Whether your participants are unfamiliar with lentils or in need of some recipes to reignite their interest, we’ve gathered a few tips, ideas, and recipes to help them start loving lentils. Lentils, along with beans and peas, belong to a group of vegetables called pulses. They have a similar nutrient profile to beans but due to their smaller size they cook much quicker than dry beans and don’t require pre-soaking. Read on for more information or jump right to the recipes.
Lentils are protein-packed, not to mention a good source of fiber, iron, folate, and zinc. This nutrition superstar also contains choline, which is important for a baby’s developing brain! The non-heme iron in lentils is absorbed best when eaten with foods containing vitamin C. Getting adequate amounts of these nutrients (in addition to calcium) may even help protect against lead exposure. Visit the Eye on Nutrition series to learn more about these and other nutrients and the WIC Meals of the Month series to find nutrient-specific recipes.
Lentils give a hearty taste and texture to dishes and can be used in many ways. Along with the nutrients they provide, this makes them a suitable meat substitute for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Tips & Ideas to Share
There are many varieties of lentils with most varieties found in the dried foods section, but canned lentils may be available in some locations. Lentils are great in soups, as an addition to salads, and as a vegetarian protein source in recipes traditionally made with meat.
Similar to rice, lentils take on whatever flavors you add to the pot. Instead of plain water, cook lentils in a broth or stock. Adding aromatics like garlic, herbs, sliced browned onions, and a bay leaf can turn lentils into an easy and tasty dish.
Common Lentil Varieties
Brown and green lentils hold up well to cooking and can be used interchangeably in recipes, since they have similar cooking times. Red and yellow lentils are often sold in split form, so they cook faster and break down easier. Add lentils to water, bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for specified cooking time or until tender.
|Liquid Needed (per 1 cup dry lentils)
|Best Used For
|Spice it Up!
|Main or side dish
|Add garlic, spices, herbs, or a sprinkle of salt to really bring out their best flavor!
|Main or side dish
|Red and Yellow
|Nutty flavor, red lentils are sweeter
|Thickener in soups, stews, casseroles
Cooking with Lentils
Rinse: Rinse lentils in a bowl or colander and remove any debris or pebbles.
Soaking: Unlike beans, lentils are small and cook relatively quick (in general, about 20-30 minutes) so they don’t require pre-soaking. However, soaking lentils for a few hours or overnight may improve the digestibility of starches in lentils and an overnight soak can also reduce cooking time by about half.
Time-Savers: Lentils can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated for up to one week. Frozen cooked lentils should be used within 6 months for best quality. Canned lentils are another great time-saver and can easily be added to dips, like hummus, and used in many recipes. Draining and rinsing canned lentils can help reduce the sodium content.
Soups and Stews: Dried lentils can also be added to soups and stews. For brown or green lentils, add them to the simmering pot of soup or stew 45 minutes prior to it being done cooking. For red or yellow lentils, add them about 15 minutes prior to the soup being done cooking.
Soups and Stews
Crockpot Vegetable Lentil Stew (available in Spanish)
Delicious Lentil Stew (available in Spanish)
Lentil Barley Soup (available in Spanish)
Lentil Chili (available in Spanish)
Lentil Minestrone (available in Spanish)
Lentil Vegetable Soup (available in Spanish)
Slow Cooker Lentil Soup (available in Spanish)
Tortellini Soup (available in Spanish)
Main Meals (45 minutes or less)
Banana Oatmeal Pancakes with Lentils (available in Spanish)
Lentil Spaghetti Sauce (available in Spanish)
Lentil Tacos (available in Spanish)
Red Lentil Latkes (available in Spanish)
Other Main Meals
Baked Lentils Casserole (available in Spanish)
Curried Potatoes with Red Lentils (available in Spanish)
Honey Baked Lentils (available in Spanish)
Kelly’s Herbed Lentils and Rice Casserole (available in Spanish)
Tastee Burgers (available in Spanish)
Lentil Vegetable Salad (available in Spanish)