Vegan Lentil Recipes – If you have a bag or can of lentils in your pantry, you won’t go hungry! From soups and chilis to casseroles and burgers and even appetizers and snacks, check out this collection of the best vegan recipes using lentils!
Lentils are a pantry staple that lend themselves well to a variety of meatless dishes. They’re healthy, hearty, inexpensive, quick-cooking, and totally satisfying.
I’ve rounded up the BEST vegan lentil recipes so you can learn to love these mini legumes, too.
What are Lentils
Like beans, lentils are part of the legume family. They grow in pods containing just one or two tiny seeds and are often referred to as “pulses.” The shape of the dried beans look like a lens, which is how they got their name. The word “lentil” comes from the Latin word for “lens.”
These little seeds come in several colors, which offer varying consistencies, including brown, red, yellow, green and black.
Brown and Green ~ These varieties are typically the ones you’ll find in almost all grocery stores. Basic green lentils are generally a pale green or brownish-green color and are very similar in texture to the brown variety, which is why I’m grouping them together here. They have an earthy, yet mild, flavor and retain their shape fairly well if not overcooked. But you can easily mash or purée them if cooked a little longer. Use them in soups, stews and chilis, casseroles, salads, burgers, and veggie meatloaf.
Red and Yellow ~ These cook in the shortest amount of time and break down readily. They are best used in soups and stews or puréed until silky smooth.
French ~ This variety has a dark green, almost blue hued color. Puy, or lentilles du Puy, is a specific type of French lentil that is harvested from the Le Puy region in France. They have the strongest flavor, almost peppery, and also take a bit longer to cook. Holding their shape very well even after long cooking times, they are perfectly suited for salads, side dishes, or any dish that would benefit from a bit of texture.
Black ~ Resembling caviar in look, they are often called Beluga lentils. Beautifully shiny black, they are best used in salads or side dishes.
Lentils may be small, but they are highly nutritious. They’re low in calories and nearly fat free. They are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including folate, fiber, iron, zinc, B vitamins, and protein.
Because of their nutritional qualities, they may have the ability to lower cholesterol and balance blood sugars. [source]
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Canned lentils are pre-cooked and ready to eat. While not necessary, it is recommended to rinse them under cold water thoroughly to remove any excess sodium.
Dried pulses do not need to be soaked. You do, however, need to pick through them to remove any pebbles or stones. Then give them a good rinse under cold water to remove any dust or debris.
Brown, green, and French varieties do well with a ratio of 1 cup of dried pulses to 3 cups of water or broth and will result in about 2 1/2 cups of cooked lentils. Bring the liquid to a rapid boil and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer until tender, about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the age of the lentils. Check them early for doneness to avoid overcooking and becoming mushy. Drain any excess water before seasoning.
Red and yellow varieties need only 1 1/2 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of dried seeds. Bring to a rapid boil, then decrease the heat to a gentle simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. Drain any excess water before seasoning.
Black, or Beluga, will take about 25 to 30 minutes with a ratio of 1 cup dried lentil to 2 1/4 cups liquid. Drain any excess water before seasoning.
Pressure cooking, like in the popular Instant Pot, is also a useful method for cooking all types. Use 1 1/2 to 2 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of dried lentil beans. For brown and green cook under high pressure for 6 to 8 minutes with a natural release of 10 minutes. This amount of time will make them tender, yet slightly firm and retaining their shape. For a softer consistency, cook 10 to 12 minutes. Black or Puy varieties need about 9 to 10 minutes under high pressure with a 10 minute natural release. For red lentils, cook them under high pressure for just 3 minutes with a natural release of 10 minutes. These will be soft and broken down, which is what red lentils are supposed to do.
Dried pulses should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Stored properly, they should keep up to a year.
Once cooked, they will keep for about 3 to 4 days in a covered container in the fridge. Or you can freeze them in freezer safe bags for up to 6 months. I suggest freezing them in 1 to 2 cup portions to easily add to recipes as needed.
- Canned lentils can be used as is, but it is recommended to rinse them well under cold water to remove any excess sodium.
- Be sure to pick through dried pulses to remove any stones or pebbles and give them a good rinse under cold water to remove any dust or debris.
- Use a big pot to cook as they will at least double in size (or more).
- Use broth instead of water for a flavor boost.
- Aromatics (onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, celery, etc.) may be added to the cooking liquid for added flavor, as well.
- Do not salt the cooking water until they are tender, as it could prohibit them from cooking properly.
- Season them while they are still warm, but after draining any excess liquid from the pot.
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