Here are all the best lentil recipes to try!Low in calories, high in nutrition, and budget friendly, lentils are a plant protein that’s pretty darn perfect.
Low in calories and high in nutrition, lentils are a plant protein that’s pretty darn perfect. And they’re budget friendly too! Luckily lentils also have that most important final element: they’re delicious. If you prepare them correctly, lentils can be a great way to make filling and healthy meals as part of a plant based diet. So what are you waiting for? Here are our 15 best lentil recipes, from soups to nachos. (Yes, lentil nachos!)
This 30-minute coconut lentil curry is one of our most popular lentil recipes to date. It’s a fast and easy dinner idea that’s healthy and full of flavor. One of our fan favorites, we hear things like: “This is a new favorite!” and “Absolutely LOVED IT! Definitely am making again.” It’s surprising how much humble brown lentils can inspire so much enthusiasm!
Lentils are low in calories, high in nutrition, and budget friendly. And, they make 40 times less greenhouse gases than a burger. Impressive, right? Here’s our favorite way to eat them: our Best Ever Lentil Soup. Yes, Alex and I are pulling out the superlatives because this one is so delicious, you’ll feel like you’re wrapped in a cozy hug.
Masoor dal is Indian for “red lentils”: and man is this recipe good! It’s an authentic Indian lentil recipe from Chef Asma Khan, the force behind the all-women staffed London restaurant Darjeeling Express and author of the cookbook Asma’s Indian Kitchen. These red lentils are equal parts flavorful and cozy: serve them with naan or chipati for dipping.
Lentils in tacos? Heck yes! These vibrant Instant Pot tacos with smoky lentils and rice are a delicious vegetarian dinner recipe that carnivores enjoy too! The lentils are meaty and savory, and topped crunchy fresh veggies and salsa.
This healthy baked sweet potato recipe with Moroccan lentils is exceptional! The sweet potatoes are baked whole, until flaky and tender. Then they’re topped with lentils mixed with Moroccan flavors: cumin seeds, cinnamon paprika and harissa, and veggies, then smothered in a creamy Lemon Tahini Sauce that brings it all together.
One of our most special lentil recipes is this Ethiopian red lentil curry called mesir wat. It’s similar to Indian curry, but is flavored with cardamom and ginger. Serve over rice for a hearty meal. The recipe was contributed to us by a refugee from Ethiopia; head over to read her story.
Lentils on nachos: why not? These loaded vegan nachos are the best because they’re piled high with smoky, meaty lentils, crunchy veggies, and topped with our vegan nacho cheese. To keep them healthy, look for organic corn chips with minimal ingredients (ideally corn, oil, and salt).
This hearty butternut squash lentil soup comes together in about an hour and is perfect for serving on colder winter days. It’s filled with nutrient-rich foods like lentils, butternut squash, leeks, and chard: and a splash of white wine for some class.
Now for one of our showstopper lentil recipes: these lentil stuffed sweet potatoes! Imagine: the savory sweet combination of sweet potatoes stuffed with black lentils, fresh herbs and tangy goat cheese. It’s one of our house favorites over here.
This easy dal makhani recipe uses canned beans and black lentils to shorten the cook time for this flavorful vegetarian dish. It’s super savory and rich, featuring lots of garlic, ginger, and garam masala. Serve with naan and enjoy!
This lentil soup cooks down red lentils until they form a creamy body, then it’s garnished with lemon juice and cilantro. It’s an easy vegetarian dinner recipe that’s ready in under an hour. Serve it with a side salad or fresh bread for a full meal.
These smoky lentils and rice are featured in two of our lentil recipes: our incredible vegan nachos and Instant Pot lentil tacos! When we developed this smoky lentils and rice recipe, it was too delicious not to use more than once. So we created a few recipes with it! Here’s the base recipe so you can dream up your own creations.
Another in our showstopper lentil recipes is this vegetarian Shepherd’s pie with French lentils. Make this for a special occasion, since it requires a bit of prep. But it’s absolutely worth it! Imagine: rosemary scented Parmesan potatoes over a layer of savory lentils and vegetables. It’s a true treat!
This carefree salad is a mix of black lentils, crunchy vegetables, and feta cheese, covered in a tangy vinaigrette. It’s sophisticated, yet simple, and keeps everyone at the table coming back for more.
And to round out these lentil recipes, this hearty lentil stew! The broth is flavored with tangy fire-roasted tomatoes, garlic and smoked paprika, and it’s full of vegetables and hearty lentils. It was a big hit over here, as lentil recipes usually are! It makes a simple lunch or dinner that’s nourishing for the body — and the soul, too.
Types of lentils
Also, here’s a quick primer on lentil types Because all lentils are not created equal! Here are a few of the most popular types of lentils:
Brown & green lentils:Brown lentils and green lentils are the most “standard” varieties when you think of lentils. They cook quickly (in 20 to 30 minutes), and tend to fall apart when cooked instead of hold their shape. This makes them ideal for soups and curries.
Red lentils: Red lentils are bright orange in color and most commonly found in Indian curry dishes like daal. They take about 20 minutes to cook and break down easily into a “mush”. When you’re looking for a cozy pile of mushy soup or curry, think red lentils (they break down even faster than brown and green).
French lentils (also called Puy lentils):French lentils hold their shape when cooked, making them very different from brown, green and red lentils. They’re small and greenish-gray. Instead of using them in soups, these lentils are great for salads or stuffing baked sweet potatoes.
Black lentils (Beluga lentils): Black lentils are the most flavorful around. They’re very small and dark, like a combo of French lentils and brown lentils. That means they’ll hold their shape when cooked which works for salads, but if you cook longer they’ll also fall apart like in curries.
Place the lentils in a saucepan with 6 cups warm water. Bring to a low boil, then boil for about 20 minutes until tender (taste to assess doneness). Drain, then add a few pinches of salt.
Meanwhile, wash the greens, remove the stems and chop the leaves. (If using prewashed baby spinach, you can skip this step.) In your largest skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the greens and sauté for several minutes until tender and bright green.
When the lentils are done, add them to the skillet with the greens. Over medium high heat, stir in the coconut milk, Thai red curry paste, tomato paste, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Cook for a few minutes until heated through and the sauce is thickened.
Taste and add a few pinches of salt if desired. Serve with rice.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.