How to Cook Lentils

After posting lentil salad recipes earlier this month, a few readers emailed asking how to properly cook lentils. It then dawned on me that many recipes include pre-cooked items such as lentils, chicken, quinoa, and sweet potatoes. And while some of you are expert chefs, I wanted to even the playing field with how-to articles that will teach you how to cook the basics – starting with lentils! Keep an eye out over the next few months for more how-to’s!

How to cook lentils

Lentils are cheap, quick to cook, and loaded with fiber and protein. When eaten together with rice, they form a complete vegetarian protein. Look for them in the bulk bins of your grocery store, or packaged with other dried beans. Some markets sell pre-cooked lentils, but they are easy to make yourself and cost just pennies per serving.

Lentils come in a variety of colors, from brilliant orange and red to muted green and brown, and each has its own flavor and texture profile. It’s also important to note that the cooking time differs between each.

 

Brown Lentils

Whether they are a light, khaki color or dark greenish-brown, brown lentils are the most common type of lentils. They have a mild, creamy flavor similar to kidney beans. These are the lentils used in our recipe below. They hold their shape well, but can also be easily mashed to form bean burgers or vegetarian meatloaf.  Brown lentils have a similar cooking time to white rice, so you can cook them together with a variety of spices, like cumin, curry, or cardamom.
Varieties: Spanish Brown, German Brown, Indian Brown
Cooking time: 20–30 minutes

 

How to cook brown lentils

Green Lentils

Ranging from pale sage in color to dark green mottled with brown or black, green lentils have a robust earthy and slightly peppery flavor. They generally take the longest to cook, and when done, their exterior texture remains firm, while the interior is tender. Because they hold their shape so well, they are ideal as a hearty side dish or served as a bed for proteins.
Varieties: Puy, French Green
Cooking Time: 30–40 minutes

How to cook green lentils

 

Red Lentils:

These thin discs look similar to split peas. Red lentils are the sweetest and mildest pulse in the lentils family and range in color from red to pink to pale yellow. This variety cooks quickly and breaks down to form a flavorful, thick paste that is perfect for soups, stews, curries, and sauces.
Varieties: Crimson or Red Chief (also known as masoor dal)
Cooking time: 15–20 minutes

How to cook red lentils

 

Black Lentils:

When cooked, tiny black lentils glisten like beluga caviar, creating a dramatic color contrast with other ingredients in a dish. They have a rich, nutty flavor and velvety texture that tastes great in green salads, pastas, and mixed vegetables.
Varieties: Beluga, (also known as urad dal)
Cooking Time: 30–40 minutes

How to cook black lentils

How to Cook Lentils:

Keep tasting your lentils as they cook to see if they’re the texture you want — firm if you’re eating them as a side dish, softer if they’re meant for soup or stew. Once lentils are cooked, pair them with fish, chicken, or pork loin, or keep them in the fridge to use in a buffet-style meal prep. They can also take the place of beans in soups and chilis. Want to get really adventurous? Try scrambling them with eggs, tossing them in green salads and grain bowls, and add some vinegar to help further enhance their flavor.

This recipe is for brown lentils; if using another color, just adjust the cooking time as noted above.

Total Time: 30 min.
Prep Time: 5 min.
Cooking Time: 25 min.
Yield: 4 servings, ½ cup each

Ingredients:
1 cup dry brown lentils
1¾ cups water
Sea salt (to taste; optional)

Preparation:
1. Sort through lentils to make sure there are no small stones. Rinse lentils in colander under cool water.
2. Bring water and salt to a boil in medium saucepan over high heat; add lentils.
3. Bring back to a boil; cover, and reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil; cook for 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Notes: 
To add even more flavor, use broth instead of water.
Have a rice cooker? Using 1:1.75 water ratio and make them with the touch of a button.

Nutrition Facts (per serving):
Calories: 113
Total Fat: 0 g
Total Carbs: 19 g (Fiber: 10 g; Sugars: 1 g)
Protein: 8 g

 

Try Your Lentil Cooking Skills In These Recipes:

Lentil and Feta Salad

Lentil and Feta Salad Recipe
What you’ll need to make it:
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. dried thyme (or 1½ tsp. chopped fresh thyme)
Sea salt and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)
3 cups cooked lentils
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 medium cucumber, finely chopped
3 medium celery stalks, finely chopped
2 cups quartered cherry tomatoes
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
¾ medium red onion, finely chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
Find out how to make the recipe.

