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The 10 Best Recipes for Dry Lentils

Grab that bag of dry lentils and get cooking (or baking)! This affordable and shelf-stable under the radar superfood is packed with plant protein, fiber, antioxidants, and health-protective nutrients.

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dry yellow lentils on white plate overheadby Elena Botta/Getty Images

The best lentil recipes

Lentils are nutrient powerhouses. For too long this member of the pulse family (along with its siblings beans, peas, and chickpeas) has been a seriously underrated superfood. One cup of cooked lentils packs about 18 grams of protein, and 15 grams of fiber (60 percent of the daily minimum target), along with health-protective antioxidants, B vitamins, and key minerals, including magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron.

A 2017 scientific review of the health benefits of lentils, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, concludes that lentil consumption is tied to a lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Lentils also possess antimicrobial properties, and their prebiotic content feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut tied to digestive health, immunity, and anti-inflammation.

Like many of my private practice nutrition clients, you may have dry lentils on display or your kitchen, or tucked away in your cupboard. But most of my clients have never cooked dry lentils from scratch or used them in at home recipes. Fortunately, lentils are incredibly easy to prepare. Unlike dry beans they don’t require soaking, so from start to finish, they’re about as quick-cooking as pasta.

There couldn’t be a better time to incorporate more lentils into your eating routine. They’re readily available, shelf-stable, and affordable. A one-pound bag of dry lentils that contains 13 servings costs about $1.20, and they’re incredibly versatile.

If you’re not familiar with what to do with dry lentils, there are three simple prep steps. First, thoroughly rinse the lentils in a colander under cold water. In a medium saucepan, combine one cup of lentils with three cups of water. Simmer with the lid gently tilted for about 15 minutes, or until desired tenderness is reached. Remove from heat and carefully drain off any excess liquid. Your lentils are now ready to incorporate into a dish that calls for cooked lentils, or refrigerate or freeze for later use.

Here are 10 healthful recipes that incorporate lentils, including three of my own personal dishes, and others contributed by recipe developers and fellow dietitians. The collection includes both chilled and hot options, a variety of lentil types, cuisines, seasonings, and even a lentil dessert!

basil balsamic lentil salad recipeCourtesy Cynthia Sass

Chilled Basil Balsamic Lentil Salad

This dish, from my book Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Pulses – The New Superfood, is loaded with flavor and aroma. One serving provides about two cups of nutrient-packed veggies, in addition to heart-healthy plant fat and fiber and protein-rich lentils.

Ingredients (Serves one):

  • ½ cup cooked lentils
  • ¼ cup minced red onion
  • ¼ cup minced cucumber
  • ¼ cup minced red bell pepper
  • 8 grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
  • 3 fresh basil leaves, sliced

Instructions:

Place all of the ingredients in a sealable container. Seal and gently shake to coat the mixture thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least thirty minutes. Enjoy!

red lentil curryCourtesy Deborah Murphy

Six-Ingredient Red Lentil Curry

This recipe, from registered dietitian Deborah Murphy, from DietitianDebbie.com, doubles up on plant protein and fiber from both lentils and chickpeas. That’s in addition to leafy greens, and two top anti-inflammatory foods—tomatoes and turmeric, the main spice in curry powder.

Ingredients (Serves four):

  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 1 (28 ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk (full fat and lite both work)
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can chickpeas
  • ½ of an 8 ounce bag fresh spinach
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (adjust to taste)

Instructions:

Add lentils, tomatoes, coconut milk, and curry powder to a large, deep skillet or saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and spinach. Simmer for another 8-10 minutes until lentils are tender. Add salt, taste, and add more salt if needed. Serve alone or spoon over cooked rice.

lentil balls recipeCourtesy Angèle DG

Easy Lentil Balls

This recipe by Angèle DG from @VeganMontreal is chock full of nutrient rich ingredients, including nutritional yeast, a plant based staple that’s loaded with energy supporting B vitamins.

