25 Ways to Use Lentils

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.
By: Contributor

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.

Cooking Channel Nadia G Lentil Caramelized Onion Soup Seasonal Soup to Start

Photo by: Armando Rafael Moutela ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved. 2014, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Armando Rafael Moutela, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved. 2014, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Rachael Ray turns lentil soup into a full meal with her Sausage, Kale and Lentil Soup.
  5. Salads aren’t just for summer; warm French Lentils with Walnuts and Goat Cheese is a protein-packed vegetarian lunch option.
  6. Homemade tomato soup is made filling with the addition of hearty lentils. Use pantry staples like canned tomatoes and lentils to make David Rocco’s Lentil Tomato Soup.
  7. Nadia G’s Lentil and Caramelized Onion Soup is warm and cozy, and made flavorful with a touch of red wine and cognac.

Jason Andrew Wrobel's Cauliflower-Lentil Tacos with Fresh Guacamole for How to Live to 100

Photo by: Alice Gao ©2014, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Alice Gao, 2014, Cooking Channel, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

  1. Baste pork belly with a honey mustard glaze as it slow-roasts in the oven for Laura Calder’s Pork Belly with Lentils, and then reheat simply cooked lentils with the pork fat. The end product is fall-apart-tender belly with super-flavorful lentils, a true comfort food without much effort.
  2. Lentil, Bean and Parsley Salad is a hearty, crunchy salad that can be served warm or at room temperature.
  3. Aarti Sequeira soaks red lentils in water before cooking, and then mashes them with spiced oil (think black mustard seeds, cumin, turmeric and paprika) for Mum’s Everyday Red Lentils that are anything but ordinary.
  4. Cook lentils with pancetta and aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots and celery for lots of extra flavor in Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar’s Lentil Salad with Burrata. Combine the cooled vegetables, lentils and pancetta with mixed greens and rich burrata cheese for a simple Italian salad. Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese; to make it, mozzarella cheese is stretched out and filled with a fresh, creamy cheese similar to ricotta.
  5. Whether it’s Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday, cauliflower and lentils are a meatless power team that will satisfy your taste for tacos in Cauliflower-Lentil Tacos with Fresh Guacamole.
  1. Make Ellie Krieger’s Herbed Lentils with Spinach and Tomatoes as a hearty lunch or protein-packed side dish.
  2. Broiled Salmon Over Lentil Salad is a simple dinner idea that helps combat the holiday carb-loading and is on the table in just about 30 minutes.
  3. Dress Lentil Salad with Roasted Carrots and Fennel with a fresh herb vinaigrette; pulse cilantro, parsley and scallions with apple cider vinegar and oil in the food processor. Whether it's served warm or at room temperature, everyone will love this meatless dish.
  4. Alex Guarnaschelli cooks sweet and mild cipollini onions in duck fat until caramelized and then uses the excess duck fat to coat and season cooked lentils in her Braised Lentils with Cipollini Onions. Use just enough water to cook the lentils; any cooking water you drain out when the lentils are done is a waste of flavor.
  5. Robert Irvine’s Wild Mushrooms and Beef Over Lentils is a hearty meal perfect for warming you up from the inside out during the cold days of winter.
  6. Herbed Bulgur-Lentil Pilaf is a healthy side dish that cooks up in about 30 minutes. Bulgur is a Middle Eastern staple grain; because it’s cracked and par-cooked, bulgur takes only a few minutes to cook.
  7. Banish the winter blues with warming spices like cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg and ginger in the comforting Moroccan Chickpea Stew with Chicken and Lentils.
  8. Get the whole family excited for Meatless Monday with hearty Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie topped with rich mashed potatoes made super creamy with tart goat cheese.
  1. Serve Veggie Balls with classic tomato sauce and spaghetti, or get a little funky with pesto.
  2. Stretch your money and limit the amount of meat at mealtime with Cream of Lentil Soup with Chorizo Croutes.
  3. Breakfast for dinner gets a restaurant-style makeover: Serve Crispy Glazed Pork Belly with Aromatic Lentils with baked eggs and toast for a luxurious spin on bacon and eggs.
  4. Giada makes a healthy version of a comfort food favorite with Veronica’s Veggie Meatloaf with Checca Sauce, an easy raw tomato sauce that takes just a few pulses in the food processor to make.
  5. Beef and Roasted Vegetable Stew boasts tons of flavor while utilizing economical options at the grocery store like parsnips, beets, lentils and beef foreshank (also known as “shank”).
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