Before I tell you how I cook lentils, if you need reasons why you should eat lentils, here’s a list:
- Really nutritious*
- Really cheap
- As they are usually sold canned or dry, they keep for a long time
- Pretty environmentally friendly*
- Pretty easy to cook (and faster than beans)
*Read til after the recipe if you want more of an explanation for this list.
The super easy method to cook lentils:
Buy canned lentils and season them with whatever sauce or seasoning you like. Warm them up or eat them cold. Done. Easy.
The slightly more work but still pretty easy way to cook lentils is:
- Measure out the dry lentils you want to cook. They don’t expand that much pasta or beans do, so don’t worry about that.
- Give em a good rinse. They don’t need to soak like beans do, although it won’t hurt them if you do. I like to put them in a colander and run water through.
- While you’re rinsing, take out any small rocks you find. I haven’t found rocks often, but a few times I have found them with my teeth :/
- Find a pot that will fit the lentils you have measured, plus twice that amount of water (so 2 cups of water for 1 cup lentils) and a little extra. It will help if it has a lid that fits.
- Put the lentils and water in that pot along with a little salt.
- Put the pot on a stove burner or hotplate and cover with a lid.
- Turn the stove or hotplate to high heat and wait until the lentils are boiling. Once they are boiling, turn the stove down to low (keep the lid on).
- Let it continue to cook on low until most of the water is absorbed or until they are the softness you like (anywhere from 15-45 minutes.) Drain any extra water out.
- Taste, add more salt and other seasonings as needed.
To add more flavor, use broth instead of water, add other spices with the salt. Or, before putting the lentils in the pot, cook some onions, garlic, spices, or other aromatic veggies in some oil, then add the lentils.
If you’ve tried lentils before and were put off by the mushy texture, I suggest trying French lentils, as they tend to hold their shape better. Eating them in a salad vs. by themselves or as a soup may also help them be more appealing. Here’s a great French lentil salad recipe from Once Upon a Chef.
Cookie and Kate has a great and very detailed guide if you want specific cooking times for specific kinds of lentils.
The good nutrition news about lentils:
- 17.9g of protein! About the same as 1 and 1/2 eggs! (Just make sure you also eat a whole grain to get all your amino acids in. If you want to learn more, read this)
- over 6mg of iron, which is 33-75% of your recommended daily intake, depending on your needs
- Over 15g of fiber, which is 40-60% of your recommended daily intake!
- over 350 micrograms of folate, which is about 90% of your recommended daily intake!
Generally, plant-foods use fewer resources, including water and energy, than animal foods. This is also true for lentils. Lentils also have the added bonus of being nitrogen-fixing, which means that if farmers use lentils as part of crop rotation, less fertilizer is required. (Source)
Of course, there are a lot of great lentil recipes out there from around the world! Do you have any favorites?