25 Tasty and Cheap Lentil Recipes
One of the items on my list of cheap weight loss foods, lentils take up a fair amount of space in my pantry. While I’ve been collecting them for some time now, I’m still always on the lookout for new lentil recipes to add to our family repertoire. Here are twenty-five tasty and cheap lentil recipes to get your creative juices flowing. (See also: Lentil Love: How to Sex Up a Simple Staple and Save)
If you’re looking for lentil recipes that will fit seamlessly into your current menu plans, then you might consider including using some in a batch of vegan tacos. I use guacamole instead of sour cream for a topping and the same chopped veggies I would normally use with a meat taco. It gives me a couple of easy tortilla meals a couple of times per month, and provides plenty of fiber.
Risotto is impressive in its own right, but any time you can kick it up a notch, your guests are sure to notice. This French lentil and Swiss chard risotto from Martha Stewart is elegant and provides enough protein and produce to stand on its own for a main meal.
3. Asian Cabbage Rolls
These Asian cabbage rolls from Batter Licker replace pork with lentils for a dish that’s equally spicy, but lighter on fat. I’m always on the lookout for fantastic cabbage recipes, and this one just made new list of faves.
4. Sloppy Joes
The popularity and affordability of lentil sloppy joes makes this legume a must-have item on your vegan grocery list. Even the organic version rings it at less than two bucks per pound at Whole Foods, and you can serve the saucy tomato mixture on toasted rye, a bulky roll, or even a hearty hot dog bun. The sandwiches pair well with homemade coleslaw, crudités and dip, or baked tortilla chips. Once you have some pre-cooked lentils on hand, all you need is a can of your favorite sloppy Joe sauce. For those looking to explore a plant-based diet, this is one of those sandwich ideas that will go the distance.
5. Party Dip
This Indian lentil and split pea spread is flavorful, nutritious, and definitely on my short list for eating vegan on the cheap. It works on pita crisps, flat bread, cucumber rounds, and even toasted wheat crackers. The ingredient list is composed mainly of items most people have kicking around in their pantry anyway, except for perhaps the fresh cilantro leaves, which can be grown or purchased affordably.
6. French Lentil Crock Pot Stew
Paired with your favorite crusty bread and table wine from the market, this French lentil and sweet potato stew will have you enjoying comfort food in style.
7. A Summer Salad
An often overlooked idea for lentils is to use them like you would pasta bits in a stick-to-your-ribs summer salad. This way, you get to skip the carbs in favor of protein, fiber, and higher nutrition density. It’s one of the simplest suggestions for brown lentil recipes I’ve ever run across, as well as the most flexible.
I’m a hummus fan. I purchase tahini by the gallon at the Middle Eastern market, and puree beans and lentils of nearly any kind into a fluffy hummus when the mood strikes me. This red lentil hummus from the folks at Chow caught my attention for its short ingredient list and the fact that red lentil recipes are typically quite quick to prepare.
Nothing says party like a paté, and this one combines walnuts with lentils and other inexpensive seasonings to create scrumptious spread that’s tasty on bread rounds, endive leaves, or cocktail rye slices.
10. Sandwich Spread
One of the more challenging aspects of embracing a plant-strong lifestyle is coming up with ideas for lunch sandwiches. That’s where certain lentil recipes, as well as sprouting projects, come into play. This Dijon-flavored lentil sandwich spread keeps things interesting, as does this gingered lentil sandwich recipe from Kitchen Monki. There are a few other ways you can go however, including this idea for a sunflower-lentil spread or an Indian-flavored sandwich filling.
11. Egyptian Yellow Lentil Soup
When it comes to lentil recipes, pureed soups are some of my favorites. This Egyptian yellow lentil soup works well with pita crisps and lemon wedges for a fun lunch. Round out the meal with marinated olives, some eggplant dip, and perhaps a few grape leaves.
12. Hearty Lentil Bread
Seeds and nuts aren’t the only things you can use to pump up your bread mixes. Lentils can also play their part to create a satisfying side. This recipe for lentil bread is from the people at Taste of Home, one of my trusted sources for comfort food.
