Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lentils--clearing the air on an unsung legume

Continuing our series on meals based around healthy, easy-to-make recipes (that can easily be taken to work for lunch), I wanted to detail a lentil stew I helped make last night. First of all, I was excited to find the awesome recipe (from here), because I had been looking to base some meals around lentils for a while. Following our quinoa successes a few weeks back, I wanted to expand this to other over-looked foods.

First off, lentils (photo and info from here) are pulses and members of the legume family, just like beans. They are most popular in South and West Asia and the Mediterranean region, although Canada and the US grow significant amounts (apparently from concentrated regions in Saskatchewan and Eastern Washington & the Panhandle of Idaho). They come in many colors, but generally, “like other legumes, have the third-highest level of protein by weight, of any plant-based food, after soybeans and hemp.” Interestingly, lentils are deficient in two essential amino acids (methionine and cysteine), but sprouted lentils (which you can produce by leaving some in water for several days) contain sufficient levels of all essential amino acids. Their high fiber content (apparently green has more than pink) makes them a very low glycemic index (which we’ll detail in a few days) food, good for those who are looking to maintain low blood sugar. Another benefit is that, unlike beans, you don't have to soak them overnight before cooking them.

In short, like quinoa, lentils form an awesome base for many dishes, as they readily absorb the other ingredients’ flavor, cook quickly, and are relatively inexpensive (even at Whole Foods). On to the recipe for lentil chili:


  • 1 pound lean ground turkey (we used white meat at $4.99/lb from Whole Foods).
  • 1 can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups lentils, rinsed
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


In a pot, cook turkey over medium heat until not longer pink, and then drain it. Add the remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

For more background on lentils see here and here. If you have any favorite recipes based on similar ideas, leave 'em in the comments.

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