Lentils are one of the healthiest and easiest of the dried beans and legumes to prepare. Lentils taste great in soups, cold salads, casseroles and even burgers and are perfect for vegetarians and meat lovers alike. They are especially popular in Indian and Moroccan cuisine, but almost every culture has a dish made with lentils (or other dried beans for which lentils can be substituted). Here are the nutritious benefits of lentils plus cooking tips and recipes featuring these versatile legumes.
Nutritious benefits of lentils
High in fiber
Lentils are especially high in fiber - 15 grams per 1 cup cooked - and have been found to help lower cholesterol and promote heart health.
High in vitamins and minerals
Lentils are also very high in essential vitamins and minerals such as folate, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin B.
High in protein
Lentils are also high in protein, near 18 grams per 1 cup cooked, providing you with sustained energy and keeping your hunger at bay.
Low in fat
Lentils are nutrient dense but have almost no fat. One cup cooked lentils has less than 1 grams of total fat – and it is made up of mostly unsaturated fat. One cup of cooked lentils is only 230 nutritionally packed calories.
Good for diabetes control
Research has shown that lentils can assist with stabilizing blood sugar in people with diabetes because of the fiber.
Iron in lentils is beneficial to keep a healthy metabolism and high energy. Lentils are especially beneficial for pregnant and lactating women and growing children and teens who have an increased need for iron.
Cooking with lentils
Lentils can be purchased cooked in canned or dry in bulk. Both are perfectly fine to choose from, just be sure to look for no-salt added lentils if you choose canned.
Store dry lentils in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. They can be stored for up to 1 year.
Lentils do not need to be soaked overnight as do some dried beans. They only need to be rinsed. This makes preparation much quicker.
Before you rinse the lentils, spread them out on a flat surface and look through them to remove any debris or stones that may be mixed in, then rinse in a strainer with cold running water.
Follow directions in a recipe for cooking or just simply boil lentils in a 1 to 3 lentil to water ratio for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on consistency desired.
Lentil Veggie Burgers
Makes 4 servings Ingredients:
3/4 cup toasted walnuts, cooled
1/3 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3/4 cup lentils, cooked, drained, cooled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large egg Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce:
3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice Directions:
1. Add walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to a food processor or blender. Blend until coarsely ground. Add lentils and olive oil and blend until combined.
2. In a separate large bowl, whisk egg. Mix in lentil mixture with hands until well combined. Form mixture into 4 equal-sized patties. Cook burgers on a heated grill or in a skillet, about 8 minutes per side or until fully cooked.
3. Meanwhile, make sauce by whisking together all ingredients and serve with burgers on buns with lettuce and tomato.
Makes 6 servings Ingredients:
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
6 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas beans, rinsed and drained
1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon garam masala
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil Directions:
1. Saute onions, garlic and ginger in oil in a large pot or Dutch oven for about 5 minutes.
2. Add water, lentils, chickpeas, beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery, garam masala, cardamom, pepper and cumin, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil and let cook 1 1/2 hours or until lentils are tender.
3. If desired, puree half of the soup in a blender or food processor.
Note: This can also be prepared in a slow-cooker.
Lentil and Dill Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings Ingredients:
1 cup dry lentils
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound tomatoes, diced
4 large scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper Directions:
1. Boil 4 cups of water in a medium pot. Add lentils, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook on low heat until simmering, about 15 to 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.
2. Drain lentils in a strainer and pour into a bowl. Mix lentils with tomatoes, scallions, dill, basil, vinegar, oil, pepper and salt. Chill until ready to use or serve hot.
More lentil recipes Delicious Lentil Chickpea Soup Curried Red Lentil and Swiss Chard Stew Lentils and Rice