Ingredients (Makes 20 balls):

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups cooked green lentils
  • 3 teaspoons dried herbs (such as 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried parsley, 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoon almond meal (ground almonds)
  • 1 tablespoon grounded flaxseed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup quick oats or more almond meal (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat, add the onions, garlic and sauté them until golden brown. Add them to a food processor with all the other ingredients except the oats and pulse until well combined but still a little bit chunky. Taste and adjust seasoning. At that point you should be able to roll the mixture into balls (I usually do 1 heaping tablespoon of mixture per ball). If the texture is too sticky, add more almond meal or the oats. Place the lentil balls on your prepared baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes or until golden. If necessary, broil on low for a couple of minutes to obtain the golden color (be careful not to burn!). Let it cool a little bit and enjoy or freeze for later.

lentil soup recipeCourtesy Cynthia Sass

Moroccan Lentil Soup

My hearty soup is loaded with spices, which according to new research may serve as a prebiotics, food for beneficial gut bacteria tied to blood sugar regulation, anti-inflammation, and cognition.

Ingredients (Serves one):

  • ¼ cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
  • ½ cup low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
  • ½ cup cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt-free Italian herb seasoning
  • 1/16 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/16 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/16 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/16 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/16 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • ½ cup fresh baby spinach leaves
  • ½ cup cooked lentils

Instructions:

In a medium saucepan over low heat, sauté onion in coconut oil and 2 tablespoons broth until translucent. Add remaining broth, cauliflower, and seasoning ingredients and stir for three to four minutes. Stir in one half cup water, tomato and spinach. Bring to a very brief boil and then reduce to a simmer for about ten minutes. Add lentils to heat through.

lentil veggie burgerCourtesy Haylee Monteiro

Very Possible Spiced Lentil and Beet Veggie Burger

Recipe developer and food photographer Haylee Monteiro of HaylsKitchen.com created the perfect spicy burger recipe. This filling plant based burger incorporates a fresh beet, in addition to mushrooms, two potent sources of antioxidants, along with extra fiber from whole grain rolled oats.

Ingredients (Makes three patties):

  • 1 small beet
  • 1⁄2 cup dry lentils
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon red onion
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup rolled oats
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon each salt
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon pepper
  • Garlic Dijon Sauce Ingredients:
  • 1⁄4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon Italian seasoning or dried herbs
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Clean beet, trim off top and roots, and peel off the skin. Chop into 1″ chunks and roast in oven for about 30 minutes or until soft to pierce with a fork. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Rinse lentils in cold water until it runs clear. Boil in one and a half cups water in a small pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. Heat oil on a skillet over medium and fry onions and mushrooms until soft, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool. Pulse rolled oats in a food processor for 30 seconds to make oat flour. Add beets, onions, mushrooms and spices, and pulse to form a somewhat coarse-grainy paste. Pause and scrape down sides as needed. Divide the mixture into 3 parts and flatten into disks using your palms. Bake for 25 minutes, flipping halfway. Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and mix. Pile up that burger with the sauce, some whole grain buns, and whatever else you want to add!

lentil hummus recipeCourtesy Ana Rusu

Lentil Hummus

Lentils are truly the star of this flavorful dip created by Ana Rusu, certified plant-based chef and food stylist at Ana-Rusu.com. The two cup portion of dry red lentils that provides the foundation of this dish packs 120 percent of the Daily Value for iron, a mineral that helps transport oxygen throughout the body.

Ingredients (Serves four):

  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 1/2 parsnip, chopped
  • Sea salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • Lemon juice
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Chopped spring green onions
  • Chili flakes

Instructions:

Add water to a pot and place the lentils, parsnip and salt and boil until the lentils are done, about 15-20 minutes. Strain the lentils and parsnip and place them in a blender. Add the oil, garlic lemon juice and salt (use amounts based on your preference). Blend well and keep in mind you have to gradually add water: lentils absorb a LOT of water so you will see how it becomes thick while you blend it. Keep adding water until you get hummus-like consistency. I like to make it even runnier than the hummus because it tends to thicken back while it sits in the refrigerator. Top with EVOO, and chopped spring green onions and some chili flakes. If desired you can customize this by adding spices like cumin, turmeric or smoked paprika as well as tahini or fresh herbs. Enjoy!

lentil tacos recipeCourtesy Nicole Morrissey

Lentil and Corn Tacos

This easy meal from registered dietitian Nicole Morrissey of PreventionRD.com offers a twist on traditional tacos. It uses lentils in place of black beans, meat, or fish. The cilantro adds a kick of color and flavor, and has been shown to possess antibacterial properties.

