Brown Lentils in Meal Prepping

Meal prepping can revolutionize your weekly routine by saving time and ensuring that you have healthy, nutritious meals ready to go.

Brown lentils are a fantastic ingredient to include in your meal prep repertoire. Packed with protein, fiber, and a range of essential nutrients, they provide a hearty base for a variety of dishes.

Their high nutrient density supports a well-rounded diet, making them an excellent choice for health-conscious individuals.

Brown lentils are being measured into a glass jar, while various spices and herbs are laid out on a wooden cutting board nearby. A pot of boiling water sits on the stove, ready to cook the lentils

As a versatile legume, brown lentils can be seamlessly integrated into numerous meal prep recipes. They hold their shape well during cooking and are perfect for everything from salads and soups to stir-fries and stews.

Moreover, brown lentils have a relatively quick cooking time and don’t require pre-soaking, which makes them a convenient option for meal prepping.

With their mild, earthy flavor, they can absorb a wide range of spices and seasonings, allowing you to create diverse flavor profiles in your meals.

Embracing the use of brown lentils in your meal preparation also means you’re opting for a source of slow-release carbohydrates, which provide sustained energy throughout the day. This makes them a great choice to incorporate into your meals, especially if you have a busy lifestyle.

They can be stored effectively in the fridge or freezer, making it easier to plan your meals for the week, reduce food waste, and maintain a balanced diet.

Selecting the Right Lentils

Brown lentils are being carefully sorted and selected for meal prepping. A variety of lentils are laid out on a clean surface

When meal prepping with lentils, the variety you choose is crucial as each type has its own cooking time, texture, and taste that can affect the outcome of your dishes.

Lentil Varieties and Their Uses

There are several types of lentils, each suitable for different kinds of meals:

  • Brown Lentils: These are versatile with an earthy flavor, retaining their shape well during cooking. They’re ideal for soups, stews, and as a meat substitute in recipes.
  • Green Lentils: They have a peppery taste and firm texture. Use them for salads or sides where you want the lentil to be a distinct element.
  • Red Lentils: These cook quickly into a soft texture, perfect for purees, dips, or Indian dahls.
  • Black Lentils: Known for their robust flavor, they are great in salads or as a base for robust entrees.
  • Yellow Lentils: With a sweet, nutty flavor, they’re often used in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes, breaking down more than brown lentils.
  • French Green Lentils (Lentilles du Puy): These hold their texture exceptionally well and are excellent for salads or dishes where you want a bite to the lentil.

Sorting and Rinsing

Before cooking, ensure you sort through the lentils to remove any small stones or debris, then rinse them under cold water:

  1. Sorting: Spread your lentils out on a light-colored plate or tray, making it easier to spot and remove any unwanted particles.
  2. Rinsing: Place the lentils in a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse them thoroughly to remove any dust or dirt. This step also helps to minimize any potential bitterness.

Basics of Cooking Brown Lentils

Brown lentils simmer in a pot of water, steam rising. A wooden spoon stirs the pot, with a cutting board of chopped vegetables nearby

Before you begin meal prepping with brown lentils, it’s essential to master their basic cooking methods, understand how to determine when they are done, and know the proper storage solutions to maintain their quality.

Cooking Methods

Stovetop: Begin by rinsing your brown lentils in a fine mesh sieve, sorting out any debris.

In a large saucepan, combine 1 cup of brown lentils with 2 1/2 cups of water and a pinch of salt.

Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes.

Instant Pot: For firmer lentils, add rinsed brown lentils to the Instant Pot with water at a ratio of 1 cup lentils to 2 1/4 cups water, plus a pinch of salt.

Cook under high pressure for 8 minutes and allow for a natural pressure release of 10 minutes before a quick release.

Slow Cooker: To use a slow cooker, place your brown lentils, water, and salt inside the cooker.

The ideal ratio is 1 cup of lentils to about 4 cups of liquid. Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 6 to 7 hours until the lentils are tender.

Determining Doneness

To assess if brown lentils are properly cooked, check for the following:

  • Texture: Lentils should be tender but not mushy.
  • Taste Test: A properly cooked lentil will have a slightly firm bite, but should not be hard or crunchy.
  • Appearance: They will have expanded slightly and look plump.

Adjust cook time if necessary depending on your texture preference or if you are adding them to further cooking, such as in soups or stews.

