What are lentils?
Lentils are small, round seeds that are part of the legume family of plants (also known as pulses). They grow in pods similar to beans and peas. I often refer to them as the “no-soak, quick cooking” pulse. They are an excellent source of protein, fiber, folate, iron, and potassium. In comparison to other plant-based proteins, they are
26% protein, making them the third most protein-dense whole food after soybeans and hemp seeds.
Quick facts about lentils:
Protein-packed: 1/2 cup cooked lentils contains at least 9 gram of protein (more than an eggs worth) depending on the variety.
Fiber Rich: each 1/2 cup serving contains 8 grams of fiber–about 25% of your daily needs
Fast-cooking: Cooks in about 10-30 minutes, depending on the variety and desired texture.
Cheaper alternative to meat and other meat alternatives: Lentils cost on average $1-$4 per pound, compared to $3-$7 per pound of boneless chicken breast. Organic, heirloom varieties tend to be more expensive.
Long-shelf life: Dry, uncooked lentils can be kept in an airtight container in a dry, cool place for up to 1 year.
Different types of lentils:
In the US, there are seven different varieties of lentils grown that vary in color, size, and flavor. The outer shell of the seed can be light brown, green, speckled gray-green, yellow, red, or black. All varieties are equally nutritious, yet the texture can differ depending on the type. For example, red lentils, which have been “split”, removing the outer shell, have a softer texture when cooked and are great for making purees for dips or veggie burgers, whereas black, French and green lentils are intact so they have a firmer texture, making them good in salads and soups.
Mediterranean Lentil Salad
1 cup dried lentils (preferably small black or French lentils)
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
½ English cucumber, halved and sliced
¼ cup sliced scallions, green parts only
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 lemon, juiced and tested
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan with lentils, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are just tender, 15 to 25 minutes. Drain in a large sieve, and then transfer to a large bowl.
Allow the lentils to cool. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, dill, parsley, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Red Lentil Dal
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 cups water
1 cup dried red lentils
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon coriander
¼ teaspoon mustard powder
1 cup jarred, crushed tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and ginger along with a pinch of sea salt. Sauté for 2-3 minutes to soften. Add the tomatoes, turmeric, cumin, coriander and mustard. Simmer for 1-2 minutes.
Add 3 cups water and lentils. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Serve garnished with fresh cilantro and lime wedges.
By: Katie Cavuto, RD,
Research: Tara Pellacchia