Simple Spiced Lentils
Lentils – so delicious, yet undervalued. When I ask clients if they like lentils, they always respond Yes! But they never think to actually prepare them at home. A simple lentil recipe should be a standard in your cooking repertoire. My Simple Spiced Lentils are a Moroccan-inspired dish that is savory, spicy, aromatic and so good. This Simple Spiced Lentils recipe is your answer to a healthy and simple side dish or snack.
Nutrition Highlights of Lentils
Plant Based Protein
A ½ cup serving of cooked lentils provides about 12 grams of protein. A dish like this one is perfect for Meatless Monday; the day of the week that is saved for celebrating all things vegetarian. Even if you do include animal products in your diet, cutting back once per week can make a big difference in your health and the environment (and for the animals!!).
Plant based protein sources have the added benefits of more fiber, micronutrients and healthy fats. Plant foods are great sources of heart healthy fats – think monounsaturated and Omega 3’s – as opposed to saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. These fats play a role in protecting your arteries, reducing inflammation and raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. If you want to include more plant based proteins in your diet, try adding in legumes, nuts, seeds or soy products in place of animal proteins.
Lentils are an amazing source of fiber, a half cup serving of brown lentils provides about 8 grams. For some perspective, women and men need at least 25 and 38 grams respectively. Fiber is so important for our health and plays a role in a number of body processes.
The two types of fiber are soluble and insoluble. Soluble means that it can dissolve in water, while insoluble holds onto water. This is why insoluble fiber acts as roughage and keeps you regular. These Simple Spiced Lentils are a good source of soluble fiber. So while both types are necessary lets focus on some benefits of the soluble fiber in lentils.
Soluble fiber helps your digestive tract by acting as a prebiotic and feeding your good gut bacteria. This type of fiber also slows the absorption of your meals and the release of sugar into the bloodstream. This makes soluble fiber an essential nutrient for regulating blood sugar especially in those with diabetes. Soluble fiber also has a positive effect on cholesterol levels. LDL (“bad”) cholesterol can be lowered by consuming foods that are high in soluble fiber like these Simple Spiced Lentils.
Vitamins and Minerals
If you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet it is super important to know where you are getting your iron from. There are plenty of plant based sources that make it easy, with lentils being one of the best. These Simple Spiced Lentils can provide 15% of your daily needs. Iron is key in your body’s ability to carry oxygen to your cells. This nutrient is especially important if you are a premenopausal woman. People who have a menstrual cycle need more iron, 18grams daily compared to 8mg for the rest of the population.
Lentils are also one of the highest plant based sources of folate. This B vitamin is crucial for women of childbearing age. Getting enough folate before and during pregnancy helps to prevent birth defects. This vitamin is also important for all ages to support proper nerve function and prevent anemia. It is also good to keep in mind that lentils are a source of both potassium and manganese.
Incorporating Lentils In Your Diet
Traditionally, Americans do consume lentil soup or lentil salads but there are so many other options on how to include this important legume. Aside from the Simple Spiced Lentils in this post, you can use boiled brown lentils numerous ways.
Because of their protein content and ability to take on flavors, lentils can be used as a meat substitute for your favorite meat recipes. Think taco meat, burgers, meatballs, meatloaf and chili. Some of those may sound crazy, but lentils are easy to mash and use to mimic the texture of ground meat. If you are a fan of indian flavors, lentils make a delicious vegetarian dahl or curry. If you do want to stick to standard American fare you can also use them simply in recipes like a fresh spinach salad, fall vegetable soup or a hearty, protein packed stew.
Making The Simple Spiced Lentils
In this recipe I am using brown lentils. They are the most common variety meaning that they should be available to everyone in your local grocery store. Brown lentils take only about 20-30 minutes to cook while other varieties like green lentils can take 45 minutes or more. Brown lentils were also chosen for their ability to keep their shape while cooking. You wouldn’t want to use any kind of split lentil for this recipe because they turn mushy in texture making them better suited for soups and curries.
How to Serve This Dish
I recommend serving these Simple Spiced Lentils over a bed of fresh spinach or your own favorite fresh green. Some other good options would be kale, arugula, or dandelion greens. If you are looking for something more filling you could serve these on top of a grain like quinoa or brown rice. You could even serve these in a wrap with some spinach and tomatoes.
This dish makes amazing leftovers because the flavors get a chance to mingle and achieve new depth over time. You can easily adjust the spiciness to your own taste. This recipe is so simple, it will make a perfect dinner or leftover lunch on a busy work-week. Just pack it with some greens, grains or in a wrap as suggested above.
Enjoy this simple dish tonight and let me know how it turns out for you!
If you want to include more lentils in your diet and are looking for some inspiration, check out my Instant Pot Lentil Cauliflower Curry – enjoy!
Simple Spiced Lentils
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 8 ounces dried brown lentils, rinse and drained
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 cups fresh baby spinach, rinsed and pat dry
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Be sure to rinse and sift through your lentils to remove any debris or pebbles that could have gotten into the bag.
- Heat the vegetable broth in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the lentils and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Drain the lentils and place into a large bowl.
- Heat the olive oil in a separate pan and saute the onion and garlic until translucent.
- Combine the cooked onion and garlic with the lemon juice, vinegar, cumin, chili powder, salt and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Pour dressing over the warm lentils and toss to coat.
- Serve warm on a bed of fresh spinach and garnish with chopped parsley.
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
Thanks for visiting! If you’re like me: obsessed with eating, wine, going out and traveling, you’re in the right place. Champagne Nutrition® LLC is a Registered Dietitian-run concierge virtual practice helping clients look and feel better. On this blog, you’ll ﬁnd cocktails, mocktails, and plant-based recipes that are easy to make quickly at home and pack for leftovers on your adventures.