Storage Solutions

Once cooked, cool the brown lentils quickly to maintain their texture and quality.

You can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

For longer storage:

  • Refrigerated: Keep the lentils in a liquid—ideally the cooking liquid—to keep them moist.
  • Freezing: Freezing is an option for lentils. Store them in a ziplock bag or an airtight container for up to 6 months.
  • Thaw in the fridge overnight when ready to use.

Meal Prepping with Brown Lentils

Mastering the art of meal prepping with brown lentils can save you time while providing you with nutritious meals throughout the week.

Choosing the right equipment, mastering the preparation process, and understanding storage methods are the key to success.

Essential Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker or Saucepan: For cooking lentils efficiently.
  • Measuring Cups: To measure your lentils and liquids accurately.
  • Air-tight Containers: For proper storage in the refrigerator or freezer.

Preparation Tips

  • Rinse your lentils thoroughly to remove any debris.
  • Soaking is optional; however, it can reduce cooking times and improve digestibility.
  • Cooking: On the stove, use a 2:1 liquid-to-lentil ratio, bringing it to a boil and then simmering for about 20-30 minutes until tender but firm to the bite.
  • Olive Oil: A splash can be used when sautéing any additional ingredients to enhance flavor.

Refrigeration and Freezing Techniques

  • Refrigeration: Store cooked lentils in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week.
  • Freezing: Spread cooked lentils on a sheet to freeze individually before transferring to a container; this helps prevent clumping and allows for easy portioning. Frozen lentils can last for up to six months.

Flavor Profiles and Combinations

Brown lentils are being combined with aromatic spices and savory vegetables in a meal prep setting. The earthy and hearty flavors are being enhanced with a variety of seasonings

Crafting delectable dishes with brown lentils involves understanding the right combination of flavors. This section will guide you through various herbs and spices, vegetable pairings, and techniques to create balanced and flavorful lentil dishes.

Herbs and Spices

When preparing brown lentils, introducing the right herbs and spices can significantly enhance their taste.

Start by sautéing aromatics like minced garlic and chopped onion to build a flavor base.

Cumin and paprika add earthy warmth, while a pinch of chili flakes introduces a subtle heat.

For more complexity, incorporate garam masala in your lentil recipes, which pairs exceptionally well with the nuttiness of the lentils.

  • Flavor Enhancers for Brown Lentils:
    • Cumin: Adds earthiness
    • Paprika: Brings sweet and smoky notes
    • Chili Flakes: Infuses a gentle spice
    • Garam Masala: Offers a blend of aromatic spices

Vegetable Pairings

Brown lentils meld harmoniously with a variety of vegetables.

Carrots and tomato contribute sweetness and acidity, balancing the earthy notes of the lentils.

Incorporating vegetables not only adds nutritional value but also texture and color to your dishes.

For stews and soups, consider adding vegetables during the last minutes of cooking to retain their crunch and vibrancy.

  • Vegetables to Pair with Brown Lentils:
    • Carrots: Enhance sweetness and texture
    • Tomato: Adds acidity and richness

Creating Balanced Dishes

To achieve well-rounded dishes, consider brown lentils as a canvas for your culinary creations. Use a rich broth instead of water to cook the lentils, infusing them with additional flavor.

For salads, a dressing with a zesty component like lemon juice can complement the lentils’ earthiness.

When making chili, balance the spice with elements that add freshness, such as chopped cilantro or a dollop of yogurt.

  • Tips for Balanced Lentil Dishes:
    • Cook lentils in broth for extra flavor.
    • Acidic dressings cut through the richness of lentil salads.
    • Fresh herbs or yogurt can cool down spicy lentil chili or stews.

Incorporating Lentils into Various Dishes

Brown lentils are a highly versatile ingredient that can easily be incorporated into a plethora of dishes.

As a rich source of protein and fiber, they can become a staple in your vegan and gluten-free meal repertoire, fitting into salads, soups, and main courses.

Salads and Bowls

To create a nutritious and satisfying lentil buddha bowl, start with a base of grains like quinoa or rice.

Add a generous serving of cooked brown lentils for a protein boost.

Incorporate a variety of vegetables, both raw and cooked, for textural contrast and flavor depth.

  • Grain Base:
    • Quinoa (Gluten-Free)
    • Brown Rice
  • Lentil Serving:
    • 1 cup cooked brown lentils
  • Vegetables: (mix and match for variety)
    • Carrots
    • Bell peppers
    • Spinach

Brown lentils can also elevate your salads; mix them with crunchy vegetables and a light vinaigrette for a quick side dish.

