I have been guilty of forgetting that lentils exist. I will be so focused on eating beans and rice, for protein that I will forget about lentils. I think that they are one of the most versatile protein sources out there. There are a lot of benefits to using lentils over beans. They have a unique size and shape shape, they cook quickly, there are many different types, and they can take a lot of flavors on!
First of all I love how small lentils are. The brown or green lentils are great because they hold their shape well. The combination of size and shape make for a great substitute for ground meat. I have used them in vegan versions of Sloppy Joes, cabbage rolls, burgers, chili, and Bolognese.
I also love that lentils don’t take a long time to cook. There isn’t a need to soak lentils because they cook so quickly. I use a few different varieties of lentils, but there isn’t any one variety that takes any longer than 45 minutes to cook fully. When I want dinner in under an hour, but I don’t have any cooked beans, lentils are my go to legume!
Just like beans, there are many different varieties of lentils, especially in Indian cuisine. I typically stick with the red, green, and brown. I like using red lentils because they break down in soups. I like making curried lentil soups with them. It creates a very creamy texture without any cream. I like brown and green lentils because they have a skin on the outside, so it makes them more suitable for a meat substitute. They hold their shape much better. If overcooked, they can become mushy and fall apart.
One of the main reasons I love lentils so much is because of their versatility. Depending on the variety, they can work in any kind of dish. I have use brown and green lentils in cuisines ranging from Mexican, to Italian, to French, to Eastern European. They can take on any virtually any flavor profile. I have used red lentils in Indian kitchari or dal, French terrines and pâtés, and in any soup that I want to add a little body to!
I hope this post inspires people to use more lentils! Before I went to culinary school, I don’t think that I ever used them. I didn’t know what to do with them, so I just avoided them. Now that I know how easy they are to work with, there are endless possibilities!