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Lentils

Lentils 101 – The Basics

The whole-foods, plant-based diet is increasing in popularity. So, lentils, beans, and seeds are being enjoyed by many. Even if you’re a meat eater, having a meatless meal at least once a week is encouraged. Lentils have been around for thousands of years and many people enjoy them. Yet, many others are new to lentils and just aren’t sure what to do with them. Here’s some help for you. Below is a lot of basic information about lentils, covering what they are, the various types of lentils, the nutritional and health benefits of lentils, how to flavor them and what other foods pair well with them, recipe suggestions, and more! Let me know if you need further information about lentils and I’ll do my best to help!

Enjoy!
Judi

Lentils 101 – The Basics

About Lentils
Lentils are in the legume family. They are actually pulses, which are the edible seeds that grow in pods containing only one or two seeds per pod. They are believed to have originated in central Asia, and have been eaten since prehistoric times. They are one of the first foods be cultivated. Lentil seeds dating back 8000 years have been found at archeological sites in the Middle East. Today, most lentils are grown in India, Turkey, Canada, China and Syria. There are many varieties with the most common types in American grocery stores being brown, green and red (but actually more orange in color). There are also yellow, black, and puy lentils.

The brown lentils are the variety most commonly found in American grocery stores. They have a mild, earthy flavor, and hold their shape well when cooked. Brown lentils are “universal” in the lentil family as they can be used in whatever recipe that calls for lentils. They can be mashed and used in meatless burgers, blended into soups, used in salads, and used in casseroles and literally any recipe calling for lentils. They pair well with grains.

Green lentils have a bit of a peppery flavor. This makes them particularly suitable to add to salads or any dish where a pepper flavor is welcome. They take a little longer to cook then the brown variety, but still hold their shape well while maintaining a little firmness. This type of lentil is not as commonly found in American stores as the brown lentils, and can be a little more costly.

Red lentils have a sweet, nutty flavor. They cook up faster than other varieties because they are actually split and the seed coat has been removed. This makes them soft and mushy when cooked, making them a natural thickening agent for soups, purees, and stews.

Yellow lentils are split like red lentils. They have a sweet-nutty flavor, like their red counterpart. Since they are split, they also cook up quicker than brown or green lentils, in 15 or 20 minutes. Yellow lentils are commonly used in Indian cuisine.

Black lentils are also called beluga lentils. These are the most flavorful lentils. They have a somewhat thicker skin than brown lentils, so if you want them tender, they may need to cook a little longer like the green lentils, perhaps up to 40 minutes. If you want to maintain some of their crispness, cook them for less time, about 30 minutes.

Puy (pronounced pwee) lentils come from the French region of Le Puy. They look like green lentils, but are smaller and have a peppery flavor.

Nutrition Tidbits
Lentils are an excellent source of molybdenum and folate, and a very good source of dietary fiber, copper, phosphorus and manganese. Also, they are a good source of iron, protein, Vitamin B1, pantothenic acid, zinc, potassium and Vitamin B6. Lentils contain no fat. One cup of cooked lentils provides about 1/3 of our daily protein needs (18 grams) and 230 calories.

Lentils are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber helps to keep our cholesterol in check (by binding with bile in the digestive tract, removing it from the body and forcing the body to use cholesterol in the system to make more bile). The insoluble fiber in lentils helps to prevent constipation while reducing the risk of irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis.

The fiber in lentils not only helps to regulate cholesterol levels, but also regulates blood sugar. This helps in controlling diabetes, insulin resistance and hypoglycemia. Research has confirmed that eating lentils as part of a high fiber diet helps to release energy slowly and steadily, showing dramatic effects in diabetics by controlling blood sugar and lowering cholesterol levels.

The fiber content, combined with its folate and magnesium content, works wonders in helping to lower the risk of heart disease by lowering homocysteine levels and improving blood flow around the body. Homocysteine is an important amino acid needed in certain metabolic reactions. When our folate level is low, homocysteine levels increase, causing damage to arterial walls and raising our risk for heart disease.

Lentils are also a good source of iron, with one cup of cooked lentils providing over a third of our daily needs. Iron is critical for carrying oxygen throughout the body in the bloodstream. Eating lentils on a regular basis can help keep our energy levels up and prevent iron deficiency.

How to Select Lentils
Most lentils available today are either found in bulk bins or are prepackaged. When buying lentils, make sure there is no sign of moisture or insect damage. Look for ones that are whole and not cracked.

How to Store Lentils
Store lentils in an airtight container in a dry, cool, dark place. They should keep for about a year.

How to Preserve Lentils
Once cooked, lentils will keep in the refrigerator for about one week. Cooked lentils can be frozen and should be used within three months.

