Montana is the nation’s largest producer of lentils, and these awesome little legumes are nutritional powerhouses! Lentils are an excellent source of fiber, protein, iron, folate, and potassium. In addition to having a great nutritional profile, lentils are an excellent choice for those that are trying to eat more sustainably, and those who are on a budget. Lentils, and other legumes, can be grown with far less water and space than other protein sources, like meat. They also are one of the cheapest sources of protein.
In one cup of lentils there are 18 grams of protein, and 16 grams of fiber! Including more protein from plant sources, such as lentils, has been proven to reduce risk of many diseases, including certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. Lentils, like most plant proteins however, are not complete sources of protein. They should be paired with a grain, like rice or whole wheat bread, to get all the necessary amino acids. The fiber found in lentils is primarily insoluble fiber, though they do also contain some soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps to keep our digestive systems regular, and can help to prevent colon cancer.
Types of Lentils
Lentils come in a variety of colors, and each has a unique flavor.
Brown lentils are the most common type, and are available in most grocery stores. They will soften when cooked, but retain their shape. Brown lentils are excellent in soups and stews.
French Green or Puy Lentils have a peppery taste, and will hold their shape when cooked. They are great for salads and other dishes where the lentils need to have a little bit of crunch.
Red lentils are common in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking. When cooked their color changes from orange-red to golden. They tend to lose their shape when cooked, so they work well in sauces and stews that need to be thickened.
Black Beluga Lentils are lentils that have a shiny black hull, and an earthier flavor. They are often more expensive than other lentil types. These lentils get their name because they look similar to Beluga caviar when cooked.
Cooking with Lentils
Lentils are easy to make, and require less cooking time than many other legumes. To cook lentils, simply rinse them under cold water, and place them in a pot of plain water and boil according to the package directions, or until softened. Don’t use salted water, as it can harden the lentils. Different varieties of lentils have different cooking times, but in general, they take less than 30 minutes to cook. Lentils can be used in endless ways, including salads, casseroles, soups, stews, sauces, baked goods, and to lighten up meat based dishes. See the recipe below for an easy and delicious slow-cooker lentil stew recipe!
Mushroom Lentil Potato Stew
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 8 hours
- 12 baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 6 golden russet potatoes, cubed
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced (more or less to taste)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup green lentils
- Sea salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until potatoes are soft. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week, or the freezer for up to 6 months.
More Resources on Lentils
Recipe and Photo Courtesy of: https://pulsepledge.com/recipe/mushroom-lentil-potato-stew/