An Ode to Lentils—The Broke Cook's Best Friend

They’re shelf stable, affordable and downright delicious.

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Pictured Recipe: Mixed Greens with Lentils & Sliced Apple

I get it, lentils are not the sexiest food around. These little legumes are intimidating to many, since they haven't quite made it into the spotlight the same way that kale or chickpeas have. But I am here to make a case for these nutritious, versatile little pulses, especially if you are on a budget like me. Lentils are super healthy, affordable and go with almost anything. Here's a few reasons you should love them too.

They're super healthy

Not only are lentils affordable and flavorful, but also they are packed with important nutrients. A typical serving size for legumes, like lentils is ⅓ cup. One serving of lentils boasts the following nutrition:

  • 77 calories
  • 6g protein
  • 0g fat
  • 13g carbs
  • 5.2g fiber (21% RDA)
  • 2.3mg iron (13% RDA)
  • 244mg potassium (9% RDA)
  • 119mcg folate (30% RDA)

It is a good source of several nutrients like fiber, folate, potassium and iron, which can help prevent chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. There are several benefits to choosing plant-based proteins, like legumes, for your health and the health of the planet. The combination of protein and fiber in lentils adds satisfaction to your meals, which can help you balance your blood sugar levels and stay more energized for longer after you eat. High-fiber and high-protein foods like lentils are also great for weight loss, if that is your goal. Lastly, lentils are a great source of folate. This little-known nutrient is critical for processing vitamin B12, which is especially important during pregnancy and as you age.

They're inexpensive & last basically forever

Especially since they are so packed with nutrients, lentils are one of best value foods in the grocery store. You can even buy a five pound bag on for $14.95… that's roughly $0.14 per a ⅓ cup serving! As an added bonus, dry lentils can be stored in a cool dark place for up to 1 year. I always have dry lentils on hand for nights when I am out of ideas but want something filling and healthy. Try our Lemony Lentil Salad with Feta, it's one of my go-tos when I'm in a food rut.

They go with anything

Lentils come in many varieties and colors, and can have different uses based on this. Though brown lentils are the most widely available and typically most affordable, there are other kinds of lentils including green, red, orange and yellow. Warm-hued lentils are the quickest cooking and have the softest texture, which is good for sauces, dips, curries or daal. Green lentils, also referred to as French lentils, are firm and make great salads. You can consider brown lentils as a jack-of-all-trades, since they hold their shape and hearty texture through cooking. Plus, they cook up faster than most other dry beans or legumes, taking roughly 15 to 20 minutes on the stovetop.

Regardless of what type of lentil you prefer, they go with any season and can pair with several dishes, hot and cold. Once you have them cooked, lentils make excellent toppers for salads or rice bowls to give them a protein and nutrition boost. Lentils can be used in most any recipe that calls for dried beans, and make great additions to heartier dishes like soups, stews and curries.

Tasty Lentil Recipes to Try ASAP

Here are some of my favorite recipes for you to try, whether you've been eating lentils for years or are just starting to use them!

lentils on a plate with a serving spoon

One-Pot Lentils & Rice with Spinach

This dish is as nutritious as it is beautiful. It relies on pantry and freezer foods for an affordable meal to keep you full and energized all night. Bonus: it only uses one pot so there is very little clean up.

Lentil Bowls with Fried Eggs & Greens

Lentil Bowls with Fried Eggs & Greens

Who said that lentils can't make a tasty breakfast? But honestly, I enjoy this recipe any time of day. It is a perfect summer dinner, with tons of fresh veggies, crunchy olives and lemon juice to keep it tasting bright.

Bottom Line

Needless to say, I love lentils. They are one of the best foods if you're looking for bang for your buck. I always keep a container full in my pantry to top salads with, throw into stews or add a protein and nutrient boost to a curry. For more inspiration, check out some of our healthy lentil recipes.

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