How to Cook Lentils, Seamlessly

By Nicole Hopping December 29, 2012 No Comments

Flickr (cc): Mote

This month, as part of Fooducopia’s blog series on legumes, we’ll be exploring the vast and nutritious world of lentils, giving you all the tools you need to both understand their use and prepare them deliciously. Legumes, a class of vegetables including beans, peas, and lentils, are often overlooked by everyday chefs since they have a reputation for being hard to cook, or worse, for being hippie food!

Lentils are a nutritional powerhouse though—they’re loaded with B vitamins, calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and fiber. In addition, they are low in fat, high in protein and fiber, and have no cholesterol.

Purchasing lentils is quite seamless too, as most grocers carry dried lentils (usually packaged in bags), year around. And, unlike their close relative dehydrated beans, lentils cook quickly without pre-soaking.

The three most commonly used varieties are brown, green, and red. The chart below outlines their flavor, uses, and cooking guidelines.

Type Texture Flavor Best Uses Cooking Time

Preparation

Brown Soften when cooked and can easily become soft, losing shape Mild Soups, Stews, Casseroles, Curries,  Stuffing 30-40 minutes
  1. Examine and discard any shriveled lentils
  2. Rinse under cool water
  3. Place 4 cups of water or broth and 1 cup of lentils in a saucepan
  4. Cover and simmer
Green (French lentils) Soft but shape remains in tact Strong, Nutty Salads, Casseroles, Curries, Stuffing 30-40 minutes
Red Soft and usually lose shape completely making them the perfect ingredient to thicken dishes Mild, Semi-sweet Purees, Curries, Casseroles 15-20 minutes

The fun in lentils though lies in their versatility. Lentils are mild enough to be tossed into your go-to soup, stew, or casserole recipe and they also pair well bacon, garlic, cumin, bell peppers, and sherry vinegar.  Experiment with them this month and stayed tuned for next month’s lentil recipe, as part of Fooducopia’s legume series!

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