Have you never tried lentils and you are curious about what do lentils taste like? While they may not be as widely known as other foods such as beans or oatmeal, lentils are in a league all of their own and are deserving of more attention. They may not be as fun to the east as other foods like burgers or pizza, but they are very tasty and extremely nutritious.
If you’ve ever tried lentils and are not a fan, you may have your disagreements ready to use; which I understand. They are sort of like vegetables in the sense that they are healthy for you, and some healthy foods just don’t have a lot of flavor behind them.
But please give me a couple of moments of your time, and I promise that I can change your mind. (Or introduce you to the wonderful world of lentils.)
There are a lot of variables that can change the way that lentils taste. This can include the person you ask or the different kinds of lentils that are used. (Yes, there are different kinds of lentils.)
The way that they are prepared can also alter the flavor. For the most part, lentils will all have an earthy, nutty, and peppery flavor note and are somewhat soft when cooked.
Lentils also have different “species” and I just described four different kinds in that paragraph. I’ll explain these more in detail later, but before that let’s get into what exactly a lentil is.
Time to Find out What a Lentil Is
The very first thing that you should know about lentils is that they are 100% edible. They are food, and like any food, they can be made to taste amazing for any type of palette. They are extremely nutritious, good for your overall heart health, high in fiber, and low in fat.
They fall in the same food category as beans and peas. Although we believe that they should get a food classification all on their own.
Deriving its name lentils from the word “lens”, they come from annual plants which seeds are shaped like a lens. They have a similar shape to beans, meaning they are curved and uncooked have an almost glossy exterior.
The plant itself generally grows to about 16 inches tall, with pods containing the lentils. These can come in different sizes, most often round or even heart-shaped.
These plants are indigenous to the regions of Asia, generally found in the Central and Western areas. Speaking of South Asian cuisine, when the edible lentil is removed from its pod it is referred to as “dal”. This is considered to be a stable food for Indians, Sri Lankans, and the Nepalese people who will generally consume it with rice or Roti.
Lentils are some of the oldest pulse crops known to man. They can be dated back to 11,000 BCE in Ancient Greece. Surprising as it may sound, lentil artifacts were discovered during archeological sites around the Euphrates River; which can be dated back to 8,000 BCE.
Studies and evidence have shown that Egyptians, Romans, and Hebrews all consumed this crop. As you can see, lentils have been around for a long time and might even be able to trace back to the paleolithic periods.
One of the great things about lentils and something to keep in mind is the fact that they are packed with protein. For vegan and vegetarian recipes, they can be used instead of meat and provide you with the same amount of protein. If you are looking for a meat substitute in your cooking and recipe making, this will probably be great news to you!
Like peas, lentils can be bought and sold either whole or in their split varieties, and are available in different colors. Most commonly found in either red, green, or brown; you can also find them in yellow, black, or orange. Some will state that these colors are just variants of the three most common, and I would have to agree with that.
Red lentils will come split, while brown and black will be available whole. This can be attributed to the fact that the red variety of lentils will break down because they are more fragile. Let’s move on now to the types of lentils that are available to you.
If you find that there is a type of lentil that you have tried in the past and are not a fan of, maybe try a different kind.
What do Lentils Taste Like According to Their Type
1. Brown Lentils
You may have expected this, but I can confirm that different colors of lentils will taste differently. For instance, brown lentils will have more of an earthy and organic flavor. These are commonly found in your supermarket and are most likely the ones that someone will try first.
The darker the color will be smaller in size, and will feature more of a rich, earthy flavor. This is also sometimes called Beluga Lentils by farmers and wholesalers. This type of lentils will work great in dishes like stew, meatloaf, burgers, pulled pork, and as a garnish.
2. Green Lentils
This variety of lentils will taste more like a dash of green pepper, being very mild in its hot flavor notes. Depending on your palette and how much of a fan you are of that pepper flavor, you may find yourself describing it milder than others.
If you are using a recipe that has longer cooking or simmer time, this is the lentil that I would recommend using as it can hold up for longer at a higher temperature compared to other types of lentils.
When you are cooking with green lentils, you may start to notice a peppery aroma when you are cooking with them; even if you are not using any type of pepper in the recipe. This is one of the more versatile of the lentil varieties and holds up well to a variety of different recipes.
3. Red Lentils
If you are looking for a sweeter type of lentil, look no further than red lentils. While all shades of red, there are three different types of red lentils: red, gold, and orange. They all have a sweeter taste and offer a sort of nutty flavor note that I find to be appealing, especially in Indian cooking.
