If you are like most people, you probably don’t think of lentils as the most delicious food in the world. In fact, many people say that lentils taste pretty bland. However, this doesn’t have to be the case! In this blog post, we will give you some tips on how to make lentils taste good. With a little bit of effort, you can turn this plain legume into a dish that you will love.
Lentils might be a staple of Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine, but many people in America dislike the way they taste. Some people think they taste like dirt; others think they are just boring. While these notes may be true, they can easily be fixed with the right recipes and techniques!
There are so many reasons to rediscover these tiny legumes. They are low in calories and high in nutritional content. They will last nearly forever on your shelf and cost a fraction of the price of meat.
This guide is for you no matter where you’re at on your culinary journey! Keep reading, and you’ll learn how to make lentils taste good – So good, in fact, that you’ll want to make them all the time.
- What are lentils?
- The nutritional profile of lentils
- Different types of lentils
- How to make lentils taste good
- Final thoughts on how to make lentils taste good
What are lentils?
Lentils are known as pulses, a type of legume. They are in the same family as:
- Sugar snap peas
- Snow peas
They are lower in fat than soybeans, making them a wonderful food choice for almost anyone!
Lentils are one of the oldest crops in the world, mostly grown in the Middle East, North Africa, and areas of Europe along the Mediterranean coast. Some varieties of lentils are grown further north, like in Germany, the Netherlands, and France.
There are a lot of different ways that people cook lentils. Some people prefer to use them in soup, others as a base for meat dishes (like kabobs). They are also used as a meat replacement in vegan burgers!
The nutritional profile of lentils
These tiny beans are high in nutrients. They’re one of the most protein-dense vegetarian foods, and they’re also high in B vitamins (energy), magnesium, and potassium (heart health).
As you’ll read below, there are four different types of lentils. Although they might not all look or taste the same, the majority of them have similar nutritional value.
In one cup (198 grams) of lentils, there are:
- Calories: 230
- Carbs: 39.9 grams
- Protein: 17.9 grams
- Fat: 0.8 grams
- Fiber: 15.6 grams
- Thiamine: 28% of the DV
- Niacin: 13% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 21% of the DV
- Folate: 90% of the DV
- Pantothenic acid: 25% of the DV
- Iron: 37% of the DV
- Magnesium: 17% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 28% of the DV
- Potassium: 16% of the DV
- Zinc: 23% of the DV
- Copper: 55% of the DV
- Manganese: 43% of the DV
Different types of lentils
There are four different types of lentils that you can choose from and cook. Each variety has a distinct color and look, but they are all tasty and good for you.
Check out what sets each type of lentil apart from the others!
They might be called red lentils, but they actually look more orange or yellow. This variety is the mildest tasting of the bunch because they have a slightly-sweet flavor. They are sold either split or whole.
Of all four varieties, red lentils take the shortest time to cook, ready in just 12-15 minutes.
They will lose both their texture and shape the longer you cook them. So, be careful not to overcook!
These lentils are for you if you want ones that you can puree.
As the name implies, French lentils are primarily grown in France, especially the Lentil de Puy. Although, some French lentils are grown in North America.
If you like earthy flavors, then you’ll love French lentils! As opposed to the red variety, French lentils hold their shape the best as they cook. In fact, they stay pretty firm. It takes about 25-30 minutes to cook French lentils.
They have a deep olive color and gorgeous marbling on each one.
Brown or green lentils
Chances are if you shopped for lentils at the grocery store, you saw brown or green lentils. They are the cheapest, and you’ll find them sold in bulk.
If you aren’t a fan of really bold lentil flavors, then brown or green lentils are best suited for you. They have a mild, peppery flavor! There isn’t a standard size for lentils since they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
The fun thing about them is that they change color as they cook! When they are raw, they have a pale green or brown color, and they turn darker as they cook.
Like French lentils, brown or green lentils also hold their shape well as they cook. It takes about 20-30 minutes to cook brown or green lentils.
Black lentils also go by the name “beluga lentils” because their small, black, round shape looks like caviar.
If you want a rich dish with nuanced flavor notes, then cook some black lentils. These dark black beans hold their shape really well as they cook. They also have a soft texture but won’t go mushy on you unless you overcook them.
It takes black lentils about 25-30 minutes to cook.
How to make lentils taste good
Now that you know a bit more about what lentils are and how to choose the perfect variety for your recipe let’s look at some of the easiest ways to make lentils taste good!
Some of these tips might seem like common sense, but others will be surprising and make all the difference in your lentil recipes.
Buy fresh lentils
Lentils don’t really “go bad.” But if they are not fresh enough, they won’t soften as you cook them. Lentils last a really long time on your shelf, but they will eventually expire. For the best flavor, buy them fresh and write a “use-by” date on them (if you bought them in bulk and they didn’t come with one).
Note: Dried lentils will stay fresh in your pantry for up to a year!
