Lentils are a member of the legume family, and with their small, delicate shape and nutty flavor, they are a versatile bean. You can use lentils in soups, salads or as part of a side dish, adding flavor with lentil seasoning.
Often sold dried, lentils are soaked in water before getting cooked. Adding lentil spice mix and changing your cooking method can alter the taste of lentils, which are full of nutrients.
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Read more: Health Consequences of Too Many Lentils
Cooking in Broth
Lentils are often boiled before they are drained to be added to soups, stews, salads or other dishes. While water is the most common cooking liquid for lentils, cooking lentils in broth — vegetable or animal-based — will greatly boost the flavor, making these rich little beans even tastier.
According to the USDA, a 1-cup serving of chicken broth has only 4.8 calories per serving, 1 gram of protein and no fat.
In turn, a 1-cup serving of vegetable broth has 9.8 calories per serving, but no fat or protein. Use the same amount of broth to cook your lentils as you would water, roughly 1-cup of lentils to 2-cups of liquid.
Adding Fresh Herbs
Cooked, drained lentils can be mixed with freshly chopped herbs for a delicious, nutritious and low-calorie boost of flavor.
While sticking to classics such as fresh parsley will add a welcome splash of color and a veggie note, try for different herbs, such as lemongrass, garlic, ginger or cilantro.
Many herbs are high in a number of nutrients, as discussed in an article published in September 2015 by Journal of Elementology, so they will help boost the nutritional profile of your lentil dish.
Changing the Cooking Method
While you can boil, drain and serve lentils, you can also change the cooking method to alter their texture and taste. After boiling and draining lentils, add them into a stir fry for a hearty cold-weather dish that is filling and nutritious.
You can also add lentils to casserole bakes, where their texture becomes slightly firmer and their richness lends extra depth to the casserole. Or, try a variety of spices for lentils and rice dishes. Lentils can also be pureed after they are cooked, to make a nutritious dip similar in texture to hummus.
Read more: Nutritional Content in Red Lentils
Mixing With Other Vegetables
If your standard lentil dish involves lentils with rice or lentils on their own, consider mixing them in with other vegetables. Not only will this make your dish more nutritious overall, but it will also add color and variety to your meal.
Shredded dark leafy greens can be mixed with cooked lentils to make a simple salad for a light meal. Options include kale, which is high in potassium, calcium, iron and vitamin C; and spinach, which is rich in vitamin A.
You can also combine lentils with crunchy vegetables for textural contrast, such as carrots and red peppers, both of which are rich in vitamin A and B vitamins.
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken Broth"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Vegetable Broth"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Kale"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Spinach"
- Journal of Elementology: "Culinary Herbs — The Nutritive Value and Content of Minerals"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Carrots, Raw
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Peppers, Sweet Red, Raw