How to Prepare Lentils
Compared to other beans or legumes, lentils are very easy to prepare since they need no presoaking. Before cooking them, check them for stones or debris and remove anything as needed. Place the dry lentils in a strainer and rinse them under cold water, then cook as desired.

How to Cook Lentils
When boiling lentils, use one part lentils to three parts water. It is not mandatory, but bringing the water to a boil first before placing the lentils in the water helps to make them more digestible. When the water returns to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes until tender. Brown lentils usually take about 30 minutes to cook. Red lentils take about 20 minutes, and black lentils may take up to 45 minutes to cook. Some recipes call for slightly more firm lentils, requiring a little less cooking time, while other recipes call for very soft lentils, requiring a little more cooking time.

Some suggested ways to use lentils:
* Try mixing lentils with rice or another grain. The combination will make a complete and very digestible protein. Vegetables can be added to make a simple meal. Suggested vegetables include dark leafy greens like kale or spinach, or crunch vegetables like carrots or bell peppers.

* Add cooked lentils to stir-fries or casseroles.

* Use pureed cooked lentils in hummus.

* Cook lentils in your favorite broth to add more flavor to them. Add some herbs to flavor them to your liking.

* Add lentils to soups and stews for a protein boost.

* Use lentils in a curry served over rice.

* Serve chili-spiced lentils with cheese and nacho chips or use them as a taco filling.

* Stuff sweet potatoes with your favorite cooked lentils. Top with cheese.

* Try a creamy red lentil soup.

* Try a lentil salad. Many can be served warm, room temperature or cold…a perfect addition to a summer gathering (or any time for that matter!).

Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Lentils
Bay leaf, cardamom, chili powder, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry, garam masala, garlic, ginger, mint, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, turmeric

Other Foods That Go Well with Lentils
Meats and other proteins: Beef, eggs, fish, lamb, sausage

Grains: Rice, pasta and any just about any grains or grain product

Vegetables: Carrots, celery, leafy green vegetables, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes

Dairy: Cheese

Recipe Links
Lentils with Mushrooms and Carrots https://www.judiklee.com/2019/06/04/lentils-with-mushrooms-and-carrots/

Sweet and Savory Lentils https://www.judiklee.com/2019/05/28/sweet-and-savory-lentils/

Mexican Lentils and Rice https://www.lentils.org/recipe/mexican-lentils-rice/

Roasted Spring Vegetable Medley with Crispy Lentils https://www.lentils.org/recipe/roasted-spring-vegetable-medley-with-crispy-lentils/

Teriyaki Stir-fry with Lentils and Quinoa https://www.lentils.org/recipe/teriyaki-stirfry-with-lentils-quinoa/

Instant Pot Lentils Braised with Beets and Red Wine https://www.lentils.org/recipe/instant-pot-lentils-braised-with-beets-red-wine/

Shrimp with White Wine, Lentils and Tomatoes https://www.lentils.org/recipe/shrimp-with-white-wine-lentils-tomatoes/

Quick Pasta with Lentils https://www.lentils.org/recipe/quick-pasta-with-lentils/

25 Ways to Turn Lentils into Dinner https://www.thekitchn.com/25-ways-to-turn-lentils-into-dinner-248332

10 Delicious Ways to Eat Lentils https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/delicious-ways-to-eat-lentils/

Warm Winter Greens with Balsamic Lentils and Roasted Pears https://producemadesimple.ca/warm-winter-greens-with-balsamic-lentils-and-roasted-pears/

8 Surprisingly Fast and Delicious Lentil Recipes https://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/8-surprisingly-fast-and-delicious-lentil-recipes

25 Creative Lentil Recipes That Go Way Beyond Soup https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/lentil-recipes

Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Curry https://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/sweet-potato-and-red-lentil-curry

15 Best Lentil Recipes https://www.acouplecooks.com/best-lentil-recipes/

Mediterranean Lentil Salad https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/14260/mediterranean-lentil-salad/

Lentil Salad https://www.skinnytaste.com/lentil-salad/

Greek Lentil Salad https://cookieandkate.com/greek-lentil-salad-recipe/

Sexy Lentil Salad https://www.recipetineats.com/sexy-lentil-salad/

Lentil Salad https://simpleveganblog.com/lentil-salad/

Lentil and Rice Salad https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/lentil-and-rice-salad

Quinoa Lentil Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette https://www.asweetpeachef.com/quinoa-lentil-salad-lemon-vinaigrette/

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Resources
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=52#descr

https://www.lentils.org/about-lentils/

https://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=82311&sc=3022

https://www.livestrong.com/article/528308-how-to-spice-up-lentils/

https://www.simplyhealthyfamily.org/lentils-taste/

https://kitchenbyte.com/what-do-lentils-taste-like/

https://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/different-types-lentils

https://www.wideopeneats.com/5-different-types-of-lentils/

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/types-of-lentils

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/lentils#types

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5488/7-Health-Benefits-of-Lentils.html

https://www.thekitchn.com/flavor-combinations-beans-herb-75364

Lentils with Mushrooms and Carrots

Lentils with Mushrooms and Carrots

Lentils are oh so good for you and very easy to cook…no soaking needed! This is a really easy and tasty lentil dish to make. Once the ingredients are added to the pot, it’s simply a matter of letting them cook until the lentils are as tender as you like, about 30 minutes. The recipe is below the video demonstration. Enjoy!

