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 Lentil Recipes!
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]
How to cook
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 ½ 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 ½ 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 ¼ cups liquid. Drain any excess water before seasoning.
Pressure cooker method
Pressure cooking, like in the popular Instant Pot, is also a useful method for cooking all types. Use 1 ½ 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.
Storage and freezing
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 vegan lentil recipes as needed.
Pro tips and tricks
- 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.
Just like beans and peas, lentils are in the legume family, meaning they grow in pods.
Lentils are low in fat and calories, rich in iron and folate, and a terrific source of healthy plant protein. So, enjoy those vegan lentil recipes!
Just like beans, the sugars in lentils can cause extra gas in certain individuals. If you tend to feel bloated or gassy after eating lentils, it maybe beneficial to soak and/or sprout them, making them easier on the digestive system.
Adding salt or acidic ingredients early in the cooking process, before the lentils are tender, can cause them to not cook properly. Wait to add these seasonings until after they are soft.
Also, it’s possible to get an old batch of dried lentils that just refuse to soften no matter how long you cook them.
Do not eat undercooked lentils as they can cause digestive issues.
More vegan recipe collections
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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 delicious addition to soups, stews, and chilis! They're hearty and "meaty" and, depending on the variety used, can either bring texture or puréed until silky smooth.
This protein and veggie packed Lentil Rice Soup is hearty and flavorful and sure to warm your belly and your soul. It’s made with simple ingredients, most of which you probably already have in your pantry and fridge.
Lentil Quinoa Soup
Using fridge and pantry staples, this protein-packed soup comes together quickly and easily. It has a delicious smoky flavor and is perfect for any night of the week. Gluten Free
Hungarian Red Lentil Soup
This recipe comes together fast, thanks to red lentils and easy ingredients. The Hungarian paprika, dry mustard, and tomato paste give this simple dish a wonderful depth of flavor. This soup goes great with some fresh crusty bread! Gluten Free
Slow Cooker Red Lentil Stew
Throw all the ingredients in your slow cooker, so you can sit back and relax! It's lightly spiced with cumin and a smoky kick of smoked paprika. Fresh parsley thrown in at the end brightens up the whole thing. Delicious!
Pumpkin Lentil Chili
This hearty, protein and veggie packed chili, has the perfect balance of heat and sweet. Gluten Free
Curry Lentil Soup
Made from pantry staples and ready in under 30 minutes!
Easy Lentil Soup
Velvety smooth and high in protein, this nourishing soup is ready is under 30 minutes!
Slow Cooker Lentil Curry
Full of flavor and easy to make using pantry staples.
Vegan Creamy Spinach Artichoke Chickpea Soup
Your favorite spinach artichoke combo paired with protein and fiber packed lentils and chickpeas in a creamy golden coconut broth.
Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
Thick and hearty and bright with lemon, this soup is lightened up comfort food!
It's easy to add a protein packed punch to salads by tossing in some lentils! Brown, green, or black varieties are generally best here as they hold their shape well.
Lentil Quinoa Spinach Salad
Packed with protein, superfood greens, refreshing fruits, and healthy fats, this salad is hearty enough to be an entrée. Gluten Free
Roasted Cauliflower Salad w/ Lentils & Grapes
Curried cauliflower roasted until tender and golden and then tossed with protein-packed lentils and sweet, juicy grapes. It’s flavor and texture dynamite!
Apple Lentil Salad
Crispy crunchy apples, sweet dried cranberries, and fragrant fresh herbs are a tasty complement to protein packed earthy lentils.
Warm Sweet Potato Noodles, Cabbage and Lentil Salad
This satiating salad is a meal in itself with spiralized sweet potato noodles, filling lentils and cabbage, and a creamy Dijon vinaigrette.
Warming Maple Roasted Winter Veg Salad
Sweet and smoky maple roasted veggies are a perfect match for peppery arugula and earthy lentils. A showstopper of a salad!
Mediterranean Lentil Salad
The flavors of the Mediterranean brought to your table in this easy and healthy Lentil salad.
The Best Crunchy Lentil Salad
Lentils, veggies, nuts, and ever sweet grapes, all tossed in a lemony herb dressing for a tasty balance of flavor and texture.
Black Lentil Pomegranate Salad
Tart, juicy pomegranates pair well with the earthiness of lentils and tahini in this fancy salad.
Lentils are a wonderful addition to burgers, patties and veggie loaves. They can be flavored to mimic meat in taste and texture and bring healthy plant based protein, fiber, and many key vitamins and minerals.
Vegan Sloppy Joes
Sweet, smoky, tangy, and messy - a family favorite 30 minute meal!
Baked Red Lentil Quinoa Fritters
Turmeric, cumin and a touch of cinnamon, spice these flavorful patties. They're oil free and baked, not fried. An easy, high protein, meatless dinner! Gluten Free
Asian Lentil Burger Lettuce Wraps
Your favorite Asian flavors, like mushrooms, green onions, garlic, soy sauce, and sriracha mingle with pantry staples of lentils and rice to create a veggie burger that's full of umami! We like to serve them with lettuce wraps instead of buns.
Lentil Balls in Sweet and Sour Sauce
There are so many tasty ingredients wrapped up in these little balls, they're delicious even without the sauce!
Easy, Spiced, Chickpea Potato Patties (Vegetarian)
Spicy little lentil potato patties make a delicious light dinner.
Healthy Lentil Loaf Recipe
A healthy vegan twist on a typical meat and potatoes type dish. Filling, tasty, and totally satisfying!
Vegan Meatloaf Muffins
All the flavors of a typical loaf, but way more fun to eat!
Vegan Eggplant Pulled Pork Burger
The meaty flavor and texture of these sandwiches comes from eggplant and lentils smothered in a yummy homemade BBQ sauce.
