Back to the Kitchen: Lentils You Can Do Every Which Way

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French green, little red, little green, brown and black are some of the more common varieties of lentils, which are legumes that generally have a rich nutty flavor. They are grown in pods, which contain one or two seeds each. There are many varieties that are classified as large or small and are round, oval or heart shaped. Lentils are among my most favorite foods and  have long been a staple in vegetarian diets as well. Lentils are generally used in soups and stews. Green and brown lentils hold their shape fairly well if not overcooked and can be added to salads and other dishes. Little red lentils are great for adding color, but get mushy if overcooked. The varieties that are soft after cooking are used mainly to thicken stews and soups or are made into purees. Feel free to mix all of the varieties, expand your diet and try some of these flavorful recipes.

Lentils can be made every which way.

Spicy Red Lentil Soup

1 tbsp olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp curry powder

¼- cup tomato paste

2 (15 ounce can) crushed tomatoes

6 cups vegetable stock

2 cups red lentils

Heat oil in large pan, add onions, garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring, until onions are soft Add the rest of the ingredients and cook, uncovered, about 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.


Green Lentil Soup with Brown Butter and Pan Fried Paneer

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, ghee, or extra-virgin coconut oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

5 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups green lentils

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon curry powder

1/2 cup coconut milk

sea salt

1 bunch fresh chives, minced

Small cubes of pan-fried paneer (optional)

Combine the 2 tablespoons butter, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a large soup pot over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the onions soften, a couple minutes. Add the vegetable broth and lentils and simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender. This usually takes 20 to 30 minutes, but can take as long as 50 minutes.

In the meantime, warm the 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and let it brown. When it starts to smell nutty and fragrant, stir in the curry powder and sauté until the spices are fragrant, less than a minute. 

When the lentils are finished cooking, remove from the heat, stir in the coconut milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and puree with an immersion blender. You can leave the soup a bit chunky if you like, or puree until it is perfectly smooth. Stir in half of the spiced butter, taste, and add more salt, if needed, typically a couple of teaspoons if you used water instead of a salted broth. Serve drizzled with the remaining spice butter and sprinkled with chives, (and paneer cubes if you’re using them.)

Pan Fried Paneer

½ pound paneer

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon garam masala

Juice of 1 lemon

Sprinkle the spices on the paneer cubes and keep aside for 10 minutes. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. Pan-fry the paneer cubes on both sides adding the spices as you turn the paneer pieces.  Fry on both sides and sprinkle lemon juice.

Lentil, Fennel and Roast Beet Salad

3 cups dry green lentils


1 large onion chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 medium carrot, cut into 2 pieces

1 celery stalk, cut into 2 pieces

2 bay leaves

6 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced

4 roasted beets, finely chopped

Lemon Shallot Dressing (recipe below)


Freshly ground pepper

1-cup feta cheese

1/4 cup minced parsley

Put the lentils into a large saucepan. Add water to cover plus 3 inches. Bring to the boiling point and lower heat to very low. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery and bay leaves. Simmer covered for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender but not mushy; they must retain their shape. Drain the lentils and remove the vegetables. Turn the lentils into a bowl while they are still hot. Add the green onions and the French dressing. Mix well. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Cool the lentils then cover the bowl and refrigerate for 2 hours to blend the flavors.

At serving time, drain off any excess dressing. Turn into a flat serving dish, garnish with the tomato wedges and sprinkle with the parsley.

Lemon Shallot Dressing

Whisk together 1/3 cup olive oil, juice of two large lemons (or to taste), 3 garlic cloves, minced, 1 shallot minced, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, salt and pepper to taste.


Lentil Salad

1 cup lentils cooked and chilled

1 cup brown rice, cooked

1 pint golden raspberries

2 blood oranges, peeled and roughly chopped

¼ cup parsley

½ cup green onions

Blood Orange Vinaigrette (see below)

In a large salad bowl toss together! Chill for at least one hour before serving.

Blood Orange Vinaigrette 

(Great with the lentil salad, but also awesome with a big salad of mixed greens and any vegetables that you have on hand!)

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

¼ cup blood orange juice

Zest from one blood orange

2/3-cup olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together vigorously. Keeps in the refrigerator for 1 month.


Lentil Stew

1/2-cup olive oil

6 cloves garlic

1 cup chopped opinion

1-cup carrots

1-cup broccoli

1-cup kale

1-cup spinach

2 cups little green lentils

4 cups vegetable stock

4 cups marinara sauce

1/2 cup red wine

Salt and pepper to taste

2-tablespoons basil, thyme

1 Bouquet Garni

In a large soup pot heat oil and sauté over medium heat onions and garlic. Add lentils, carrots, broccoli, kale and spinach.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over low heat for about one hour.


