Lentils are a healthy and versatile food. They are also inexpensive, making them a great staple for anyone interested in healthy, frugal living. They are probably the fastest cooking of all the legume family, and they don't require soaking making their preparation faster still. They are nutritious too. Rich in antioxidants, selenium, and B vitamins, all of which boost the immune system. Like the other pulses, they contain anti-carcinogenic phytochemicals. They are also packed with protein, high in iron and folate and very high in fiber, which is good for your digestive and heart health.
Lentils come in a variety of types, usually described by the color. Red lentils are by far the fastest cooking and are often used in Indian cuisine. However the green and brown varieties of lentils are more nutritious than than red variety.
How to Cook Lentils
This basic recipe will get you started home cooking healthy lentils. You can easily add them to other dishes or add other ingredients to create soups and stews.
1 cup dried lentils
2 cups water
1/4 to 1/2 teas sea salt (to taste)
2-3 cloves, or 1/2 teas ground clove (optional)
Rinse the lentils under running water and pick through them to remove any bits of soil or rocks. Add lentils and water to a saucepan (with a lid) and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and cover to let the lentils simmer, but leave the lid ajar a bit so that they don't boil over. Check on them occasionally to make sure the water has not boiled down below the level of the lentils and add more as needed. When the lentils are tender and can easily be mashed with a fork, they are done. It usually takes about 30-45 minutes for them to cook (older lentils take longer to cook, so it's best to just test them to decide when they are ready), or 20 minutes if using the split red lentils. Add salt in about the last 15 minutes of cooking time, so when you think the lentils are starting to get soft. Cooking often neutralizes the taste of the salt, so if you add it at the start you end up having to add more salt to get the same flavor.
When they are finished cooking, take the saucepan off the heat and cover tightly with the lid. Leave to sit for 5-10 minutes. The lentils will absorb more of the water making them juicier and more tender. It's not essential to do this, but I really like the way they turn out when I do.
I've added the cloves to this recipe after a reader (Cori at Well Being Universe) suggested it to reduce flatulence. I've tried adding ground clove when I cook my lentil soup and I love the taste. Other readers have reported that it does help with reducing flatulence, so give it a try. You can use either whole or ground cloves.
Makes about 4 cups cooked lentils.
- Add some diced potatoes or sweet potatoes, they will cook in the same time it takes the lentils to cook. You'll probably need to add more water to compensate for what the potatoes will absorb, but you can add it as needed while it's cooking.
- Add spices in addition to the salt. Curry powder, ground cumin, garlic, cayenne or chili powder, and cilantro all go really nicely with lentils.
Here's a tip from Cori at Well Being Universe (see the comments), to reduce flatulence add 2-3 cloves to the boiling water when you are cooking your lentils.
I can't wait to try this, I love the taste and smell of cloves and I bet it adds a beautiful, subtle flavor to the lentils.
Update: I love adding some ground clove to my lentil soup. I do it all the time now.