A Primer on Lentils: How to Cook These Perfect Pulses

a-tray-of-roasted-chickpeasIf you're looking to switch to a healthier diet in 2021, you need to get more acquainted with the humble lentil. While they aren't as fashionable as quinoa and kale, they are just as deserving of a superfood status.

 The lentil is a proven leguminous crop that dates back to Ancient Egypt and has raised its profile in line with the proliferation of vegetarian and vegan diets. Rich in protein, non-meat-eaters have incorporated this earthy, nutty-flavored legume into their diet for years.

 The health benefits of eating lentils

Several kinds of lentils are commercially grown, from the green puy lentil to the Black Beluga. But regardless of color, these legumes are unbelievably nutritious. Here are some of the many reasons to include lentils in your diet:

  • Low in fat
  • Contains soluble fiber, which helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels and to regulate blood sugar levels
  • They also contain insoluble fiber, which promotes regularity and improves digestion.
  • Low glycemic index
  • Rich in minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc,
  • Rich in the B vitamins folate, thiamine, and niacin.

 Lentils contain more protein than most common beans, including kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, and chickpeas. This high protein content makes them an ideal alternative to beef.

 Finally, the fact that they are high in iron makes them particularly useful for vegetarian diets, which often lack this vital mineral.

Due to their many health benefits, lentils regularly feature in lists of the world's healthiest foods.

How to cook lentils

Ensure you rinse and pick lentils before you cook them - discard any that are stone-like, discolored, or wilted. Luckily you don't need to pre-soak them before cooking but ensure you use three cups of water for every cup of lentils. They should triple in size when cooked.

Cooking time depends on the lentil type; it should take about 20 to 30 minutes for whole lentils (black, green, and brown) to cook, and the cooking time goes down to about 10 to 15 minutes for split yellow, red, and orange lentils.

What to cook with lentils

Lentils work well in various dishes and almost any cuisine due to their delicate, hearty flavor. The best time to add flavor to lentils is while they are cooking. For starters, you could add half an onion to the cooking liquid, some crushed garlic, or even some of your favorite herbs.

Soups are one of the most popular ways to cook with lentils dishes but don't stop there. Try lentil curries, stews, and pates for a creative twist. You can even substitute the legumes for meat and make lentil patties or meatballs. You don't even need to limit yourself to savory dishes - the legumes can even be used in baked goods!

For tips on making lentils shine, look to the French, where lentils play a starring role in dishes like lentils du puy.

With some serious health credentials and no end to their versatility, it's no wonder that lentils have a permanent spot on the dinner plates of cuisines worldwide. Isn't it time they made their way onto yours too?

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