When you are using this type of lentils in your cooking, you may find that some spices like sugar and nutmeg may need to be toned down, due to their natural flavor notes.
Another thing that you will want to keep in mind when using red lentils is that you cook extremely fast, due to being split. They can be used as a great natural thickener in soups and sauces as well, and you will find that this variety is often used in Indian and Mediterranean cooking.
When using in soups and stews, just add the lentils for the last 30 minutes of cooking.
4. Black Lentils
Sometimes referred to as Beluga Lentils, these are robust lentils that pair exceptionally well with other types of proteins such as beans and hardier vegetables. Their name comes from Beluga Caviar, which they have been known to share a similar appearance to.
Taste-wise, they are full of flavor and feature a similar flavor to black beans. Robust in both flavor and nutrients, they are the best lentils for your body and take around 25 minutes to cook.
These are packed full of antioxidants, and 1/2 cup provides an astonishing 26 grams of protein. They are low in fat and contain a high amount (18g) of fiber as well. Due to their flavor, you can use them in place of black beans in chili and stew as well for a burst of nutrients.
A Few Amazing Benefits of Lentils
With any type of food, the health benefits we receive are extremely important (and I believe should outweigh the number of calories). It is important to know the facts about what we put inside our bodies, and that is true with lentils as well. As such, here are some of the health benefits and nutritional facts about lentils:
Low in calories and fat, while full in fiber and protein, lentils also contain folate, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B6, iron, selenium, and manganese.
Not only are these nutrients vital for maintaining a high level of health, but they are also great at protecting ourselves against cancer and other diseases.
For a little perspective, high homocysteine levels can contribute to heart disease and lentils contain folate, which has been proven to reduce these levels.
Additionally, magnesium is ideal for improving the flow of blood and oxygen, as well as supplying nutrients to your body. One cup of lentils contains around 18g of protein and has a glycemic index of 22-45; making it a superfood that you should be aware of.
They are Tasty and Healthy – What More Could you Ask For?
Fiber is known to reduce blood cholesterol, and lentils are packed full of soluble fiber. Having a lower level of cholesterol equates to a reduced risk of heart disease, and helps to make your gut flora sustainable.
This leads to better overall digestive health while reducing blood glucose levels. Anyone who has diabetes will appreciate this fact!
Because of their high protein and low calories, lentils are fantastic at keeping your energy levels high and are fantastic for any sort of clean eating routine.
Additionally, they contain a large amount of iron which will help you to combat daily fatigue.
Nutrient-dense and low in both calories and fat, one cup of lentils only contains 230 calories. This means that you can eat a lot of lentils before needing to be wary about the calories in them, and you would be getting a ton of nutrients and protein.
Regardless of what type of food you are currently craving, there is a way to add lentils to it. They can be easily added to salads, soups, stews, dips, sides, and even as a meat replacement.
So the next time that you are asked what lentils taste like, make sure you say that they are delicious and full of nutrients.
How to Store Lentils
Not only are lentils easy to cook, full of nutrients, and low in fat; they are also incredibly easy to store and can last forever. Although the colors of the lentils may start to fade or change, the flavor will remain the same: full-bodied and earthy.
That said, it is my recommendation that you do keep the lentils in an air-tight container, stored in a cool and dry place. A pantry or larder is the ideal location to store your lentils. For the best quality, it would be best to use the lentils up to one year after you purchase them.
As relates to cooked lentils, you can store them in the fridge and they will be safe to consume and full of flavor for up to one full week. As with anything you store in the fridge, make sure that it is in an airtight sealed container to remain fresh.
Another thing that you will want to keep in mind as well is that the food they are stored with may go bad before the lentils. For instance, the meat in a stew with the lentils may contaminate them before a week.
Another viable option would also be to freeze the lentils. This way, they can last for up to 6 whole months; just be careful with reheating the lentils to make sure that they do not deteriorate or begin to fall apart.
When it comes to reheating, it may be a good idea to remember that when reheating, it is best to start low and slow. This will allow you to reheat the lentils without altering the composition.
I told you that legumes are one of the best superfoods on the planet! As you have learned by reading this article, lentils are low in calories and fat, while being high in fiber, protein, and packed with vital nutrients. And like music to the ears of some more inexperienced cooks, they are extremely easy to add to recipes and cook with.
They are delicious, easy to use, and packed with the nutrients that your body needs to remain healthy. There is no reason not to use them in your cooking and recipes, and are so versatile.
Next time you cook anything, try adding a handful of lentils to it and see how it turns out!