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6 Red Lentil Recipes Full of Flavor and Fiber

April 24, 2024
Courtesy of Bianca Zapatka

Lentils are well-loved as a plant-based protein source, and no wonder: They’re easy, versatile, and incredibly affordable. Red lentils are part of the legume family, like beans, and they’re an excellent source of fiber, which most of us need more of.

Plus, red lentils cook quickly without the need for soaking, so you can have dinner ready in no time. Their texture becomes soft and tender, perfect for comforting and hearty meals from soups to pancakes. Here are the best red lentil recipes to bring to your table, no matter what you’re craving. 

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What’s the difference between red, green, and brown lentils?

Lentils come in many color varieties — but how are they different? 

Red lentils range from gold to orange to actual red. They’re the sweetest and nuttiest of the lentil varieties. You’ll often find this variety in Indian dahls, curries, or thick soups. 

Green lentils are pale green with a peppery taste. While they take the longest to cook, they keep their firm texture, making them perfect for salads and pastas.

Brown lentils are the most common. They remain firm after cooking and are best in vegetarian burgers and soups. They have a mild, earthy flavor.

You asked: How to cook red lentils? 

Red lentils are reliably easy to prepare. The goal is to cook until the lentils become soft and tender without turning to mush. Bonus: Among all of the lentil varieties, the red ones take the least amount of time to cook.

Some ways to cook red lentils include:

  • Stovetop: Rinse the lentils, then boil for 5 to 10 minutes. The ratio for this method is 1 cup of lentils to 3 cups of liquid (water or broth).
  • Microwave: Add the same ratio of lentils to water (1 cup lentils for 3 cups water) and zap on full power for 5 minutes.
  • Instant pot: Combine 1 cup of lentils with 1 ¾ cups liquid and cook on high for 2 to 3 minutes. Open the seal slightly and allow for a 15-minute natural release. Then open the lid to let out any remaining pressure.
  • Slow cooker: Using the same 1 to 3 ratio of lentils to liquid, cover and cook on low for 4 hours. This results in the creamiest consistency.

Here are 6 of the best red lentil recipes to try next.

1. Red Lentil Chili

Lentil Chili, Courtesy of Spend With Pennies

Courtesy of Spend With Pennies

Chili is a comforting, hearty meal — and lentils are the star in this excellent plant-based version. This recipe actually calls for brown lentils, but you can’t go wrong with red lentils for an extra sweet and creamy profile. Start by sautéing peppers and onions in a pot with chili powder and ground cumin. Just add broth, diced tomatoes, and kidney beans, then let it simmer. Garnish with jalapeños if you like more heat. 

Try this recipe from Spend With Pennies.

Related: 5 Ways to Turn Lentils into a Hearty Plant-Based Meal

2. Red Lentil Pancakes

Lentil Pancakes, Courtesy of Lazy Cat Kitchen

Courtesy of Lazy Cat Kitchen

Make these red lentil pancakes into lunch wraps and you’ll easily sneak in some extra plant-based protein. With only 4 ingredients and 5 minutes to cook, they’re simple and hassle-free. Season the lentil batter with cumin, ginger, turmeric, and chili powder. Top the pancakes with sautéed zucchini, herbs, dairy-free yogurt, and chutney for a light meal with a little zip. 

Try this recipe from Lazy Cat Kitchen.

3. Smoky Red Lentil Stew

Lentil Stew, Courtesy of The First Mess

Courtesy of The First Mess

Loaded with veggies, this lentil stew is easy to make and rich in fiber. Start by sautéing a classic mix of celery, carrots, and onion. Then add garlic and dried spices before cooking the lentils in broth. A hefty serving of smoked paprika gives this stew a distinct smoky flavor, but you can always add less if you’d rather tone it down. Serve with a lemon wedge and fresh herbs for brightness.

Try this recipe from The First Mess.

4. Pumpkin Lentil Falafel

lentil falafel, Courtesy of Blissful Basil

Courtesy of Blissful Basil

This pumpkin and red lentil falafel recipe offers a twist on the classic Mediterranean dish. Use split red lentils and sunflower seeds instead of chickpeas for a nutty and tender falafel. The pumpkin purée and cinnamon bring a hint of sweetness that balances the savory spices like coriander, paprika, and cumin. Finish with a drizzle of tahini.

Try this recipe from Blissful Basil.

5. Lentil Dahl

Dahl Lentil, Courtesy of Bianca Zapatka

Courtesy of Bianca Zapatka

Traditional Indian Dahl is one of the best red lentil recipes, and it’s rich in nutrients. And with only 5 minutes of prep, you get 25 grams of fiber — that’s an entire day’s worth in one serving. Ginger and turmeric offer zip as well as known anti-inflammatory properties. Serve warm with pita, if desired.

Try this recipe from Bianca Zapatka.

6. Spicy Lentil Pasta

Lentil Pasta, Courtesy of Minimalist Baker

Courtesy of Minimalist Baker

A quick and easy pasta dish is great for a busy weeknight, and this plant-based one is on the table in 30 minutes. It’ll appeal to anyone who likes their pasta with a little kick. Serve this lentil and tomato sauce over your pasta of choice and top with vegan parmesan, fresh herbs, and even more chili flakes. Or, omit the chili flakes if you prefer the dish milder — and try a red lentil pasta if you want to double down on legumes. 

Try this recipe from Minimalist Baker.

Read next: 8 Complete Protein Combinations for Plant-Based Eaters

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