Lentil Mania

By Jacqueline Dunnington

Humans have been dining on lentils for centuries. These lens- shaped edible seeds, scientifically classified as the Lens esculenta or Lens culinaris, have been discovered in Bronze Age dwellings on St. Peter's Island in Switzerland. The Bible (Genesis 25:34) records that Esau sold his birthright for a "pottage of lentils".

Orange lentils are found in India, Africa, and the Middle East. Botanists are still hunting for clues about the origin of the plant. Meanwhile, vegetarians delight in the flavor and nutritional benefits of its seeds.


(Serves 5)

A classic salad for all seasons.

  • 1 cup pre-cooked green lentils
  • 1 cup pre-cooked orange lentils
  • ½ cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup steamed green beans, finely cut
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped parsley


  • 1 Tablespoon mild, prepared mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of lemon juice
  • ½ cup reduced fat
  • Italian dressing
  • 1 ripe tomato, cut into wedges
  • ¼ cup finely chopped chives
  • Small head of lettuce, shredded

In a salad bowl, mix cooked lentils, celery, green beans, and parsley. Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Toss lentil mixture with dressing and serve on shredded lettuce. Garnish with tomato wedges and chives. Serve with crusty whole wheat bread.

Total Calories Per Serving: 149
Fat: 3 grams


(Serves 4)

Enjoy this delicious dish.

  • 2 cups well-scrubbed leeks, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1-¼ cups brown rice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of basil
  • 1 cup pre-cooked lentils
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup finely grated carrots

In a 4-quart deep pot with cover, sauté leeks, garlic, and red pepper in oil. When soft, add broth or water, and stir in rice along with seasonings. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 40 minutes or until rice is done. Uncover, stir in cooked lentils and re-heat until piping hot. Garnish with parsley and grated carrot before serving.

Total Calories Per Serving: 368
Fat: 6 grams


(Serves 4)

A sturdy and economical soup.

  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup dry green lentils
  • 1 red potato, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 large tomato, peeled and diced
  • 1 small stalk celery, diced
  • 1 small carrot, slivered
  • ¼ cup freshly chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dry croutons or chopped chives

In a deep soup pot, sauté shallots and onions in heated oil. Add water and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, adding more water if needed to keep the three-cup level of liquid. Cook lentils until barely tender. Add all other vegetables and seasonings. Continue cooking at least 20 minutes longer. Fork-mash or puree mixture. Serve warm, garnished with croutons or chives.

Total Calories Per Serving: 224
Fat: 3 grams


(Serves 4)

A healthy and unusual gourmet treat.

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup green and red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1 cup vegetable juice
  • 1 cup pre-cooked lentils
  • 2 cooked, peeled hot chilies, finely minced (canned or fresh)
  • Pinch of basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a deep pot, saut&233; onions, garlic, and peppers in heated olive oil. Stir often. Cover and reduce heat to low, add tomato and juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add cooked lentils and seasonings (including chilies). Heat thoroughly before serving. If the mixture seems too dry at any time, add a few spoonfuls of water.

Serve sauce over cooked pasta or brown rice.

Total Calories Per Serving (without pasta): 145
Fat: 4 grams


(Serves 4)

A fat-free stew loaded with flavor.

  • 1 large leek stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-½ cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup yellow corn kernels
  • ½ cup broccoli
  • florets, lightly steamed
  • 1 cup pre-cooked lentils
  • 1 Tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a stew pot, boil well-cleaned chopped leek and shredded carrot in water until tender. Drain well and add remaining ingredients. Cook until well heated. You may want to add a bit of pre-cooked brown rice or your favorite herb seasoning.

Total Calories Per Serving: 168
Fat: 1 gram


(Serves 4)

An unusual recipe from India.

  • 1 cup dry "orange" lentils
  • 1 very large sweet potato, peeled and sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 1 cup rhubarb, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons liquid sweetener
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger root, grated
  • 1 teaspoon hot red chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup shredded coconut

Cover lentils with water in a deep pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and add raw sweet potato slices. Simmer until soft (about an hour). Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in a skillet. Once hot, add rhubarb. Reduce heat and cook until tender. Stir in sweetener and seasonings. Mix with drained cooked lentils and potatoes that have been mashed together with a fork. Pour into a oven-proof dish and bake at 400º until piping hot (about 20 minutes). Garnish with coconut. Serve with chutney and a big bowl of brown rice.

Total Calories Per Serving: 264
Fat: 6 grams

This article was originally published in the July/August 1994 issue of the Vegetarian Journal, published by:

The Vegetarian Resource Group
P.O. Box 1463
Baltimore, MD 21203
(410) 366-VEGE