For the Love of Lentils

This month’s cooking demo included a Minted Lentil Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing, which inspired this blog. Many people may shy away from lentils, not knowing just how tasty and versatile they can be. Or perhaps, they feel lentils are difficult to prepare. I hope to inspire our readers to give lentils a try. Lentils happen to be one of the most nutritious and versatile plant-based proteins. Just a half cup of cooked green lentils contains 12 grams of protein, the same amount of protein found in 2 eggs. With 9 grams of fiber a serving, lentils can boost fiber intake towards the recommended 25-30 grams a day. Lentils are naturally low in fat and sodium and provide about 20% of the daily value for iron. They have a low glycemic index, making them a good choice for diabetics and they are gluten-free. All this and more for 140 calories in a ½ cup serving! 

Lentils, grouped with beans and peas as part of the legume family, are also called pulses. Pulses are defined as edible seeds from a legume plant. There are many different varieties of lentils, but brown and green lentils are the most popular in the United States. The different lentil varieties are more or less interchangeable in most recipes, with a few exceptions. Brown and green lentils keep their shape after cooking which makes them suitable for any number of dishes, from soups to salads and casseroles to dips. It is safe to assume brown or green lentils will work in a recipe unless otherwise specified. 

Red, yellow or “split” lentils tend to get “mushy” when cooked. They are perfect for stews, soups, and casseroles for not only their nutrition, but for their thickening power. This variety of lentils is used to make Indian dahl.  

Cooking lentils is easy as following the directions on the package.  

  1. Lentils should be rinsed with fresh water to remove any dust or debris prior to cooking. Lentils do not need to be soaked.   
  2. Cook on a stovetop, using 3 cups of liquids (water, stock, etc.) to 1 cup of dry lentils. The lentils will double to triple in volume so be sure to use the appropriate size saucepan.  
  3. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer until tender. For brown/green lentils, cook for 15-20 minutes. For split/red/yellow lentils, cooking time is typically 5-7 minutes. If adding salt, do so after cooking. Adding salt prior to cooking will result in tough lentils. 

Cooked lentils can be refrigerated for one week or frozen for up to three months. Canned and precooked lentils are readily available and can be a great time-saving option.  

Lentils are found in any number of dishes, not just soup. This Lentil Chicken Salad, packed with protein, is a light and healthy alternative to mayo-based salads. Use it as a hearty side salad or as the filling in lettuce wraps. 

  • Forget about protein powders. Add cooked lentils to smoothies to boost fiber and protein content. 
  • Combine cooked lentils with ground meat to extend the protein in taco or burrito fillings. 
  • Stir cooked lentils into jarred or homemade marinara sauce to create a meaty texture. 
  • Sprinkle protein-rich cooked lentils on top of your favorite green salad. 
  • Add cooked lentils and mix into prepared salsa.  
  • Mix cooked lentils with rice or other grains for the base of a “grain” bowl. This Red Lentil Carrot Curry Bowl is full of flavor and boosts 9 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein in a single vegan serving. 
  • Check out this Crunchy Almond Crusted Fish with French Lentils recipe found in McCaffrey’s very own Real Foods Magazine (Page 33 of our Spring 2023 Issue). You won’t be disappointed! 

There is no need to reinvent the wheel or introduce complicated new recipes to enjoy lentils. Take inventory of your go-to dishes and you may find that lentils can be easily incorporated into many of your favorite dishes. And, make a big batch of lentils and use them throughout the week!  

Minted Lentil Salad with Lemon Dijon Dressing 
(Makes 6 – 3/4 cup servings)

Minted Lentil Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked lentils, rinsed  
  • 1 cup English Cucumber, finely diced 
  • 1/2 cup small red onion, finely diced 
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed 
  • 1/2 cup diced and drained sun-dried tomatoes 
  • 2 cups arugula 

Lemon Dijon Dressing Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice 
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic 
  • 1/4 teaspoon of fresh pepper 
  • 2 teaspoons chia seeds, optional 
  • Salt to taste – optional 


  1. Cook lentils according to package directions.  
  2. Use a strainer to drain and rinse cooked lentils in cold water until cool. Set aside. 
  3. While lentils are cooking, mix dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until combined. 
  4. Mix cooked/cooled lentils, cucumbers, onion, mint, sundried tomatoes, and arugula in a large bowl. 
  5. Drizzle lemon dressing and toss until evenly combined. 

Nutrition Information per serving: 220 calories/serving, 9 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 40 milligrams sodium, 27 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar, 9 grams protein.

The values listed represent a nutritional analysis. There are natural variations that occur in all recipes; these figures may not be exact and are provided for informational purposes only.

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