I hope this helps!
Judi

Lentils with Mushrooms and Carrots
Makes 4 to 6 Servings

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced carrots
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms (fresh, frozen or canned)
½ cup brown or green lentils, rinsed and drained*
1-1/2 cups vegetable broth or water**
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp salt
Black pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes, or more to taste

Warm a medium size pot over medium heat. Add the oil, onion, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic, and briefly sauté until aromatic. Add the lentils, broth, and seasonings. Turn the burner up to bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer on medium to medium-low heat. Cover and allow it to cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are softened, about 25 to 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed, and serve.

This can be served as a main dish or a side dish. It would pair well with rice or another grain, potatoes, or pasta.

Cook’s Note: To add another flavor dimension to this dish, you could add some chopped fresh tomatoes at the beginning if you want them to break down, or toward the end of cooking time to keep them more intact.

* If using green lentils, they may need a little longer to cook. Just be sure the mixture doesn’t boil dry in the process.

** If you don’t have vegetable broth available, water may be used in its place. However, it won’t have as much flavor as when broth is used. You may want to increase the seasonings a bit to compensate.

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Sweet and Savory Lentils

Sweet and Savory Lentils

If you’ve never tried lentils, this is a great recipe to start with! It’s delicious, easy to make (just dump everything into the pot, stir and cook), versatile, and can be adjusted to your taste preferences (regarding “heat”). Give it a try and let me know how you like it! The recipe is below the video demonstration. Enjoy!

I hope this helps!
Judi

Sweet and Savory Lentils
Makes About 8 Servings

1-1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup raisins
4 cups water (or more, if needed)
1/3 cup chopped bell pepper of choice
1 tsp garlic powder (or 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced)
Pinch dried hot red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp dried basil
2 tsp blackstrap molasses
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil then lower heat to medium-low and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, and add more water if the mixture becomes too thick before the lentils are tender. It is helpful to lower the heat as the mixture thickens, so it won’t burn and to keep it from splashing on you as it bubbles.

Serving suggestions: This can be topped with shredded cheddar cheese and served over brown rice or used as a taco or burrito filling in place of a meat mixture. It’s also wonderful topped with cheese and served with chips. Some folks even enjoy this over cooked noodles or pasta. Enjoy!

About Judi
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.

Recipe: Delicious Lentil Burgers

Lentils seem to be gaining in popularity these days as more people are striving to improve their eating habits. I’ve enjoyed lentils for years in a number of ways and am happy to see that others are catching on to this ultra-healthy legume. The following is a recipe that I came up with forming cooked lentils into a “mock” burger. They are easy to make, hold up well in a sandwich, and are versatile in that they can be used in a variety of dishes. Following the recipe is a link to my YouTube video demonstrating making them. Try them sometime. See serving suggestions below. Enjoy! Judi

Lentil Burgers
Makes 8 Burgers

1 cup dried lentils, rinsed, drained
2-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs of choice
1-1/2 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp dry celery flakes OR 1/2 stalk celery chopped OR 2 Tbsp chopped fresh celery leaves
4 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried onion powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup cooked brown rice, divided

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Place lentils in a medium saucepan with water, onion, bell pepper, garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes until liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender.

In a large blender or food processor, place about 2/3 of the cooked lentils with remaining ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooked brown rice. Process until ingredients are mostly pureed. Place processed ingredients in a bowl with the remaining 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice and cooked lentil mixture. Stir to combine well. Portion mixture into 1/2 cup increments.

Warm a nonstick skillet over medium heat, then add 1 tablespoon of oil. Place lentil mixture by 1/2 cup increments onto hot skillet. With a spatula, shape as for a burger. Allow to cook until firm and brown on one side, about 15 minutes. Then carefully flip and allow the second side to cook until firm, about another 15 minutes. Serve.

Serving Suggestions:
* These burgers are fabulous served in a sandwich garnished with ketchup, mustard and/or mayo with lettuce, tomatoes and even pickles or hot peppers.

* These are also excellent served with mashed potatoes and vegetables, just like you would a standard meatball or ground beef patty.

* A brown gravy would also be a wonderful topping for these burgers.

* Sauteed onions and bell peppers would be another excellent accompaniment

http://youtu.be/M-IJNqsDb7Q