Dried lentils are a pantry staple- they're hearty, earthy, and inexpensive. I know I've mistaken lentils for being part of the bean family, but they are actually part of the legume family. That means, you don't need to soak dried lentils overnight like dried beans and you can cook lentils in about twenty minutes. Talk about a convenient and nutritious side dish- what's not to love? Plus there are many different types of lentils, each as delicious as the last!
What Are Lentils?
Lentils are the world's oldest cultivated legume, so it only makes sense that they're enjoyed all around the world. A staple of Indian food and Middle Eastern food, lentils are as versatile as they are delicious. They're sold both canned and dried, which you can select based on how you plan to use them. If you're having a salad or quick side dish, you'll want canned lentils, since they're ready to eat. However, if you're using soup or not planning on using your lentils soon, dried ones are the way to go. Dried lentils last essentially forever, but it's recommended to use them within a year of purchase.
This tasty legume is a convenient, cheap choice for a variety of meals and can be ready in under an hour. Make sure to rinse them before cooking to look for little stones and debris, which can sometimes be found in dried bags. It's also important to note that lentils don't need to absorb all of the liquid in the pot like rice, so a little can be leftover. Most lentil-lovers stick to the rule that one cup of dried lentils will make about two cups of cooked lentils.
Lentils have a yummy, earthy flavor that makes them taste great in a variety of dishes. To add flavor, put in some spices and herbs like bay leaf, garlic, or onion. It's best to put these seasonings in while the lentils are cooking so that the lentils can soak up the flavor as they cook. Enjoy this healthy legume as a salad, side dish, or soup!
Health Benefits of Lentils
Not only are lentils super tasty and inexpensive, but they're a good source of protein, fiber, magnesium, potassium, b vitamins, and calcium. Lentils are also good for your heart, low in calories, versatile, and will boost your energy. Their high amount of protein makes them ideal for muscle health and the ability to keep you full, while their high fiber makes them ideal for digestive health. With all these health benefits, there's no doubt we need to have lentils on the dinner table more often!
Check out our guide for all of the different types of lentil varieties that you might spot when you're strolling down the aisle at the grocery store. We've also included lentil recipes to get you started.
1. Brown Lentils
Brown lentils are one of the most common varieties of lentils sold in the United States. You can find them at most grocery stores and they hold their shape nicely once cooked. Brown lentils have a mild, earthy flavor and can be a natural thickener in a soup or veggie burger.
I have to say though, I always use brown lentils in soup. Try out this Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup recipe from Cookie and Kate to get you started cooking lentils for this year's soup season.
2. Green Lentils
Another common type of lentils is green lentils. They have a slightly peppery flavor and firm texture but do have the longest cooking time out of all the varieties (about 40 minutes) and cook up great in the instant pot.
French Green lentils are great to use in a French-style salad or as a warm side dish. This Green Lentil Salad from The Healthy Foodie is refreshing and the perfect make-ahead dish that the whole family will love.
Puy lentils (lentilles du puy) are the original green lentil that is actually harvested in the French region of Le Puy. Known to have the best texture, these lentils are the most expensive of the bunch.
3. Red Lentils
Red lentils are small split lentils that cook in no time. They're commonly used in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian cuisines and have a very soft texture when cooked, so they're ideal to use in soups, purées, and stews. They're well-known for the many Indian dals that use them.
This Red Lentil Daal from Epicurious is a popular, hearty dish to serve with a basmati rice recipe and flatbread.
Rawseed Organic Lentils
4. Yellow Lentils
Yellow lentils are very similar to red lentils but have a gorgeous bright yellow color. They're sweet, nutty, and will cook in about 15 minutes.
Another common variety found in Indian cuisine, yellow lentils are the star of the show in this Yellow Lentil Dal with Curry recipe from Girl and the Kitchen. Creamy, nutritious, and filled with aromatic spices, you'll love whipping up this simple dish during the week for a quick meal.
5. Black Lentils/ Beluga Lentils
Black lentils, also known as beluga lentils, are eye-catching black lentils that resemble beluga caviar. They have a deep, earthy flavor, firm texture and are the most nutritious out of all the types of lentils.
Black lentils make a great side dish to pair with fish or chicken. You have to try this Black Lentil Salad with Chickpeas and Mint Lemon Dressing from Italian Food Forever. Toss in some cooked couscous to complete this vegan meal.
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READ MORE: Stop Before You Cook Red Kidney Beans in Your Instant Pot
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