 

Lentil Lime Salad

Lentil Lime Salad Healthy Recipe
What you’ll need to make it:
1 cup cooked green lentils
1 medium carrot, shredded
¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1½ tsp. sesame oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Braggs Liquid Aminos
Himalayan salt (to taste; optional)
¼ tsp. ground cumin (to taste; optional)
Fresh herbs like basil and oregano (to taste; optional)
Find out how to make the recipe.

Eat Your Way to Great Abs

When it comes to creating incredible abs, even the most effective workout programs can only bring you so far. That’s because you can’t get a flat, hard midsection without losing body fat. No matter how much effort you put into creating a six-pack, no one’s going to see it if it’s covered by a layer of flab. The following seven tips give you an extra edge and will help ensure that the effort you’re putting into your abs will bring you the results you want to see.

Tips to eat your way to great abs

1. Get plenty of protein

Eating enough lean protein promotes fat loss and muscle gain, the two most important elements for developing great abs. It also helps keep you from getting hungry while you’re eating right. You don’t have to gobble down 12-ounce steaks—just eat a normal portion of lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy, or vegetarian protein with every meal, and make sure your snacks contain some protein, too. If you still have a hard time getting enough in your diet, a daily Shakeology shake can be a perfect addition.

By the way, protein is especially important in the morning, when a lot of people don’t get as much as they should. A protein-rich breakfast will help keep your blood sugar steady for hours, preventing the dips that can lead to cravings later in the day. (Try some low-fat chicken sausage, or an omelet with one whole egg and three egg whites, along with fruit or whole-grain toast.)

2.Reconsider your carbs.

Despite the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets, the average American meal is still too high in sugar and fast-burning starches to bring body fat down to ab-baring levels. It’s time to say goodbye to sweetened soda, ditch the Doritos, and save the cake for your birthday. If your fitness plan calls for a sports drink before a long cardio workout, or a carb-and-protein recovery drink after resistance training, that’s fine. But the rest of the time, stick with foods that are on the low end of the glycemic index (refer to GlycemicIndex.com for more information)—these foods burn more slowly, so they won’t spike your blood sugar and insulin levels.

3. Have fun with fiber.

Something about the word “fiber” just doesn’t sound appetizing. But high-fiber foods can actually be quite delicious: fresh berries and other fruits, salads loaded with colorful produce, your favorite steamed vegetables or vegetable soup, stews or chili made with beans, chewy whole-grain breads and cereals…You get the picture. (These foods just happen to be loaded with nutrients as well.) High-fiber foods keep you fuller with fewer calories, and they help keep your digestive system working at its best—a double-whammy for getting rid of belly bulge.

4. Enjoy some yogurt.

Probiotics, the healthful bacteria found in yogurt and other fermented foods, have been proven to help reduce belly fat. In a recent study in Finland, new mothers who took probiotic supplements averaged smaller waist circumferences—and lower body fat in general—than those who didn’t take probiotic supplements. And while the topic is still controversial, studies have found that eating lots of calcium-rich dairy foods like yogurt may increase overall weight loss.

5. Don’t forget to eat.

Tempted to lower your daily calorie count by skipping meals? Don’t. Going hungry can raise your levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, which research has found can increase belly fat even in otherwise thin women. And eating too infrequently can lower your metabolism and energy levels, while increasing the chance that you’ll get too hungry and decide to chuck your meal plan entirely. If you’re eating the right foods, regular meals and snacks will keep your body fueled while you’re working toward that strong core.

6. Drink more fluids.

Hydration is important when you’re on a fitness plan, but drinking plenty of water has particular benefits for your midsection. It helps keep your stomach full, so you don’t overeat, and it helps flush out excess sodium to prevent belly bloating. (Eating more potassium-rich foods, such as tomatoes and bananas, will also help in this area.) Plain ol’ H20 can’t be beat, but you can also switch it up with flavored waters, iced tea, and anything else you like to drink that isn’t full of sweeteners. How much do you need? The old rule of 8 glasses a day is a good start, but everyone is different: drink more if you’re exercising or it’s hot out, and drink less if you’re running to the bathroom every 5 minutes.

7. …With one exception.

It’s time to cut down on the booze. The proverbial “beer belly” isn’t just the result of extra calories—alcohol actually makes it more difficult for your body to metabolize carbs and fat. Booze also stimulates your appetite and lowers your inhibitions, which can lead to bingeing. The best road to flat abs is no alcohol at all, but if you really like a drink now and then, just have one at a time (and no more than a few a week), and stay away from higher-calorie beers and sugary mixed drinks.

If you add these rules to your fitness plan, you’re sure to see faster improvements in your midsection. Of course, there’s an added bonus to eating this way: it’ll keep you healthier, too. That may not be as big an inducement as great abs, but I’m throwing it in for free. 😀