Many people are beginning to go more plant-based with their diets for many reasons such as health, environmental, or just because meat is a little weird if you think about it. Being a member of the last group, I have been searching for quick and easy vegetarian recipes that don’t leave me hungry an hour after I eat them. Then I found lentils.
A quick search on lentils will tell you that lentils are, historically-speaking, old legumes that are inexpensive and packed full of fiber and protein and come with numerous other health benefits. There are also different kinds of lentils, the most popular are brown, green, and red lentils. Lentils and other dried split pulses are popularly used in eastern cuisine, so a lot of the recipes tend to be of that nature. I can never say no to a good coconut lentil curry. But lentils are a very universal protein that anyone can get creative with.
I was able to get creative in trying to sate my cravings for tacos. I used to make tempeh tacos all the time, but the store I frequent doesn’t carry tempeh all the time, so I didn’t expect much when I swapped the lentils in for the tempeh. To my surprise, they came out great and I am so proud of them that I wanted to share them with you. They are quick, easy, serves a good amount, and has little cleanup. In other words, this is a perfect recipe for students. You can usually find lentils in the same area as rice if my recipe sparks any cravings in you.
Here’s what you will need:
1-2 Tbs olive oil
Pinch of salt
½ yellow onion chopped
2-3 cloves of minced garlic
Any bell pepper chopped (optional)
1 tsp cumin
½-1 tsp cayenne pepper (the more you do the spicier)
¼ tsp turmeric (optional, adds color and health benefits)
1-2 Tbs soy sauce
¾ cup of brown lentils (if you choose a different kind, the cooking time will need to change accordingly)
1 can of favorite beans (optional)
2-3 cups of water
How to make it:
1. Heat oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onions, peppers, and garlic with a pinch of salt. Here you can add any other kind of veggies that you like, but make sure to consider how they will cook and how long that will take. Cook until onions are translucent.
2. While that is cooking you can wash your lentils, picking out any debris or bad looking lentils. I just pour the lentils in a bowl, washing them once, then adding the two cups of water and picking out whatever floats up or doesn’t look like a lentil.
3. Add spices and soy sauce after onions are done. Cook for around half a minute or until the spices are fragrant.
4. Now add lentils and water, letting the mixture bubble, then turning down the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook uncovered. For brown lentils, it takes about 30 minutes, but don’t be afraid to test the lentils after the 20 minutes and go from there, cooking until the lentils are soft enough to flatten out with two fingers. You might have to add more water as it cooks, just make sure its hot water so it doesn’t halt the cooking process. If you are adding beans, I add them around the 20-minute mark after draining them.
5. After the lentils are done, drain off any remaining liquid so it is like taco filling.
6. Serve them up on some tortillas. Some recommended toppings: avocados, onions, lettuce, sriracha, chipotle sauce, salsa, cilantro, and even in a pinch I will use ranch on my tacos. Sounds weird, but don’t knock it till you try it!
Hopefully, this is a nice introduction to the world of lentils. You can do a lot with lentils, and feel free to get creative when you approach any plant-based recipe. Like with this taco recipe, even you can make up your own favorite lentil recipe.