Much like brown rice or quinoa, lentils are one of those foods that, when served straight up, boiled in water and drained, is just plain boring and bland. It’s enough to turn anyone off lentils for good, regardless of their health benefits, which include, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, protein, folate, fiber, iron, potassium, and manganese. (And beyond these health benefits, lentils are easy and quick to cook, and incredibly affordable!)
How can you take advantage of all these lentil benefits, while still making your taste buds happy? Here’s how to make lentils taste better.
1. Ditch the Plain Water
First things first, ditch boiling your lentils in plain water. Plain water is boring and makes for boring lentils. Instead, upgrade your cooking experience by boiling the lentils in your stock of choice. We suggest trying our vegetable stock recipe. No stock on hand? Toss a bay leaf and some garlic into the pot.
2. Add Some Acid
Acid can really liven up a batch of lentils. Sprinkle in some vinegar or citrus juice, like a squeeze of lemon juice. Highly acidic, tomatoes also pair well with lentils. This warm lentil and tomato salad recipe uses both balsamic vinegar and sun-dried tomatoes for a hearty, delicious dish that also calls for Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and roasted, spiced chickpeas.
3. Go for Big, Bold Flavors
When working with a rather bland ingredient, consider it your blank canvas on which you can paint an array of bigger, bolder flavors. For example, this lentil soup relies on mushrooms and miso paste for a burst of savory, scrumptious flavor that’s perfect for a late fall day.
4. Use Lentils as an Add-In, Not the Star Attraction
Along these lines, consider using lentils as an accompanying ingredient for a bigger, bolder dish, rather than trying to force lentils into a starring role. For example, add them to a chunky pasta sauce or your favorite soup or stew, perhaps as a topping like this Parsnip & Apple Soup. Allow them to add texture, even if they’re not always adding flavor, and reap all the health benefits.
5. Top Your Lentils
If you’ve already cooked your lentils and you’re just now looking for a way to make them taste better, don’t worry. With a few toppings, you can save your dinner. Add on some sour cream, ricotta, crème fraiche, feta, or cottage cheese. Then, drizzle your serving with a little olive oil.
6. Look to International Cuisine
International cuisines have figured out how to make lentils taste absolutely amazing. Broaden your cooking horizons and look to beloved international recipes that incorporate lentils with spectacular success. You could try this Greek lentil soup that incorporates lemon and feta for an amazing Mediterranean flavor. Indian cuisine also uses a fair amount of lentils (and in fact, India consumes half the world’s lentils, according to NPR), so why not try making your favorite Indian takeout order at home?