Our Best Lentil Recipes
Want to add a real MVP to your pantry? Pick of a bag of lentils. Good for your body and great for your wallet, lentils are packed with nutrients including protein, magnesium, folate, iron, and fiber—we weren't kidding when we called them a valueable player. Use them as a meat replacement in the form of patties or atop a salad, a base for soups and stews, or even just a side dish. Since they're easy to cook and even easier to eat, you can't lose with these legumes on your team.
Lentil Cakes with Mint Yogurt
Precooked lentils are a convenience item we love, saving nearly 30 minutes of simmering. Look for plain, steamed lentils (such as Melissa's), in the grain aisle. The food processor not only combines the patty ingredients; it coarsely chops the lentils so the finished cakes will hold their shape in the pan. While we love fat-free and reduced-fat Greek yogurt, go ahead and use full-fat here for a richer mouth feel and less tang in the sauce.
Crispy Polenta with Warm Lentils and Kale
For a meatless main dish, serve crispy polenta with warm lentils and cooked kale.
Fall Vegetable and Lentil Salad
We love firm French green lentils, but you can also use standard brown lentils. You're not likely to find a whole butternut squash that's only 1 pound; just buy the smallest one you can find, and use 1 pound of it.
Salmon and Lentil Bowl with Kefir Dressing
Savory lentils, a creamy fresh herb dressing, sweet fennel, and salty smoked salmon come together in just a few minutes to create a satisfying yet light main dish salad. Look for ready-to-eat steamed lentils with other prepared foods in the refrigerated produce section. Plain kefir—pourable, probiotic-rich cultured milk—adds a super-tangy element to the dressing with fewer calories than sour cream. To make the salad ahead, assemble all the components and hold the dressing separately; drizzle over the top just before serving.
Lentil Shepherd's Pie
The bulgur releases just enough starch to bind the lentil- and mushroom-packed filling together. The skin of the potato contains about half the total fiber; we love the rustic edge and earthiness it adds to our creamy tater topper.
Zucchini Stuffed with Lamb and Lentils
If you think lamb’s too gamey, these retro-inspired zucchini boats will win you over. The addition of ground beef and creamy lentils combined with fragrant cinnamon and allspice make this taste exotic and comforting at the same time. If you’re still on the fence, ground sirloin is an equally tasty substitute. Though you might be tempted to drain the pan before stirring in the lentils, don’t—the juices add rich flavor to the finished dish. A drizzle of the yogurt sauce ties it all together; serve with whole wheat couscous for a little extra fiber.
Herby Lentil-and-Sausage Soup
Dried brown lentils hold their shape after being cooked, so this soup is a good one to make ahead. The spinach will lose its vibrant color, though, so either add it when reheating the soup or make your peace with the darker color. Here's a supersimple soup tip: Simmering with whole thyme sprigs infuses flavor without your having to strip those little leaves off the stems; simply remove the sprigs before serving.
Sweet Potato-and-Red Lentil Curry
This fragrant, Indian-style stew hits all the right notes with aromatic garam masala, fresh ginger, and concentrated red curry paste. The coconut milk mellows and loosens the potato and lentil mixture just enough so that it can be spooned over rice.
Roast Chicken with Lentils and Yogurt
Skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs take a while to cook through. Starting on the stove top and moving to the oven is the most foolproof way to get perfectly crisp skin and meat that’s cooked all the way through. This dish is filling and hearty, and with the chicken, lentils, veggies, and yogurt it truly is a complete meal, but if you’d like to add some green, a little arugula on top would be tasty.
Roasted Fall Vegetables with Lentils and Spices
This vegetarian dish is fragrant with garam masala, an Indian spice blend that typically includes black pepper and a mix of sweet and savory spices.
Curried Lentil-and-Vegetable Stew
Cooking Indian dishes at home doesn't have to take hours. Unsalted ketchup is a secret ingredient that adds just the right balance of tomato sweetness and vinegar tang. Serve with lime wedges and toasted naan bread.
Summery Lentil Soup
Black Garlic and Lentil Soup
For Bar Tartine in San Francisco, chef Nick Balla created this smoky, earthy soup as a tribute to his Hungarian-America father. Dried chiles, paprika sausage, hot paprika, and black garlic--regular garlic roasted for days until it turns sweet and jet black, with a licorice-like flavor--give the soup a rounded spiciness.
A Sindhi Breakfast, Just Like Mama Used to Make
On and off during my childhood, I lived in a multi-generational, Asian-American household. My paternal grandparents, who became US citizens in the 1970s, traveled back and forth between New Jersey where I lived, and Pune, their hometown in western India. They stayed with my family for long periods of time. With my paternal grandmother, who I call “Mama,” I watched both “General Hospital” and “Sesame Street,” and fell asleep by her side, wrapped in her soft, threadbare, brown shawl. On weekends, Mama made hearty Sindhi breakfasts like loli, a jaggery-filled whole-wheat flatbread that she sprinkled with sugar for me; seyal maani, day-old chapatis (whole-wheat flatbreads) or stale bread sautéed in a piquant tomato-and-onion mixture; and saiyoon, sweet vermicelli with fried potatoes, served with papadam and pickled mangoes. I recoiled from many of these breakfasts—saiyoon, especially—and usually took just a bite, before returning to my buttered toast or soggy egg.
