Lentils are a nutritious versatile food. A key ingredient in soups, salads, sides, casseroles and savoury bakes, they’re ridiculously cheap and can be stored in airtight containers for months. Lentils are high in protein and fibre and low in fat making them a healthy substitute for meat. They're also packed with folate, iron, phosphorus and potassium. However, the protein in lentils is incomplete. For proper nutritional balance other protein foods such as grains, nuts, seeds, eggs or dairy products should be included in the diet.

Black lentils — also called beluga lentils due to their resemblance to beluga caviar — have a higher nutritional content than the red, yellow, green and brown varieties. They’re hearty and, after cooking, retain their attractive, glossy shape. 

Peppery, green or puy lentils also hold their shape and, like the black variety, traditionally take about 40 minutes to cook. However, quick-cook (2-minute) green lentils are now available from supermarkets making them an easy side or salad for weekday meals.

Red or orange lentils are mild and sweet and tend to mush when cooked — an excellent choice in soups and casseroles. Yellow lentils are a favoured ingredient in India’s spicy dal and have similar characteristics to the red lentils. Mashed cooked brown lentils make delicious burger patties.


Serve as a side with a main or as a light meal with a salad.

1/2 teaspoon each: whole cumin, coriander and mustard seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup black beluga lentils, rinsed
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons each: red wine vinegar, olive oil

Lightly crush the seeds with a pestle and mortar. Heat the tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan and sauté the seeds until fragrant. Add the onion and sauté until soft. Stir in the garlic.

Add the stock and bring to the boil. Stir in the beluga lentils. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 35 minutes, until tender. Season and stir in the vinegar and olive oil.

Great served topped with yoghurt, mint and, if available, pomegranate seeds. Serves 4.


Yellow curry paste has a mild flavour.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, diced
 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon finely grated root ginger
2-3 tablespoons yellow curry paste
3/4 cup yellow lentils, rinsed
4 cups vegetable stock
4 cups (450g) large cauliflower florets
1/2 cup lite coconut milk

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium. Sauté the onion until softened then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the curry paste. Cook for 1 minute then add the lentils and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the florets and continue cooking until the lentils and cauli are soft. Stir in the coconut milk and reheat.

Great served topped with coriander or mint and chutney and served with naan bread or rice. Serves 4.


1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
125g tasty cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4-1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven 190°C. Brush a 3-cup loaf pan with oil.

Sauté the onion in the oil, until soft.

Place the lentils in a saucepan with the water. Cover and bring to the boil. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes. The lentils will cook to a mash. Remove from the heat. 

Stir in the onion, cheese, parsley, chilli flakes and lemon juice. Season. Lastly, add the egg. Press the mixture into the loaf pan.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden and the mixture feels firm. 

Stand the loaf for 10 minutes in the pan before turning it out. Serve hot or cold. Serves 4.


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