Make lentils the star of your next dish with these cooking tips – St George News

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FEATURE — Have you ever found yourself with a bag of lenses? Did you know what to do with it? Do you even know what lentils are?

Stock photo courtesy of USU Extension Create Better Health blog, St. George News

Lentils are part of the vegetable family, like beans and peas. They are high in fiber and low in fat, which makes them a great add-in for many meals. There are a few different varieties of lentils. You may find green, black, brown, red, yellow or orange varieties. Most commonly you’ll find dried brown or green lentils.

Lentils are also packaged as whole or split. Whole lentils still have their husks attached and take longer to cook. Split lentils cook in about half the time and break down more while cooking.

The type of recipe you’re using determines which type of lenses you want to use. Whole lentils will retain their shape better when cooked. They are great for salads. Split lentils break down almost to a mash and are best used to thicken soups and stews.

You can store dry lentils for up to one year in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place – like a pantry. Once cooked, you can keep them for one week in the refrigerator or up to three months in the freezer.

Sometimes you’ll find or debris small stones in your bag of lenses. That doesn’t mean they are unsafe to eat. It just means you need to rinse them in a strainer first. If you rinse them well, you’ll rid them of any unwanted particles.

Stock photo courtesy of USU Extension Create Better Health blog, St. George News

Unlike dried beans, you don’t need to pre-soak lentils before cooking. That makes them a quicker alternative to dried beans. When cooking, use a 3:1 ratio with three parts liquid and one part lentils. For example, combine 3 cups of water with 1 cup of lentils in a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook until the lentils are tender, about 10-15 minutes for split lentils and 20-30 minutes for whole lentils.

Some people like to season their cooked lentils with salt or lemon juice after cooking to help prevent the lentils from softening. Use one-quarter to three-quarters teaspoon salt or lemon juice to every 2 cups of cooked lentils.

You might be thinking, what do I do with the lentils once they are cooked? The answer might surprise you! Here are a bunch of ways you can use them:

  • Toss into salads.
  • Add them to cooked whole grains, like brown rice or pasta.
  • Fold into eggs before making an omelet.
  • Thicken pasta sauce by adding lentils.
  • Use them as a meat substitute in chili, tacos, beans and meatloaf.
  • Use a food processor or blender to grind cooked lentils into a paste. Use the paste to make a veggie burger or meatless meatballs.
  • Puree cooked lentils and add them to baked goods like brownies or muffins. Use them like you would bean mash.

Another way to use lentils is in a casserole, like cheesy lentil and bean casserole. Click here for more slow recipes. Enjoy!

Written by CANDI MERRITT, Certified Nutrition Education Ambassador.

This article originally appeared August 11, 2021 on the USU Extension Create Better Health blog.

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