13. Lentil-Potato Salad
If you’re looking to add protein to your backyard barbecue menu, then consider this warm lentil-potato salad from the Washington Post. Not only does it round out your grilled offerings nicely, it’s easily jazzed up with a variety of salad add-ins such as chopped parsley, cracked peppercorns, and thinly sliced scallions.
14. Holiday Stuffing
This lentil stuffing recipe is welcome alternative to doughy, bread-based stuffings traditionally served during holiday meals. It also uses sweet potatoes, which are always cheap at my local Save-a-Lot store and offer a seriously significant nutritional bang for the buck.
15. Lentil Chili
Who doesn’t love a crock full of steamy, spicy goodness? This lentil chili from Vegan Chicks Rock celebrates all the flavors of traditional chili, but with more fiber and fewer calories. Dig out some of your family’s cornmeal recipes and pair it with a batch of biscuits, jalapeno corn muffins, or even a tray of old-fashioned corn bread.
16. Ethiopian Sambusas
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of international cuisines and the variety of flavors and foods that they bring to the budget-minded table. That's why these spiced Ethiopian lentil sambusas caught my attention. They taste remarkably meaty and have a fair bit of sass, making them a great appetizer to serve at a cocktail party.
17. Curried Lentil Soup
While many people think curry and soup are two separate categories of food, the truth is curried soups are popular in many places throughout the world. In addition to the proper soup garnishes, curry can take an otherwise hum-drum recipe to the next culinary level. This affordable curried lentil soup recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen is one such example.
18. Feta-Cranberry Lentil Salad
Fall salads are always fun and for some reason overlooked by a fair number of home cooks. I’m not sure why really, because many fall foods such as roasted beets and julienned winter squash work phenomenally on a salad plate. This feta and cranberry lentil salad is an example of an autumn salad done right, and would be great for a winter holiday celebrated in a warm climate. Because feta and dried cranberries are so affordable for me at Costco, this is another one of those lentil recipes that makes my short list of inexpensive dinner party food.
19. Chana Dal
Most Indian food fans will be able to tell you just how well that particular cuisine rocks the lentil scene. With full-blown, party-in-your-mouth flavor, you’ll wonder why people bother to eat anything else for protein. One of my Indian-inspired lentil recipes is chana dal. The yellow legumes remain firmer than some of the others, and pair well with the sub continent spices typically used when preparing them.
Those who enjoy the flavors of South Africa will be pleased to see bobotie on the list. This version uses lentils, raisins, and other affordable ingredients to create a satisfying entree you can easily pair with rice, flat bread, and a decent South African wine.
21. Lentil-Peanut Salad
It’s not news that I use a fair number of peanut recipes at our house. I love the flavor, I enjoy the protein fix, and the price is right. So when I saw this recipe for Asian lentil-peanut salad, I was intrigued. You could serve this in lettuce cups as a main dish, or use it on the side for a pot luck gathering.
For those who enjoy Ecuadorian food, menestra won’t be anything new. (Although it may already be one off your favorites.) It’s a sauced lentil dish that is traditionally served with rice, chopped herbs, grilled meat or fish, and perhaps some fried plantains.
23. Spicy French Lentils
These spicy French lentils from Holy Cow Vegan use mustard and frozen spinach to amp up both flavor and nutrition. They recommend serving with rice and flat bread, but I think this would also be a great topping idea for baked sweet potatoes.
24. Protein-Rich Potato Pancakes
Are you a fan of hearty Russian cuisine? These potato-lentil pancakes are perfect after a day of strenuous farm work or outdoor adventure during your family’s winter vacation. I’ve already added them to my list of favorite potato ideas and am dreaming up some fun dipping sauces and gravies to serve them with.
25. Armenian Lentil Cakes
These Armenian lentil cakes are made with bulgur, which makes them an affordable finger food to serve on their own, with dipping sauces, or as a side to a crisp salad of fresh vegetables. These are also a great party food.