Rinse with cold water
It is essential that you rinse off your lentils before you cook them. Sift through them and remove anything that doesn’t match. You might find some small stones or other debris in the mix.
Use plenty of seasonings
No matter which combination of spices you use, make sure you use plenty of it. Lentils are excellent at soaking up the spices they are cooked in, so be generous with how you season them.
The most popular spice combination for lentils comes from India: ginger, garam masala, garlic, paprika, turmeric, and salt!
Make them spicy
Sometimes just making something a tad bit spicier is the best way to make it taste better – and that goes for lentils too! Add some chili powder and cayenne pepper until it reaches your preferred spice level.
Bloom the spices
Blooming your spices is a small action that greatly affects how your lentils taste. All this entails is cooking your fresh herbs in a small amount of oil over medium-low heat. This brings out their natural flavors, elevating the entire dish’s flavors.
Use plenty of salt
Since salt is a natural flavor enhancer, it will bring out the peppery flavors in the lentils and all the other spices you add to it. Don’t skimp on your salt – adding a bit more will only make the recipe taste better.
Add aromatics to the water
If you are boiling the lentils, add a bay leaf and a few cloves of garlic to the water. Have fun, and add your favorite fresh herbs to the water too!
Adding chicken or vegetable bouillon to the water is an inexpensive way to enhance the lentil flavors too.
Season them after you cook them
Don’t just season them while you cook them. Add more herbs and seasonings to the lentils right before serving. This might look like some freshly-cracked pepper or garnishing with fresh parsley.
You can also freshly grind some sea salt on top. This will bring out all the flavors at once.
Simmer them gently
One of the biggest pitfalls of making lentils is accidentally overcooking them. This leads to unappetizing, mushy beans! Instead of bringing the water or broth to a rapid simmer, go gently. It should be just below boiling.
To do this, bring the water to a rapid simmer first, then turn the heat back to low. You should see very small bubbles. Let the lentils simmer at this level until they are fully cooked.
This will prevent the lentils from popping open, creating mushy dishes.
Don’t add acid to the pot too early
Avoid crunchy lentils by waiting until the lentils are completely cooked before you add salty or acidic ingredients like lemon or vinegar. If you add them too early, it will prevent them from tenderizing properly in the cooking water.
The best time to add salt or lemon juice is right after they are fully cooked. Stir these ingredients into the lentils while they are still warm, and this will help them completely absorb those tangy flavors.
Use an immersion blender
If you are making lentil soup, use an immersion blender to make it smooth and creamy. This will reduce some of the nuttier textures that turn people off of lentils.
An immersion blender will create an incredible, ultra-silk consistency in your soup!
Cook them in the slow cooker
You’ll have better-tasting lentils if you cook them low and slow. The slow cooker is the easiest way to do this. Set a time, and don’t overcook them. If you add enough water and watch the time, you can have amazing lentils in the slow cooker.
Now that you know how to make lentils taste good, here are some questions people often ask about cooking lentils.
Can eating lentils make you lose weight?
Yes, replacing high-calorie foods like french fries or sweetened sweet potatoes with lentils could help you lose weight. It all depends on if you follow a calorie-deficit program.
If you want to lose weight on keto, lentils are not a good choice as they are pretty high in carbs.
Are lentils carbs or protein?
This is a tricky question. Lentils are a complex carbohydrate and high in protein at the same time. They are known as high-carb legumes.
Why do my lentils taste like soap?
Lentils naturally have a compound called saponins. This compound tastes like soap to some people. The best way to get rid of saponins is to rinse them away.
Make sure you are rinsing the lentils well before you cook them!
What goes well with lentils?
Spiced lentils taste amazing with other earthy flavors. Serve them with leafy green vegetables like kale and savory mushrooms.
If you make lentils with Indian-inspired spices, serve some curry cooked with lemongrass on the side with some flatbread to dip into. Lots of people love roasted cauliflower and sweet potatoes with lentils too!
For some more protein, consider cooking up some bacon in the oven and mixing it in.
What happens when you overcook lentils?
You’ll know you overcooked your lentils if they are too soft and mushy. Their skin might break apart from the beans too. This leads to an unappetizing dish that doesn’t taste very good either.
Why are there stones in lentils?
Even though it’s very rare to find little rocks in a bag of lentils, you should still give them a rinse and search through them, just in case.
Sometimes small pebbles or even dried lentil pods will be scattered throughout the lentils. This is because lentils are so small that it’s easy for them to get mixed into the beans during the drying process!
Final thoughts on how to make lentils taste good
With the amount of protein and nutrients they have and how inexpensive they are, lentils are a fantastic choice for families on a budget. And thankfully, it doesn’t take much effort to make lentils taste good. Just add plenty of seasonings and be careful with how long you cook them!
Find a few lentil recipes to follow, and you might be surprised at how much you enjoy this simple, inexpensive legume.