Looking for a quicker alternative to beans while still getting all the protein, fiber, and all the other nutrients without all of the work? Abundant and easy to cook and store, lentils provide vegetarians and vegans a lot of nutritional value all while reducing the time you have to spend slaving over a hot stove to prepare a healthy and delicious meal. That’s why today we are talking about “Lentils” and why you should have it in your “Vegetarian Kitchen.”
Hey, I am EJ and thank you for tuning in for another edition of “Vegetarian Kitchen” where we explore the vegetarian and vegan resources that are available to help make vegetarian living easy breezy. From food ingredients to appliances, to cooking tools, you will get low-down on the essentials you should have stocked and ready to go in your “Vegetarian Kitchen.”
What are lentils exactly? How do you even pronounce it? Is it Len-tils or is it Lent-nels? However you say it, one thing is for sure, Lentils are a great staple and I feel, alternative to beans and meat. Lentils are considered a hybrid (yes – we are getting a little scientific) of peas and beans and is a member of the legume family because they grow in pods (think like peanuts). Lentils are loaded with folate, iron, protein, fiber, and potassium. They are also low in fat and cholesterol free! You can feel good about enjoying Lentils and incorporating them into your daily diet.
Unlike other legumes (mainly larger beans), Lentils cook quickly all without the long process of soaking them prior to cooking. With beans, you usually have to soak them for 6 – 8 long hours or do a quick soak by boiling the beans for 5 minutes, then letting them soak for an hour, then cooking them for another 2 -3 hours. With Lentils (and this is the beauty of these little things), you just rinse away any dirt and add them to your favorite recipe or boil them on their own for 15 to 30 minutes in water or a great vegetable broth. Lentils are excellent in soups, stews, and salads. They also work well as a main or side dish.
Here are a couple of tricks to making delicious Lentil based dishes.
- Add bold seasonings and spices to your water like turmeric, ginger, and coriander
- Serve your Lentils over rice or mix your lentils with cauliflower, tomatoes, or mashed carrots
- Toast Lentils in a skillet with a little oil to unleash the nutty flavors before boiling or adding to your favorite dish
There are 3 types of Lentils. Brown, Red, and Green.
Red Lentils are your go to Lentil if you are seriously pressed for cooking time (this happens quite a bit in my house). While Lentils usually cook within 20 minutes, Red Lentils don’t mess around are usually cooked in about 10 minutes. That’s half the time of Brown and Green Lentils. These magical Red Lentils turn a rich golden color once they are cooked. I call these “magical” Lentils because not only do they change color, but they also lose their shape, once cooked. Red Lentils are often used in Indian dishes such as Dal and are also more difficult to find but you can usually find these Red Lentils in Indian Grocery Stores or a Speciality Food Grocery Store.
Green Lentils are great for hot or cold salads because unlike Red Lentils, Green Lentils are firm and really does a great job at holding their shapes. Green Lentils also adds another dimension by having a nutty flavor which pairs nicely with coconut milk.
Brown Lentils are the most common and the easiest on the cooking budget. These are also great for soups because if they are cooked too long they turn mushy and very soft. If you don’t want your Brown Lentils to turn mushy, only cook for about 15 minutes and add a little oil and salt to your boiling water before adding the Lentils (think about how you would prepare your water for cooking pasta). You may even recognize these brown legumes as being used in some of your favorite canned or frozen soups. Brown Lentils also have a milder flavor which allows you to substitute Lentils for beans or meat in your favorite recipe without the flavor profile being altered too much.
If you already knew about the wonderful world of Lentils, I hope we shared something with you new today. If this is the first time you are learning about Lentils, I hope you see how Lentils is a vegetarian essential that you definitely want to incorporate in your diet and have stocked and ready in your Vegetarian Kitchen.
VTB and the vegetarian and vegan community would love to hear from you! How did you discover Lentils? Did a friend tell you about it or did you just pick it up from the store one day and say “hey, let me give this a try?” What is your favorite way to prepare Lentils? Join the conversation and share your story by entering your comments below, on Facebook, or by using #VTBLentils on Twitter.
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Thank you for joining me today on another episode of VTB’s Vegetarian Kitchen. Thank you and Take care!