Lentils are types of peas that are rich in protein and fiber and have low-fat content. Lentils appear in four types which include the brown lentils, yellow lentils, red lentils, and green lentils. Lentils can be served with rice, burrito, bolognese, with soup and beef.
Lentils are grouped with peas and beans as part of the legume family; thus, they also grow in pods. Lentils are rich in proteins and fiber but have low-fat content. The low quantity of fats makes lentils an ideal meat substitute. There are four main types of lentils; brown, yellow, red, and green lentils.
All four varieties are also rich in folate, phosphorus, iron, potassium, and fiber. The other minor varieties of lentils are black and French lentils.
Table of Contents
- What are Lentils?
- Types of Lentils
- Type of Lentils and How You Can Serve Them
- General ways of serving lentils
- How to Cook Lentils?
- Why Should You Eat Lentils?
- Where to buy lentils
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What are Lentils?
Lentils are small legumes that act as a good source of iron, proteins, calories, and fiber. A single cup of cooked lentils supplies nearly 18grams of protein. Lentils are classified as legumes and are the size of peas.
In most cases, lentils are purchased as dry foods, but I have also seen some freshly sprouted lentils. Fresh lentils are easier to digest for most people. In addition, lentils are affordable but nutritious foods commonly used as stews, soups, and salads in many parts of Europe and America.
Because of their size, lentils cook more quickly than dry beans, and you do not need to soak them. As a result, lentils are an inexpensive but rich source of high-quality proteins.
Lentils can be canned or dried. Canned lentils are good for ready to use such as salads or side dishes.
Types of Lentils
The most common lentils are brown lentils. They can range from dark brown to likely full brown color. Brown lentils maintain their shape during cooking; thus, they are ideal for warm salads, stews, soups, and casseroles.
Green lentils are almost similar to brown lentils except that they have a slightly more peppery flavor and come in different sizes. In addition, the color of green lentils ranges varies from pale, spotted green to a green slate color.
Just like brown lentils, green lentils retain their shapes after cooking. The ability to retain shape combined with their fantastic flavor makes green lentils an inevitable choice for side dishes or salads.
Yellow and Red Lentils
Their color ranges from golden yellow to orange and red. They are the only variety that is processed into smaller bits. These sweet varieties of lentils are predominant in Indian and Middle Eastern Cuisine.
Yellow and red lentils disintegrate when cooked; thus, they are ideal for lentil soups or lentil stews. Lentils can also be used in a casserole. When used in soup, red and yellow lentils serve as soup thickeners.
The most common types of specialty lentils are the black beluga and puy. They are approximately one-third the size of green or brown lentils. After cooking, black beluga lentils turn shiny, tiny, and black. They make an excellent base for salads.
Type of Lentils and How You Can Serve Them
All the varieties of lentils are not interchangeable; thus, each works well with different types of recipes. Here are some ways you can use various lentils;
French Green Lentils
French lentils have a firm texture and hold their shapes after cooking. They can be used in pasta sauce and lentil salad. They are also very delicious in curried lentil soup.
Beluga lentils can be used interchangeably with French green lentils in most lentil recipes. For example, they are an excellent addition to a salad. However, you can use them on their own as side dishes.
Regular Brown or Green Lentils
These are excellent choices for lentil soup or stew. Instead of holding their shape, brown and green lentils soften and become mush as they cook.
Red or Yellow Lentils
They cook much more quickly than the other varieties. As a result, they become soft and tender after just 15 minutes of cooking. They also form a creamy texture, making them an ideal addition for thick curries, Indian dal, or lentil stew.
Dried lentils are usually overlooked for convenient canned beans that are easy to cook. However, these small proteins are packed with nutrients and are the easiest way of adding proteins without consuming meat frequently.
All the varieties of lentils are good non-meat sources of potassium, iron, and proteins. Lentils can turn a veggie-looking meal into a more appealing hearty meal. Suppose you are looking to reduce meat consumption; you can use mashed lentils to replace meat fully or partially.
The best thing about the lentil diet is that it will never get boring since you can serve lentils with several foods. Here is a brief description of some of the foods you can serve lentils with;
Puy lentils grow in the volcanic soil of Le Puy, a region in France. Puy lentils are dark, bluish-slate-green in color. They can be eaten with meat or fish.
General ways of serving lentils
Lentils can be consumed in a combination of many foods. Here are four ways you can enjoy lentils beyond the typical rice and beans.
Lentils and rice
One of the best gifts for your body is enjoying warm brown rice with lentils, tahini sauce, and roasted veggies. Combining rice with lentils produces a gourmet, healthy meal. Although this is the main way of serving lentils, there are other unique ways of eating lentils.
