Lentils): With a dark black color and a rich, nutty flavor, black lentils are often compared to caviar. They are a perfect choice for salads, side dishes, and adding a touch of elegance to any meal.
- French Green Lentils (Puy Lentils): Hailing from central France, these lentils have a peppery taste and firm texture. They hold their shape well when cooked, making them ideal for salads, vegetable dishes, and as a side to meat or fish.
Superfood Qualities of Lentils
Lentils have earned their reputation as a "superfood" due to their exceptional nutrient profile.
- Fiber: Lentils are an excellent source of dietary fiber. The high fiber content aids in digestion helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and contributes to a feeling of fullness, making them a great addition to weight management diets.
- Proteins: Lentils are a valuable plant-based source of protein, making them an excellent choice for vegetarian and vegan diets. Protein is crucial for building and repairing tissues, supporting muscle growth, and providing sustained energy.
- Low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol: Lentils are naturally low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making them heart-healthy options. By incorporating lentils into your diet, you can reduce the risk of heart disease and maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
- Folate (Vitamin B-9): Lentils are rich in folate, also known as vitamin B-9. Folate is essential for proper cell division, DNA synthesis, and the production of red blood cells.
- Iron: Lentils are a fantastic source of iron, a vital mineral involved in the transportation of oxygen throughout the body. Consuming lentils can help prevent iron deficiency anemia and boost energy levels.
Cooking the Green or Brown lentils:
If you are using canned lentils or already have some cooked up, you can skip this step.
Add about 3 cups of water and ½ cup of green lentils in a medium saucepan. You only need a half cup of the dry lentils for this recipe because they will double in size. But when I make lentils, I rarely only make a half cup- why not make more and have some ready in the refrigerator to add to meals later in the week?
Unlike quinoa or rice, you do not need an exact water-to-lentil ratio. Think more like you’re cooking pasta- you just need significantly more water than lentils. You can also use broth instead of adding an extra layer of flavor.
I like adding a bay leaf, an onion cut in half, and a clove of garlic to add flavor to the lentils. Do not salt the lentils before cooking! They will become tough and less appetizing. Bring the water and lentils to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook and low for 20-30 minutes or until tender.
Drain the water (or broth) from the lentils and set them aside until they come to room temperature before mixing into the salad. Discard the bay leaf, half onion, and garlic.
Tips for Meal-Prepping Lentils:
- Portion and store: Divide the cooked lentils into individual meal prep containers or resealable bags, based on your portion sizes or planned recipes. For longer shelf life, store them in the refrigerator.
- Store cooked lentils in airtight containers or bags to maintain their freshness.
- Consider freezing some portions of cooked lentils for later use, especially if you're not planning to consume them within a few days.
- Label the containers or bags with the date of preparation to keep track of freshness.
- Use the cooked lentils throughout the week in various recipes, such as salads, grain bowls, soups, stews, or as a side dish.
Storing dry Lentils: To maintain the quality of lentils and prolong their shelf life, store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Proper storage ensures their freshness and prevents moisture contamination.
By following these steps and incorporating cooked lentils into your meal prep routine, you'll have a versatile and nutritious ingredient ready to use in a variety of dishes, saving you time and ensuring a healthy meal anytime you need it.
How to make your lentils extra tasty:
- Season with herbs and spices: Adding herbs and spices can elevate the flavor of lentils. Common options include cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and garlic. Experiment with different combinations to find your preferred taste.
- Sauté aromatics: Before cooking the lentils, sauté aromatics like onions, garlic, and ginger in a bit of olive oil or butter. This step adds depth and enhances the overall flavor profile of the lentils.
- Use flavorful broths or stocks: Instead of plain water, cook your lentils in vegetable broth, chicken broth, or other flavorful stocks. The lentils will absorb the savory flavors, making them more tasty and satisfying.
- Incorporate umami-rich ingredients: Umami is known as the "fifth taste" and adds depth and complexity to dishes. Enhance the flavor of your lentils by adding ingredients such as soy sauce, miso paste, tomato paste, or Worcestershire sauce.
- Add acidity: A touch of acidity can brighten up the flavors of lentils. Consider adding a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of vinegar (such as balsamic or apple cider vinegar), or a dollop of yogurt to your lentil dishes.
- Include complementary vegetables: Add vegetables that pair well with lentils, such as carrots, celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, spinach, or kale. These vegetables not only add flavor but also provide additional nutrients and textures to your dish.
- Experiment with textures: Lentils can have a soft and creamy texture when cooked fully, but you can also leave them slightly al dente for a firmer bite. Mixing different textures, such as adding crispy bacon or sautéed mushrooms, can enhance the overall eating experience.
- Finish with fresh herbs or greens: Sprinkle chopped fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, or basil over your lentil dishes just before serving. This adds a burst of freshness and brightens up the flavors.
- Don't forget salt and pepper: Season your lentils with salt and pepper to taste throughout the cooking process. Salt helps bring out the flavors and balances the taste profile.
Lentils, with their diverse flavors, textures, and nutritional benefits, are a versatile ingredient that can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways. From the earthy brown lentils to the peppery French green lentils and the elegant black beluga lentils, each variety offers a unique taste experience. Whether you're seeking a protein-rich addition to your meals, exploring plant-based options, or simply looking for a delicious and nutritious ingredient, lentils are sure to satisfy your palate and support youroverall health.
As you explore the amazingness of lentils please let me know how they turned out in the comments below! You can also tag me on Facebook and Instagram, nothing makes be happy than sharing my love of lentils!!