Lentils are one of the healthiest foods we can find in our local market. This vegetarian staple is inexpensive, available all year-round, and packed with numerous valuable nutrients. However, when we think of lentils, we only picture them as a soup. But lentils are actually very flexible and can be enjoyed in many different ways.
In this article, we discuss the health benefits of lentils and describe how they taste. Then we go on to list five of the best ways we think you might enjoy them.
What are the Health Benefits of Lentils?
The nutrition website healthline.com lists B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and potassium among the most notable nutritional contents that lentils you’ll find in lentils. In addition, they work as an excellent alternative to meat, since they are packed with high contents of protein and iron.
A scientific study published in Spain found out that lentils contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuro protective benefits. Another study proved that lentils help improve blood sugar levels. They even contain properties that lower the risk of heart diseases, according to this research published on the National Library of Medicine.
What Do Lentils Taste Like?
Learn more: What Do Lentils Taste Like?
Lentils have a hard and smooth texture while still uncooked. But after cooking, they turn pretty tender. The texture of other types of lentils may be different too, brown ones tend to be juicier and starchier when cooked compared to others. On the other hand, green ones are sturdier, while the red variety may get mushy after cooking.
Each variety tends to have its own characteristic taste. Brown lentils tend to have a very subtle earthy taste. Their starchy quality makes them great at absorbing other flavors. Green ones have a peppery quality, while the red ones tend to be sweeter and nuttier.
What are 5 Great Ways to Enjoy Lentils?
Soups – Let’s start with the most basic one which we are already familiar with. The subtle taste of brown lentils make them perfect for making soups. But any other variety will work just fine. Lentils soups are very flexible. You may start by sauteing onions and garlic in some oil. You may then add the lentils and broth, or simply water. You may jazz up your soup by adding some more vegetables. We suggest some zucchini, carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Lastly, what you season your soup with is up to you. Our suggestion is salt and black pepper, bay leaves, and parsley. Others prefer to add cumin, thyme, and basil. This lentil soup is great for a rainy day.
Salads – This is where the green variety really shines, because they’re the sturdiest and hence able to retain its shape and mixes well with other ingredients. First step to a great lentil salad is boiling the lentils in broth (or water), along with other spices such as garlic, lemon peel, celery, thyme, and bay leaves. Once cooked and drained, mix it with your preferred salad ingredients. Popular salad ingredients go very well with lentils: cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, parsley, and lettuce. Lemon dressing is what goes best with this salad, in our opinion. You may just mix lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, garlic, salt, and black pepper and shake them in a jar. Pour the dressing over your salad, then toss.
Spreads – Unknown to many, you can make a great lentil spread that you can eat with crudités, tortilla chips, or bread. You may also use it for making sandwiches and toasts. You may use any lentils here, either cooked or canned. Other ingredients are sun-dried tomatoes, tahini, soy sauce, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and lemon juice. Juice mix all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until it’s smooth. And that’s it. You may keep this spread refrigerated for up to a week.
Dal – this dish is a staple of South Indian cuisine. Dals are a thick, rich stew that uses different types of legumes, lentils one of them. The process is easy: cook the lentils in broth or water. Other ingredients include tomatoes and onions. And of course, what’s key to a delicious dal are Indian spices such as mustard seeds, turmeric, curry, ginger, cilantro, and garam masala. Dal is best enjoyed with roti or rice.
Meat Substitute – We have said at the top of this article that lentils are an excellent meat substitute as they contain the nutrients that meats have: high amounts of protein and iron. You may use it to make Bolognese sauce for pasta. Another way to use lentils as a meat substitute is by making burgers with it. Similarly, lentils are a great to base ingredient for vegan meatballs, tacos, shepherd’s pie, and burritos. The possibilities are endless.
The list above is not exhaustive. There are more creative ways to incorporate lentils into your daily diet. And why not, they are packed with numerous health benefits, and taste really great.
Recipe contributed by Juan Palacio