Instead of stuffing Mexican meals with black beans, fish, or beef, you can use lentils instead. First, you just need to grab your tortilla, after which you add lentils and whatever your appetite desires. Next, you can add red cabbage, guac salsa, and greens.
You only need to prepare a sauce with a texture similar to the meat sauce. For example, this meal combines red lentils, tomato sauce, a bunch of seasonings, and veggies.
Lentil soup is made from lentils and veggies. Lentil soup goes well with freshly grated parmesan juice, dinner rolls, and the Italian salad.
Lentils and beef
You can also enjoy a meal made of green veggies, lentils, and minced meat. This food is economical, nutritious, and can be cooked in one pot. You should add Moroccan spices, onions, garlic, and crushed tomatoes. Ensure you brown the meat using spices.
I love this serving because it is versatile with spices, economical, and supplies all the basic nutrients.
Other lentil servings
Apart from the above foods, you can also eat lentils with:
- You can serve spiced lentils with green vegetables and mushrooms. You can use this menu as a light lunch. You can also serve lentil stew alongside roasted cauliflowers with raisins.
- Other people eat lentils with red cabbage salads with beet and blue cheese. This serving has many ingredients like bacon, lentils, and cabbage. It also has some olive oil and lemon juice.
- Chicken and Red Lentils -Most people prefer eating chicken curries with red lentils, but you can also serve them with other varieties of lentils.
- Lentils with Tortilla Soup- this is a thick soup that is ideal during a cold winter. The meal is fun and very colorful to enlighten any meal.
- Spiced red lentils- this meal is prepared from red lentils with Ethiopian spice blends like pepper, Cardamom, ajwain, and fenugreek.
- Carrots, smoked sausages, and Lentils
- Lentils and cauliflowers are a perfect choice for light meals. Although the meal is light, it has all the nutrients your body needs. Furthermore, it is very delicious and satisfying.
- Potato salad, lentils, and Goat Cheese- this delicious menu combines warm potatoes with lentils and goat cheese.
- Warm roasted carrots, fennel, and lentil salad. This delicious meatless dish can be served warm or at room temperature.
- You can also serve lentils with spinach and tomatoes for a light but nutritious lunch.
- Beef over lentils and wild mushrooms is a hearty, warming meal during cold winter days.
- Braised lentils with Cipollini onions- use enough water for cooking the lentils because any water you will drain will be a waste of flavor.
- Veggie balls combined with classic tomato sauce and spaghetti.
- Lentils with white or brown chapati
How to Cook Lentils?
Preparing lentils is straightforward. You should begin by sorting to pick out small stones and hard debris. Lentils usually cook faster compared to other legumes, even without soaking them. Cooking lentils follows two main steps;
- Rinse to remove all small stones and residues mixed with dried lentils. To avoid eating these debris and other hard materials, use a mesh sieve or pick them over before cooking them.
- Unlike when cooking Quinoa, don’t use specific lentils: cups of water ratio. You are just required to fill a pot halfway with water, boil it before you add lentils. Simmer the lentils to make them tender. The duration of cooking will depend on the type of lentils. Dried lentils cook for a long time compared to canned lentils.
Why Should You Eat Lentils?
There are many advantages of eating lentils, including:
- Lentils are relatively cheap, easy to prepare and cook quickly.
- Consuming lentils reduces the chances of dying from cardiovascular disease. This is because they have a wide range of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants.
- Lentils are a rich source of folate that protects the fetus from neural tube defects. In addition, folate also protects pregnant women from gestational diabetes mellitus. For this reason, pregnant and breastfeeding women are encouraged to consume lentils.
- Lentil is a source of selenium, a mineral that may decrease the risk of tumor growth. Consumption of lentils has been shown to lower the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Eating lentils reduces fatigue- lentils supply the body with non-heme iron. This enhances the formation of hemoglobin, thus improving the delivery of oxygen to tissues. With an appropriate supply of oxygen, you won’t experience fatigue. The non-heme iron is essential for vegetarians who don’t consume meat for some reason.
- Lentil consumption also promotes proper digestion, bowel emptying, and satiety. The high fiber content of lentils increases fullness that will consequently lower appetite. This mechanism is crucial for those intending to lose weight. High fiber also improves digestion and reduces the risk of developing constipation.
- Lentils are very nutritious – they are rich in proteins, minerals, and vitamins. They provide essential nutrients like folate, iron, manganese, phosphorus, thiamin, potassium, and vitamin B6.
Where to buy lentils
Lentils are found virtually everywhere; you can find lentils in health food stores, farmers’ markets, and online retailers such as Amazon. The most commonly found lentils in groceries are red and whole green lentils. In addition, varieties such as black beluga lentils and French green lentils are easily found in bigger food stores.