Soups and Stews

Use brown lentils as the backbone for a hearty lentil soup.

Simmer them in vegetable broth with a mélange of diced tomatoes, carrots, and onions for a comforting and healthy meal.

For preparation:

  • Simmering Time: 20-30 minutes in vegetable broth until tender.
  • Ingredients: Diced tomatoes, carrots, onions, garlic.

Lentils are also ideal for thickening stews, providing a satisfying texture that pairs well with a variety of vegetables and spices.

Main Courses

Transform brown lentils into the star of your main course dishes. For a gluten-free option, try creating a lentil curry by cooking lentils with coconut milk, curry spices, and your choice of vegetables.

Serve it over a bed of steamed rice for a complete meal.

Lentil Curry Basic Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • Coconut milk
  • Curry spices (turmeric, cumin, coriander)
  • Choice of vegetables (bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes)

Another option is to use cooked lentils as a base for vegetarian patties or meatless loaf, mingling them with a blend of spices, and possibly some gluten-free breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together.

Nutritional Benefits of Lentils

Brown lentils arranged in a colorful array, surrounded by vibrant vegetables and grains. A spoonful of cooked lentils being added to a meal prep container

Lentils are a powerhouse of nutrition, offering a rich profile of macronutrients and essential micronutrients while being a heart-healthy choice for various diets, including vegan and gluten-free lifestyles.

They provide significant health benefits with their high protein and fiber content, all while being low in fat and sugar.

Macronutrients and Micronutrients

Protein: One of the standout qualities of lentils is their high protein content. Boasting one of the highest levels of protein from plant-based sources, a half-cup serving of cooked lentils typically contains around 12 grams of protein. This makes them a fantastic option for those looking to bolster their protein intake without resorting to meat or dairy products.

Fiber: Lentils are also remarkable for their fiber content, with about 15.6 grams per half-cup serving.

Dietary fiber is crucial for your digestive health and can aid in weight management by promoting a feeling of fullness.

  • Iron: A vital mineral for blood production, lentils provide a good source of iron, with a half-cup serving delivering around 3.3 milligrams.
  • Potassium: With 365 milligrams of potassium per half-cup, lentils can support heart health by helping to regulate blood pressure.
  • Carbohydrates: As a low-fat source of carbohydrates, a half-cup of cooked lentils contains roughly 20 grams.

Lentils contain negligible amounts of fat and no sugar. They’re also naturally gluten-free, making them suitable for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, and are a favorite among the vegan community for their versatility.

Dietary Considerations

Vitamins and Minerals: While they may not be high in vitamins A or C, lentils are still a nutritious choice due to their content of other essential vitamins and minerals.

They contain B vitamins, particularly folate, which is important for red blood cell formation and the repair of cells.

Calcium: Lentils also offer a modest amount of calcium for bone health.

Heart-Healthy: The combination of high fiber, potassium, and low fat content contributes to the heart-healthy qualities of lentils.

They can play a role in lowering cholesterol and managing blood pressure, critical factors in heart health.

Economic and Nutritional Value: Lentils are not only nutritious, but also incredibly economical.

They provide a high-nutrient, low-calorie option that can fit into almost any budget, with the added benefit of being shelf-stable and easy to store.

Time-Saving Tricks and Efficiency

When it comes to meal prepping with brown lentils, your primary goals are to minimize prep time and maximize efficiency.

By using methods such as cooking in batches and repurposing leftovers, you’ll find that incorporating this nutritious pantry staple into your routine is both easy and time-effective.

Cooking in Batches

Stovetop Method:

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20-30 minutes

Cook a large quantity of lentils at once to last through several meals. For the stovetop method:

  1. Combine 1 cup of brown lentils with 3 cups of water or broth in a large pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender.

Instant Pot Method:

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8-10 minutes plus natural release

For a quicker meal prep, use an Instant Pot:

  1. Add rinsed lentils, water, and a pinch of salt to the pot.
  2. Cook on high pressure for 8 minutes for firmer lentils or 10 minutes for softer texture.
  3. Allow natural release for 10 minutes before quick releasing any remaining pressure.

Ensure you store your cooked lentils in the refrigerator in airtight containers to maintain freshness.