Ingredients (Serves five):

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup dry lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2.5 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 10 (6-inch) tortillas
  • 1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

Instructions:

In a nonstick sauce pan, heat oil until hot. Add onion and sauté until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the lentils, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Uncover and stir in corn; cook for 6-8 minutes or until mixture is thickened and corn is hot. Serve hot lentils in taco shells, topped with cilantro, and other favorite toppings.

lentil stuffed pepperCourtesy Cynthia Sass

Savory Lentil and Mushroom Stuffed Pepper

Red bell pepper is a top source of immune-supporting vitamin C, with one medium pepper packing 152 mg, nearly 170 percent of the daily value set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Plus, this recipe from my book is simple to make.

Ingredients (Serves one):

  • 1 large whole red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup organic low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup minced white button mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/16 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/16 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup cooked lentils
  • 1/4 cup baby spinach leaves, finely chopped

Instructions:

Slice off and save top of bell pepper, remove inner seeds and membranes, and set aside. In a medium pan over low heat, sauté onions in oil and broth until translucent. Add mushrooms, garlic, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, and black pepper, and sauté two to three more minutes. Add lentils and spinach to heat through. Spoon mixture into bell pepper and bake in a preheated 375 F oven for twenty minutes covered in foil, and an additional ten minutes uncovered.

vegan lentil loafCourtesy Monica Davis

Vegan Lentil Loaf

In addition to providing texture similar to the egg typically used in meatloaf, the use of plant-based flax meal provides a type of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) tied to protection against heart disease, artery hardening, diabetes, cancer, and inflammatory conditions, including arthritis. It’s the key ingredient in this recipe created by Monica Davis from The Hidden Veggies.

Ingredients (Serves eight):

  • 1 tablespoon flax meal
  • 2.5 tablespoons water to mix with the flax
  • 2 cups dry lentils
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning or sage, Italian seasoning, or other herbs of choice
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup ketchup or other sauce of choice

Instructions:

Cook rice according to package directions. Make a flax egg by mixing one tablespoon of flax meal with two and a half tablespoons of water and set aside for at least 5 minutes. Boil lentils in 2 quarts of water for 18 minutes, then drain. While the lentils are cooking, dice 2 onions and sauté them in olive oil over low heat. Sprinkle the onions with salt and poultry seasoning and add minced garlic and continue to sauté over low heat for 10-12 minutes until translucent. Add the cooked rice, cooked lentils, cooked onions (and/or other cooked veggies) nutritional yeast, and flax egg to a food processor and pulse a few times until everything is combined and partially mashed together. (Be sure not to over blend). Fill an oiled bread loaf pan with the mixture and pack it down tightly. Top with ketchup. Bake at 350° F for 60 minutes. Allow cooling for about 15 minutes before slicing.

lentil brownies recipeCourtesy Mona Guercia

Dark Chocolate Lentil Brownies

The cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate chips in this treat, created by healthy recipe blogger Mona Guercia, of QueenofMyKitchen.com, provide polyphenol antioxidants linked to anti-inflammatory benefits and heart and brain protection.

Ingredients (Makes 16 brownies):

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup dry brown lentils
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup gluten-free oat flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (5½ ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar (optional garnish)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with olive oil cooking spray. Bring the lentils and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are tender and all the water has evaporated, about 15-20 minutes. Let the lentils cool to room temperature. Dump the lentils into the work bowl of a food processor along with the remaining ingredients (except chocolate chips and powdered sugar) and process until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. Pour batter into the pan and bake on the bottom rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired. Next, check out the easy recipes you can make with five ingredients or less.

Sources

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RDN, CSSD
Cynthia Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, writer, recipe developer, and practitioner, with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. One of the first registered dietitians to become a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, she has consulted for five professional sports teams in the NBA, NHL, and MLB. In her private practice Sass counsels a wide range of clients. She has worked with Oscar, Grammy, and Emmy winners, professional athletes across a variety of sports, Fortune 500 CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, and many other high-performance people. She is also the nutrition consultant for UCLA's Executive Health Program. Sass has appeared on numerous national TV shows, including The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Rachael Ray Show, The Martha Stewart Show, The Dr. Oz. Show, The Biggest Loser, Nightline, and many others. In addition to her degrees, Sass has formal training in plant-based, organic culinary arts and mindfulness meditation. She is also a Certified LEAP Therapist and is working toward certification through the Integrative and Functional Nutrition Academy. She specializes in high performance nutrition and plant-based eating, and is based in Los Angeles.

Visit her website: Cynthia Sass.