Lentils are a love of mine! Their versatility, nutritional value, and delicious taste make them a staple ingredient in my kitchen. Whether it's a hearty lentil soup, a comforting lentil curry, or a vibrant lentil salad, I find myself gravitating towards lentil-based dishes time and time again.
One of the best things about cooking with lentils is their ability to provide an abundance of versatile leftovers. I often cook a large batch of lentils and store them in the refrigerator for later use. This not only saves me time on busy days but also allows me to experiment and get creative with incorporating them into different meals.
The beauty of lentils lies in their ability to seamlessly blend with various flavors and cuisines. They have a mild earthy taste that acts as a blank canvas, readily absorbing the aromas and spices they are cooked with. This makes lentils incredibly versatile and adaptable to a wide range of recipes.
In addition to their versatility and taste, lentils are a nutritional powerhouse. Packed with protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, they offer a host of health benefits. Lentils are known to support heart health, aid in digestion, stabilize blood sugar levels, and promote satiety, making them an ideal choice for those looking to maintain a balanced and nourishing diet.
Here are some of my favorite lentil recipes and tips for incorporating them into your daily meals. Whether you're a seasoned lentil lover or new to the world of legumes, I hope to inspire you to explore the endless possibilities that lentils have to offer in the kitchen.
Leftover Lentil Recipes (beyond soup):
Crispy Lentils (Oven Roasted Lentils)
With 20 minutes in the oven, they are transformed into a mouthwateringly crispy crumble perfect for topping salads or just for a salty snack- Move over potato chip roasted lentils are in the house! All you need is olive oil, salt, black pepper, leftover cooked lentils and a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Make their cripsy gems your own by adding your favorite spices like paprika or za'atar. Perfect for topping a fresh salad to add some plant-based protein, crispy lentils also can be easily stored in a airtight container for snacking.
Green tacos with lentil filling
This lentil walnut filling is so good!! We served it at a taco bar for a family party, and I had to tell more than one person that it was not beef after they had happily wolfed down several tacos. This recipe takes the traditional taco concept and infuses it with the goodness of lentils and walnuts, creating a flavorful and satisfying filling. The beauty of these green tacos with lentil filling is that they can be customized to your taste. Feel free to add additional toppings like grated cheese, a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream, or even a drizzle of hot sauce for some extra heat.
We’ve been experimenting with all different kinds of things to convert into a lettuce wrap dinner. This lentil salad might be one of our most successful experiments and now is our preferred way to eat it this Lentil Salad with Feta and Pomegranate. If you don't have the makings for this exact salad don't worry. Just some of these flavors-boasting tricks to make a simple lentil salad as a lettuce wrap filling. For a well-balanced lentil salad I like to have 4 elements to complete the earthiness of the lentils: Creams Rich (cheese or avocado), Sharp (red onion, shallot or scallions), Bright (tomatoes, fresh herbs, bell peppers, berries or fried fruit) and Dressing ( for a simplest dressing a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil will do).
Stuffed Peppers, Mushrooms, squash, or Tomatoes
When it comes to repurposing leftover lentils, one delicious option is to use them as a filling for stuffed vegetables like peppers, mushrooms, or tomatoes. This creative and nutritious approach not only breathes new life into your leftover lentils but also creates a visually stunning and satisfying dish that will impress your family and friends.
Preheat your oven to the appropriate temperature based on the vegetable you're using. Typically, stuffed peppers and tomatoes are baked at around 375°F (190°C), while stuffed mushrooms may require a slightly higher temperature of 400°F (200°C). Now it's time to fill the vegetables with your leftover lentils. Spoon the lentil mixture into each vegetable, packing it in tightly to ensure a satisfying bite. You can also add extra ingredients to enhance the flavors, such as sautéed onions, garlic, or your favorite herbs and spices. Consider mixing in some grated cheese or breadcrumbs for added texture and richness. For more specific amounts check my Lentil Stuffed Peppers, Southwestern Stuffed Summer Squash, and Southwestern Black Bean Stuffed Tomatoes recipes. Place the filled vegetables onto a baking dish, making sure they are stable and won't tip over during cooking. Drizzle a little olive oil over the tops to help them brown and develop a delicious caramelized flavor.
Lentils, with their earthy flavor and creamy texture, can be transformed into a delectable and nutritious alternative to the classic dip. Green lentils or brown lentils work well for this purpose. In a food processor, combine the cooked lentils with the traditional hummus ingredients such as tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. You can also add your preferred spices and herbs like cumin, paprika, or parsley to customize the flavor according to your taste. Blend the mixture until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the food processor as needed. If you prefer a thinner consistency, you can gradually add a splash of water or extra olive oil while blending.
