Lentils are a great source of important nutrients and an easy addition to meals. Lentils are part of the legume family, along with beans, split peas, and soybeans. They are a great source of protein, and have many associated health benefits. One half cup of cooked lentils contains about 115 calories, 9 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber. Lentils are also low in fat and a good source of folate, iron, and potassium.
Common types of lentils are:
- Brown — these are relatively inexpensive and easy to find. In fact, nearly all grocery stores carry them in bags (with the dry beans) or in bulk. They cook quickly but can get mushy if overcooked. Brown lentils work especially well in soups and stews.
- Green — similar to brown lentils, green lentils are common in soups and stews, lending a nutty, earthy flavor. However, they take longer than brown lentils too cook. French green lentils are a type of green lentil; they are smaller and hold their shape better, making them an ideal addition to salads.
- Red — these lentils cook quickly and become very soft. They are commonly used as a thickening agent in soups and are also great for curries, stews, and purees.
In specialty stores or Indian markets you may find other types of lentils such as yellow, black, white, or split lentils called dal. Most can be used interchangeably, so feel free to experiment! Cooking times and textures may vary though, so it is a good idea to do a little research before using.
Did You Know?
Lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking, unlike dry beans. Just rinse, pick out any debris, cook, and add to your favorite recipes. Lentils are a great addition to:
- Baked sweet potatoes
- Dips and spreads
- Indian dishes
- Rice dishes
- Veggie burgers
Acidic ingredients can prevent lentils from softening, so add these ingredients near the end of cooking.