Try Lentils

— Written By and last updated by Meghan Lassiter
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Many people are really getting into vegetarian diets, eating more plant-based foods, and eating less meat in general. One way that many are doing this is by adding more plant proteins into their diet. Lentils can be a versatile low-cost way to do this.

The new 2020-2025 U.S. dietary guidelines highlight lentils as an important nutrient-dense food that can be eaten as both protein and vegetables in a healthy diet. In addition to being a high-quality and low-fat protein, lentils can provide fiber to the diet.

Not familiar with lentils?

Lentils are a type of “pulse.” The term “pulse” is used to describe the edible seeds of a legume. A legume is a family of plants that also include soybeans, peanuts, and peas. Other types of pulses are beans, field peas, and chickpeas.

Lentils come in several sizes and colors. The most common ones we see on our grocery shelves are green, brown, and red split lentils. Split lentils are just that, the seed has been split into two pieces, this allows them to cook faster. Lentils are usually purchased dry and will keep on the pantry shelf for about a year. Lentils are a quick alternative to dried beans. Unlike dried beans, lentils do not require soaking, and they cook in a very short time. Lentils are delicious on their own, added to salads or soups, or as a base for fish or chicken. They can also be made into patties as an alternative to burgers. Cooked lentils will keep for a week in the refrigerator and in the freezer for about three months.

Lentils were featured as the recipe in the February edition, our Family and Consumer Science Newsletter, The Brunswick Buzz. You can subscribe to this monthly newsletter in the Family and Consumer Science section of our website.

This recipe from our Med instead of Meds curriculum uses a cumin vinaigrette to turn lentils into a delicious side or as a main dish all on its own.

Lentils with Cumin Vinaigrette


  • 1 cup green, brown, or red lentils
  • 2 cups water or vegetable stock

    Cumin vinaigrette:
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  •  ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Place the vegetable stock or water in a large pot with the lentils. Cook over high heat until it comes to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cover. Cook until lentils are tender but not mushy—15 minutes to one hour, depending on the type and size of lentil. Drain and place in a large bowl.
  2. Make the vinaigrette by heating the oil in a medium skillet. Add the shallots and cook on medium heat for one minute. Add the cumin and cook one minute more. Remove from heat and add the vinegar, lemon juice, cayenne, and salt.
  3. Add the vinaigrette to the warm lentils and stir.

Serving size ½ cup. Serves 4. Contains 229 calories, 7 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein, and 13 grams of fat.

The N.C. Cooperative Extension of Brunswick County office is pleased to have Ren Levocz, as an intern this spring. Ren is a senior at UNC-W studying Public Health. He has a special interest in community health and health promotions. Ren is passionate about improving others’ wellness to better their physical and mental health. You can meet Ren by watching a video showing how to make this lentil recipe. This video can be found on our YouTube channel.

Person cooking lentils in a pot
Source: Lentils (Saskatchewan Pulse Growers Association), Med Instead of Meds