Bouquet Garni

Small bunch of  parsley

8 sprigs thyme

8 sage leaves

2 bay leaves

Make a little herb packet by wrapping in a small piece of cheesecloth and securing by tying with a piece of kitchen string. This prevents the herbs from floating around and makes it easy to remove at the end. The bouquet garni can be varied to suit your dish or taste. I like to use peppercorns, rosemary, whole cloves, whole nutmeg, dill, garlic, peels of lemon, limes and oranges.


Baked Lentil Loaf with Country Gravy

1 cup dry lentils

1 bay leaf

3 cups water

1 small red onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic

1-tablespoon olive oil

3 carrots, finely chopped

3 celery stalks finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1/2-cup ketchup

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup raw cashews, chopped

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1-teaspoon thyme

1-teaspoon rosemary

1/2-teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a medium saucepan cook the lentils and the bay leaf until soft about 45 minutes. Set aside. Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until the onion is translucent about 5 minutes. Add the carrots, celery red peppers, cashews and the spices and sauté about 15 minutes more. Let cool.

Add veggie mixture to lentil mixture mix well and then add the eggs, rolled oats and ketchup. Mix well and pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 for about 45 minutes until firm. Serve warm with gravy.

*A great leftover sandwich is n a toasted roll with roasted red peppers, Russian dressing and cole slaw.

Country Gravy

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 portabella mushrooms, slice 1/4 inch thick, then each slice in 4ths

1 small onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic

2 cups veggie stock

1/2-teaspoon thyme

1/2-teaspoon rosemary

Pinch salt and pepper

3 tablespoons flour

Fresh thyme and rosemary to float on the top

In a skillet heat 1 1/2-tablespoon olive oil. Add mushroom, garlic and onion and sauté for about 7 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked and the onions are translucent. Remove from skillet and set aside. Heat up remaining oil and add flour and whisk until smooth and cook 30 seconds. Add stock in a steady stream while continuing to whisk cook 5 minutes. Stir in reserve mushrooms, thyme and rosemary and cook 5 minutes more season with salt and pepper. Pour into gravy boat and serve with mashed potatoes and the baked lentil loaf.


Lentil Burgers 

1-cup lentils

2 1/2-cup water

1 bay leaf

1 small red onion, finely diced

1 celery stick, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 inch ginger, peeled and minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme, rosemary and sage

1/2 teaspoon crushed red peppers

1/4-teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Juice of one small lemon

3/4-cup steel cut oats

3/4-cup breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

My secret Sauce (see below)

In a medium saucepan simmer the lentils in water with the bay leaf until the water is absorbed and the lentil skins split open easily, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oil and sauté the onion, garlic, ginger, celery and carrots in a medium skillet until soft. Remove from the heat and add remaining ingredients except the steel cut oats and breadcrumbs. In a food processor finely grind the steel cut oats. Combine the lentil mixture, oats and breadcrumbs and mix well. Shape into 12 patties and place on a baking pan sprayed with bakers joy. Bake at 400 degrees about 15 minutes until slightly brown. You can also cook them on a grill for about 5 minutes per side. Serve on a nice whole grain bun with all of your favorite trimmings or my secret sauce.

My Secret Sauce

Combine together 1/2-cup mayonnaise, 3/4-cup ketchup, 3 finely chopped dill pickles, 1/2 of an onion finely chopped and horseradish to taste. Or for the vegans and those who want a spicy non-dairy sauce-


2 eggplants

6 red bell peppers

3 cloves garlic

Juice of one lemon

1/2-cup olive oil,

Parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350. Bake eggplants and peppers until tender when pierced with a fork. Peel skin from hot vegetables and place in a food processor. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the garlic and lemon juice. And olive oil and pulse. You want it to be pureed, but coarsely. Chill or serve warm sprinkled with parsley!

Sweet Rosy Red Lentil Pudding

1 1/3 cups red lentils

5 cups coconut milk

4 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1-teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4-teaspoon ground cloves

1/2-teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 teaspoons rose water

1-tablespoon agave nectar

1/3 cup dried figs

1/3 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup dried ginger, chopped

1/4 cup raw almonds, chopped

1/3 cup green pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Mix everything except the dried fruit and nuts in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, 30-35 minutes. Transfer lentils to a large casserole-style pan, stir in nuts and fruit. Bake for 3 minutes. Serve at once, or cool and serve chilled. Serves 8.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.  Check out her websites and  Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON .


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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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