Cooking with Lentils // Cheesy Lentil and Bean Casserole

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

Lentils are part of the legume 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 lentils 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 puree 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 debris or small stones in your bag of lentils. 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. 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 3 parts liquid and 1-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 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 1/4-3/4 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 puree.

Another way to use lentils is in a casserole, like Cheesy Lentil and Bean Casserole.

Click here for more lentil recipes. Enjoy!

Candi Merritt

Certified Nutrition Education Ambassador

Sources:

Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

Harvard School of Public Health

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