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Amazing Lentil Benefits, Simple Cooking Methods and Yummy Recipes


Lentils, the Mega-Nutrient, Down Home Superfood

When it comes to nutrients per calorie, lentils top the list.  A rich, nutty legume with roots in the Middle East, lentils pack a serious health punch.  In fact, Health magazine calls them one of the five healthiest foods, a sentiment which is shared worldwide. To be sure, 1 cup of cooked lentils contains more than 18 grams of protein (about the same amount as a 3 oz. portion of steak, minus the saturated fat), and that’s just for starters.   Lentils also deliver plenty of dietary fiberfolateB vitamins, and minerals, making them a perfect choice for those interested in keeping blood sugar and cholesterol in check.

In case you need more convincing, most Americans come up short on meeting their dietary fiber daily intake requirements by about 50%. This key nutrient associated with weight loss and low blood cholesterol leads to sustained energy while it keeps you feeling fuller longer.  In fact, legumes such as lentils have been used to lower blood sugar levels and even reduce or eliminate prescription meds in people with Type 2 diabetes.  And for anyone concerned about too much music, lentils are also the easiest legumes to digest.

If all of these health benefits aren’t enough, try lentils for the amazing array of delicious dishes that feature this fabulous food.  A mere bite of Agape Salad had been known to soften even the most consummate carnivores it’s so savory and satisfying.   There so many lentil benefits, cooking methods and recipes, I invite you to find your own favorites.

Basic Cooking Method

Lentils are a cinch to prepare, since they don’t require soaking and cook faster than most grains and legumes.  They work wonderfully in Misc 009soups and stews, or combine deliciously into a hearty salad or side dish as well.

Storage Tip:  Store lentils in jars in your pantry, labeled with variety, date and cooking information so you don’t have to look it up next time you’re ready to prepare them.

Click here for a downloadable bulk food label template.

Lentils can be simmered in water on the stove top or cooked in consommé, bouillon or broth with equal ease.   Brown, Green and Black and Red lentils all cook similarly, however cooking times vary, see individual varieties below for details.

  1.  Place lentils in a colander and sift through them before cooking.  Remove anything not a lentil (they sometimes pick up bits of stone during harvesting), then give them in quick rinse in cold water.
  2. Pour into a large saucepan.  Add about 1 ½ cups water per cup of lentils
  3. Heat the lentils and water on the stove until they come to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered to prevent over-boiling.  (See cooking times under individual varieties below)
  5. Serve and enjoy

Optional Cooking Tip:  Remove from heat and cover tightly with the lid. Let sit for 5-10 minutes longer before serving.

Common Lentil Varieties

The large, khaki-colored lentils most commonly used in cooking are called Green or Brown lentils depending on where you shop, but suffice it to say these classic lentils are greenish-brown in color and work in any lentil recipe, although they’re on the softer side once cooked and more mild-flavored than other varieties. Cook for 25-40 minutes.

French green lentils (lentilles du Puy)  are slighly smaller than the brown variety.  This dark green legume is often considered the tastiest, with a slight peppery flavor to round it out.  Slightly firmer than Brown lentils, but may be substituted in most recipes.  Cook for 35-45 minutes.

Black or Beluga Lentils are a smallest variety with a delicious, nutty flavor that lends itself well to whole grain or arugula salads.  Also lovely combined with French lentils to vary the texture.  Cook 20-30 minutes.

Red lentils are sweetest of the bunch, these salmon colored legumes transform into a golden puree when cooked.  A perfect addition to soups or stews, they’re often used in curry dishes.   Cook for 25 minutes, into a thick puree.

Basic Lentil Recipe Ideas

There are as countless ways to prepare lentils, and it’s easy to get creative and invent your own favorites!  I like to prepare mine according to the cooking instructions above, and add in some of the following items for every 3-4 cups of cooked Green, Black or French lentils:

Add during last 5 minutes of simmer time (return lentils to simmer before restarting the timer):

  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped carrot (skin on)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup chopped red or green pepper
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 cup chopped fennel

Mix in with cooked lentils:

  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. dried mustard
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. natural hickory liquid smoke
  • 1 cup cooked barley
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice

Sauté for 5 – 10 minutes with slightly under-cooked lentils (in addition to any of the items listed above):

  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped parsnip
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1-2 cups chopped cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped spinach

Or try one of these delicious recipes:

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Agape Salad

Curried Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup

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