Taste the lentil hummus and adjust the seasoning as desired. You can add more garlic, lemon juice, or salt to achieve the perfect balance of flavors. Lentil hummus can be served just like traditional hummus. It pairs wonderfully with fresh vegetables, pita bread, flat bread or crackers. You can also use it as a spread in sandwiches, wraps, or as a flavorful dip for your favorite snacks.
Lentil Burgers, Falafel, or Kofta
To begin, take your leftover lentils and assess their moisture content. If they seem a bit dry, you can add a touch of liquid to help bind the ingredients together. You can use a little water, vegetable broth, or even a beaten egg, depending on your dietary preferences.
In a food processor, combine the leftover lentils with complementary ingredients that will enhance their flavor and texture. For burgers, consider adding finely chopped onions, garlic, breadcrumbs, and a selection of herbs and spices like cumin, paprika, or fresh cilantro. Pulse the mixture until it comes together and holds its shape, but still retains some texture. For falafel or kofta, you can include ingredients such as minced onions, garlic, fresh parsley, ground cumin, coriander, and a hint of cayenne pepper for a little kick. Process the mixture until it forms a thick paste, but be careful not to over-process, as a bit of texture is desired. For more specific amounts check out my red lentil kofta and black bean burger recipes.
Once the mixture is ready, shape it into patties for burgers or small balls for falafel or kofta. If needed, you can lightly coat the patties or balls with breadcrumbs or flour to help them hold their shape. To cook the burgers, falafel, or kofta, you have a few options. You can shallow-fry them in a pan with a little oil until golden and crisp on both sides. Alternatively, you can bake the lentil cakes in the oven on a greased baking sheet at around 375°F (190°C) until they are nicely browned and cooked through. This method is a healthier alternative, requiring less oil. An air fryer could be another option. Once cooked, serve your burgers, falafel, or kofta in your favorite buns, pita bread, or lettuce wraps. Top them with your choice of condiments, such as tzatziki sauce, tahini, or a tangy yogurt dressing, and add fresh toppings like sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, or pickles for an extra burst of freshness.
Salad might be a obvious left over solution, but here are a few delightful salad ideas to make the most of your leftover lentils.
- Lentil and Kale Salad: Massage the kale with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice to soften the leaves and reduce their bitterness.Add some roasted vegetables like cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, sweet potato or red onions. Toss in a dressing, herb sauce or tahini sauce.
- Broccoli Lentil Salad: Cold lentil salad with broccoli and lemon anchovy dressing is a flavor-packed dish hearty enough to be served as a main course over rice or barley. It also pairs wonderfully with chicken and fish.
- Lentil Salad with Avocado and Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette: Combine the creaminess of avocado with the earthy lentils in this vibrant salad. Mix the leftover lentils with diced avocado, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and chopped fresh cilantro. Create a zingy lime cilantro vinaigrette using lime juice, olive oil, minced garlic, chopped cilantro, and a pinch of cumin. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and gently toss to coat all the ingredients evenly.
- Lentil Quinoa Salad with Sundried Tomatoes: Featuring chewy sun-dried tomatoes, fluffy quinoa, and tender lentils, this recipe makes for a delicious lunch or salad to serve at a potluck. It’s super easy to whip up and is made from pantry staples. This particular recipe calls for parmesan cheese, red onion, sun-dried tomatoes and parsley, all things I usually have at hand. If you’re missing a particular ingredient don’t hesitate to make a substitution. Try feta instead of Parmesan cheese, or if you’re looking for a vegan option try toasted almonds. If you don’t have parsley try basil, or fresh oregano.
Tips for maximin flavored left-over lentils-
Cook with aromatics-
The simplest ways to make your leftover lentils tasty is to add flavor the first time you cook them. I like to add a bay leaf, a onion cut in half, and a clove of garlic to add extra 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 and then reduce to a simmer. Cook and low for 20-30 minutes or until tender. If you didn't to this don't sweat if there are a lot of other ways to add flavor to my favorite legume.
Reheat with Onions-
Firing up onions is a good start to any dish. In a frying pan on medium-high heat sauteed any kind of onion you have on hand, (red, yellow onion or green onions), add your lentils and your choice of seasoning and you have the makes of a great side dish.
Add the green stuff-
My refrigerator is packed with lots of fresh herbs because they make a lot every dish better. Whether cilantro, basil, parsley, or fresh oregano try chopping it up finely and add a little bit to your lentils.
Dressing and Sauces-
So, next time you find yourself with leftover lentils, don't let them go to waste! Give them a new life in the kitchen and indulge in the great flavors and nourishment they offer, all while making mealtime a breeze.
If you’ve tried this lentil recipe or any other recipe on BalancingBowls, please let me know how it turned out in the comments below! You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to see more tasty meals and anything else I’m up to.