Repurposing Leftovers

Transform your leftover lentils into a new, quick meal with ease. For example, brown rice and lentil stir fry utilizes precooked lentils:

  1. Stir-fry your choice of vegetables in a pan.
  2. Add cooked brown rice and lentils, heating them together for 1-2 minutes.

By integrating precooked lentils into different recipes throughout the week, you optimize your meal prep process and reduce overall time spent in the kitchen.

Remember to keep your lentils simple when batch cooking to ensure they blend well with various flavors and cuisines throughout the week.

Lentils Beyond Dinner

A pile of brown lentils spills out of a glass jar onto a clean, white countertop, surrounded by various meal prepping tools and containers

Lentils are not just for dinner; they are incredibly versatile and can add nutrition and flavor to various meals throughout your day, including breakfast and snacks.

Breakfast Options

Start your day with a protein-rich boost by incorporating brown lentils into your breakfast.

Prepare a warm lentil porridge by mixing cooked lentils with diced sweet potato, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a drop of maple syrup for sweetness.

Alternatively, mash lentils and blend them with kale and a bit of sesame oil. Then, spread onto toast and top with a poached egg for a savory twist.

  • Lentil & Sweet Potato Porridge :
    • Ingredients:
      • 1/2 cup cooked brown lentils
      • 1/2 sweet potato, cubed
      • Cinnamon, to taste
      • Maple syrup, drizzle
    • Instructions:
      • Simmer sweet potato until tender.
      • Mix in cooked lentils and heat through.
      • Add cinnamon and maple syrup to taste.
  • Savory Lentil Kale Toast :
    • Ingredients:
      • 1/2 cup mashed brown lentils
      • Handful of kale, chopped
      • 1 tsp sesame oil
      • Bread for toast
      • 1 egg
    • Instructions:
      • Sauté kale in sesame oil until wilted.
      • Combine with mashed lentils and spread on toast.
      • Top with a poached egg and serve.

Snack Ideas

For snacks, create a lentil-based dip by blending brown lentils with lemon juice, sesame oil, and spices of your choice.

Serve it with sliced vegetables or pita chips for a satisfying crunch.

Or, for a unique twist, craft your own cashew sour cream and fold in pureed lentils for a creamy and nutritious dip.

  • Lentil Lemon Dip :
    • Ingredients:
      • 1 cup cooked brown lentils
      • 2 tbsp lemon juice
      • 1 tbsp sesame oil
      • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • Instructions:
      • Blend lentils, lemon juice, sesame oil, and spices until smooth.
      • Serve with vegetable sticks or pita chips.
  • Cashew Sour Cream & Lentil Dip :
    • Ingredients:
      • 1/2 cup cashew sour cream
      • 1/2 cup cooked brown lentils
      • Seasonings (optional)
    • Instructions:
      • Blend cashew sour cream with lentils until achieving a creamy consistency.
      • Season as desired and enjoy with your favorite snacks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Brown lentils pouring into a glass jar, surrounded by various meal prep containers and utensils. A stack of FAQ cards on meal prepping tips and tricks sits nearby

In this section, you’ll find specific answers to some of the most common questions about using brown lentils in your meal prep.

What is the proper cooking duration for brown lentils during meal prep?

You should cook brown lentils for about 20 to 30 minutes. The exact time may vary depending on whether you prefer them firm for salads or softer for soups and stews.

Should brown lentils be soaked prior to cooking when meal prepping?

Soaking brown lentils is not necessary as they cook fairly quickly. However, if you choose to soak them, it can reduce cooking time and improve digestibility.

Can you suggest some simple recipes incorporating brown lentils for weekly meal prep?

Yes. Consider brown lentil salad with diced vegetables and a vinaigrette, or a lentil curry with coconut milk and spices that can be served with rice.

How can you prevent brown lentils from becoming mushy when prepping meals?

To prevent mushiness, cook lentils until just tender and avoid overcooking. Cooling them quickly after cooking can also help maintain their texture.

Is it necessary to rinse canned brown lentils before using them in meal prep?

Yes, you should rinse canned brown lentils to remove excess sodium and any residue from the canning liquid which can alter the taste of your dish.

What are effective ways to include brown lentils in a vegetarian meal prep plan?

Include brown lentils as a protein source in veggie burgers. You can also use them in lieu of meat in tacos. Or, incorporate them into a hearty lentil soup paired with whole grains and vegetables.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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