Beet and Green Lentil Cakes
Bring a pop of color to your plate with these simple and pretty lentil patties.
Lentils are a go-to plant based option in recipes where you'd typically find ground meat. Healthy, filling, and nutritious.
Lentil Cottage Pie
This vegetarian version of Shepherd's Pie features hearty lentils, butternut squash, cauliflower, and spices in a rich savory tomato sauce all topped off with creamy potato carrot mash. Total comfort food! Gluten Free
Vegan Shepherd's Pie
Lentils, mushrooms, and pecans mingle under creamy mashed potatoes for another delicious twist on Shepherd's Pie.
Indian Vegan Shepherd's Pie
Shepherd's Pie not only get a vegan makeover, but an Indian twist as well! Yum!
Vegan Moussaka with Lentils
With eggplant and lentils, this vegan version of a classic Greek dish, is filling and flavorful.
The Best Vegan Lasagna (Gluten Free!)
This creative lasagna recipe uses sweet potato slices instead of noodles, lentil bolognese, homemade dairy-free ricotta, and fresh tomato slices. Easy to assemble, healthy, and mouthwatering!
Spicy Potato Lentil Pies
Individual savory baked lentil potato pies topped with a flaky gluten free crust!
Anything paired with pasta is usually a winner for family night and lentils are no exception!
Lentil Mushroom Healthy Bolognese
This hearty, savory sauce is loaded with lentils and mushrooms and will please even the meat-lovers in your house!
Lentils and red kidney beans replace the traditional meat found in goulash recipes, but the same wonderful flavor you love is all there!
Delicious One-Pot Red Lentil Bolognese
Using red lentils that break down for a looser sauce than typical lentil bolognese recipes, this delicious, kid-friendly dish is perfect served over your favorite pasta!
Vegan Lentil Meatballs
These vegan meatballs are firm, yet tender, and loaded with flavor. A big plate of pasta topped with hearty meatballs...is there anything better?
Black beans aren't the only legume perfect for Taco Tuesday. Grab some tortillas and try one of these delicious dishes for dinner tonight.
Lentil Mushroom Tacos
Switch up your Taco Tuesday routine and try these delicious, flavorful vegan tacos!
Vegan Lentil Tacos with Pico de Gallo
These lentil tacos bring some heat which is perfectly paired with homemade avocado pico de gallo.
Enchilada Lentil Tacos with Lime Slaw
Lentils simmered in a spicy homemade enchilada sauce and served taco style with a zippy lime slaw.
Chipotle Lentil Taquitos
Spicy, smoky, and filling these taquitos make a great meal, appetizer, or snack.
Healthy rolled tacos that taste like junk food. Sign me up!
Vegan Lentil Enchiladas
Savory lentil fills, homemade enchilada sauce, and a creamy dairy-free butternut queso make these vegan enchiladas irresistible!
Vegan Lentil Wraps With Fresh Salad & Yogurt Garlic Sauce Recipe
Fresh and flavorful - a delicious easy lunch option!
From curries and BBQ to all things stuffed vegetables, these recipes will all be winners for your meatless meal.
If you want to impress someone with a dal, make it this one. Don't be afraid of the number of spices - it is quite simple to make. Serve with rice or naan or as part of a larger meal. So flavorful!
Sweet and Smoky BBQ Lentils
A tangy, vinegar based, and totally tomato free BBQ sauce smothers healthy hearty lentils for a delicious dish that's perfect paired with rice, noodles, or potatoes!
Texture and flavor galore in these easy weeknight dinner bowls. High protein lentils, caramelized roasted veggies, crunchy coleslaw, and tangy BBQ sauce. Kid and hubby approved!
Moroccan Spiced Stuffed Eggplant
Make vegetables the star of the show with this saucy lentil filling baked inside a tender roasted eggplant.
Coconut Lentil Curry (Jamaican Style)
Lentils and veggies in an aromatic coconut curry sauce is a flavorful one-pot dish you'll love!
Lentil Carrot Hot Dog Recipe
Easy to make homemade vegan hot dogs that aren't just marinated whole carrots! So creative!
Vegan Lentil Taco Stuffed Peppers
Mexican flavored lentil filling stuffed into bell peppers and baked until hot and bubbly.
Stuffed Squash with Curried Lentils
A showstopper entrée that puts vegetables in the center of your plate!
Vegan Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
5 ingredients and just 20 minutes is all you need to turn red lentils into this creamy vegan version of condensed cream of chicken soup! Amazing!
Lentils aren't typically thought of as breakfast ingredients, but you'll be amazed at just how well they work in these recipes!
Fluffy Vegan Protein Pancakes
Light and fluffy pancakes with an added protein punch. You won't believe this favorite breakfast dish contains lentils!
This creamy breakfast porridge is a yummy low-carb alternative to traditional oatmeal.
Seriously the Best Vegan Breakfast Sausage Recipe Ever
Lentils, oats, and flaxseed come together with typical sausage spices for a delicious vegan spin on a breakfast classic.
Crispy Lentil Energy Bites
Cooked lentils tossed with cinnamon and sugar and roasted until crunchy are then combined with oats, seeds, nut butter, maple syrup, and chocolate chips for a truly unique, nutritious snack!
Lentil Hummus Recipe
Using canned or leftover cooked lentils, this hummus dip comes together in just 5 minutes! Perfect for snacking or parties!
Great recipes! I look forward to trying some. You should know, though, that in Roman times lenses didn’t exist. The Latin word ‘lens’ means lentil. Lenses were named after lentils, not the other way around.
Jenn Sebestyen says
Ah, very interesting! Thank you for sharing!