My only favorite was pakwan dal, a treat served on rare Sundays. “This is the king of breakfasts,” Mama explained. She lovingly fried the pakwan, a caraway-seed-flecked, deep-fried, crispy flatbread, and simmered and stirred the nutty dal, a slightly sour lentil stew seasoned with tamarind pulp. She served the pakwan and dal with two chutneys—fiery mint and sweet date-and-jaggery—along with sliced, raw onions. Pakwan dal is a melange of flavors and textures. I loved the sweet, sticky chutney and stirred it into the creamy dal before scooping it up with the crunchy pakwan.
Years later, as an adult, I embrace a cuisine whose secrets have been long kept in the kitchens of a community-dispersed Partition, which cleaved the Subcontinent. I wonder why it’s so difficult to find a Sindhi cookbook in the United States. I venture to Mumbai’s Sindhi enclaves, Chembur and Ulhasnagar, when on holiday in India. I explore their sweet shops and street carts, and eat at Guru Kripa, the oldest eatery in Sion, which serves simple Sindhi meals—including my now-beloved pakwan dal. In Singapore and New York City, cities in which I have lived, I return again and again to Kailash Parbat, branches of an international chain whose Sunday menu carries Sindhi delicacies. Here, the pakwan is flavored with sharp and slightly bitter carom seeds—a more traditional preparation of the flatbread.
When trying to recreate the recipes of my ancestral cuisine in my kitchen, I realize how utilitarian these breakfast meals were. They used ingredients commonly found in a family’s pantry, and made excellent use of leftovers. I make a stack of four pakwan and a bowl of mild dal (omitting the chiles) for my five-year-old daughter. She takes a few bites of the pakwan. “This is crispy,” she says. She calls me “Mama.”
Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup with Lemon
Lentils with Salmon
Sloppy Lentils in Pita
Lentil Stew with Oranges
Roast Chicken Thighs with Lentil Stew
José Andrés seasons his crisp chicken and rich lentil stew with smoky Spanish paprika called pimentón.
Seared Salmon with Orange-Lentil Salad
Serve seared salmon over an Orange-Lentil salad for a flavorful fish dish.
Warm Lentil-and-Potato Salad
French green lentils add flavorful texture. They remain firm after cooking, while traditional brown lentils turn soft.
Curried Lentils with Paneer
From Sunset reader Emiko Prigmore, Shoreline, WA
Packaged cooked lentils can be a real time-saver and are becoming more available. If you can't find them in your area, use regular lentils cooked according to the package directions.
Mushroom Lentil Burgers
Make homemade veggie burgers in a snap with precooked lentils. We like the black beluga variety from Archer Farms, with no added salt. Brown lentils can be substituted but tend to be more moisture-dense and may require additional breadcrumbs to help bind the burgers.
Curried Lentil Soup with Yogurt and Cilantro
Look for packaged precooked lentils without salt or fat added. We like Target's Archer Farms brand beluga lentils.
Lentil Tapenade Crostini
Precooked lentils are a healthy cook's ally, adding instant fiber and protein to any dish while saving nearly 30 minutes of stovetop simmering. Here we pulse the lentils in a food processor as part of a rustic tapenade for crostini.
Spiced Lentils with Mushrooms and Greens
"I love lentils: They're packed with protein, very filling and a good source of iron," says Jill Donenfeld. Eat these stewy lentils as a light lunch or serve alongside Donenfeld's roasted cauliflower with raisins.
Asparagus, Orange, and Lentil Salad
Pink lentils add pretty color and texture to this salad. Cook them al dente (like pasta) so they remain firm when tossed with the dressing.
Turkish Carrots and Lentils (Zeytinyagli Havuç)
Slightly sweet and spicy, ground Aleppo pepper brightens the sauce, while carrots and yogurt lighten earthy lentils. Serve with a simple romaine salad for a weeknight dinner.
Lentil-Tahini Burgers with Pickled Cabbage
Look for steamed, vacuum-packed lentils in the grain aisle for the best texture in the burgers, or cook, drain, and refrigerate your own the night before.
Barbecue Baked Lentils
Use all your favorite baked bean ingredients–onion, ketchup, maple syrup, and mustard–but use lentils instead of kidney or pinto beans. The earthiness of the lentils is a good match for the smokiness of grilled meats.
Black Lentil and Couscous Salad
This zesty side is modeled after tabbouleh, the Middle Eastern salad of bulgur wheat, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, lemon juice, and olive oil. Here, we use couscous instead of bulgur and add black lentils for color and texture. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Lentil "Pâté" with Apples
Lentils and pistachios contrast the crisp tang of apple for an explosive burst of unique flavor. Make-Ahead: Using a food processor, prep the pâté for easy next-day assembly.
Trout with Lentils
Serve this dish warm or as a chilled salad over a bed of greens. If you purchase smoked trout, the recipe will come together even faster.
Warm Bacon-Dijon Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese Crostini
Convenience products are better and more wholesome than ever, and they can be found all over the supermarket, from the center aisles to the olive bar and bakery. Used wisely, they can virtually cut out prep while delivering mains that feel made from scratch. Precooked, vacuum-packed lentils provide an instant protein and fiber boost to this French-inspired salad (find them in the rice and beans aisle). They reheat in the warm mustard-sherry vinaigrette that will dress the arugula. A crusty whole-grain baguette is another convenience product we love. Toast for crostini here, and make French toast or fresh breadcrumbs with the rest.