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Lentils have provided prairie cooks with new kitchen repertoire

Introduced to the Prairies in the 1970s, today lentils are commonly used in our menus.
wp lentils oct.
Lentils are easily blended with other nutritious foods in menus.

WESTERN PRODUCER — I remember when lentils made their debut on the Prairies. A staple in other parts of the world, the pulse crop was introduced in the late 1970s. During the 1980s and through the 1990s, these pulses became common and today are included in crop rotations everywhere you look.

It was exciting to have a new crop and for some a new ingredient to cook with. I remember sitting at a booth at a trade show, promoting a recipe book to bring lentils into the prairie kitchen.

A taste of lentil soup was offered and back then it was difficult to get anyone to try it. Well, just like in grade school, once one person tried it and said it was good, others began to follow.

Today lentils are commonly used in our menus.

Lentils are a type of pulse that come in a variety of sizes ranging from extra-small to large. The most commonly found lentils in grocery stores and food markets are large green and red lentils. You can use whole or split, but keep in mind that the split lentils are good for recipes that you want to cook faster.

Lentils are high in plant protein, fibre, and complex carbohydrates, while being low in fat and calories. They are also sources of other key minerals and nutrients including potassium, folate, iron, and manganese.


It is simple to prepare some lentils that are ready to use. Start by rinsing your lentils with water before boiling.

In a large saucepan, combine three cups, or 750 mL, of liquid (water, stock, for example) to one cup of dry lentils. Like rice they will expand while cooking. Be sure to season with salt after cooking. If salt is added before, the lentils will become tough.

On the stovetop, bring the mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until they are tender.

For whole lentils, cook time is 15-20 minutes. For split red lentils, cook time is five to seven minutes.

Note: Lentils do not require soaking like other pulses.

Source for lentil information: a valuable resource.

Pressure-cooked lentils

Another way to prepare lentils for use in your recipes is by pressure cooking.

  • 1 c. green lentils 250 mL (see note for red lentils)
  • 1 1/2 c. water 375 mL
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. salt (optional) 1 – 2 mL

Combine the lentils and water in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Don’t season with salt until the end of the cooking cycle.

Secure the lid and move the steam release valve to sealing. Press the manual or pressure cook button to cook at high pressure for nine minutes, or 10 minutes for softer lentils. It will take a few minutes for the Instant Pot to heat.

When the cooking cycle completes, carefully move the steam release valve to venting to release the pressure right away. When the floating valve in the lid drops, the pressure is released. Carefully open the pot.

Open and stir the lentils and make sure they are tender to your liking. You can always add an extra 1/2 c. /125 mL of water and pressure cook them again for two to three minutes if you want them softer, but they should be done at this point.

Note: Red lentils cook in just five minutes at high pressure with a quick release.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop them out. Serve warm or cool them for use. You can store cooked lentils in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week or frozen for three months.

You can also stock your pantry with canned lentils as a convenient way to incorporate these pulses into your menus, just remember to rinse them under fresh water for about one minute when opened. I recommend the brand Eden for canned lentils because the flavour is better because the company pressure cooks the pulses.

Packaged lentils (dry or canned) keep in a dry, dark, cool location for up to one year. If you are buying your lentils in bulk or have open packages, transfer them to an airtight container to take advantage of the one-year shelf life. After one year, cooking time will increase and the quality of your lentils will decrease.

Now it is time to start having some fun. Add prepared and nutritious lentils into your smoothies, a few into your wraps or as a topping on your salad. Here are some dishes that you are sure to enjoy.

Sak’s lentil soup

This recipe has been shared in this column before by my aunt and writing colleague, Alma Copeland. But it is such a favourite in our family that it warrants another appearance. It was a bowl of this soup that I ate the first time I tasted a lentil — a warm spoonful of comfort.

This recipe was originally developed by pulse grower Don Sakundiak — hence the name.

  • 1/2 lb. ground beef 250 g
  • 4 bacon strips
  • 6 c. soup stock such as beef or chicken 1.5 L
  • 1/2 c. onions, chopped 125 mL
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 19 oz. tomato juice 540 mL
  • 1/2 c. carrots, thinly sliced 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. celery, sliced 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. cabbage, chopped 125 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. each oregano and basil 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper1 mL
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce 15 mL
  • salt to taste
  • 2/3 c. lentils, washed 150 mL
  • 1 potato, chopped

In a large heavy saucepan, brown the bacon. Remove from the saucepan and set aside.

Brown the ground beef in the saucepan and set aside.

Saute onion and garlic.

Return the browned bacon and beef to the saucepan and mix with the onion and garlic.

Add the soup stock and lentils. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for an additional 30 or more minutes. Adjust seasonings and serve.

Makes 10 to 12 servings. Source: The recipe was first printed in The Amazing Legume by Alice Jenner, published by the Sask Pulse Crop Growers’ Association. 1984.

Note: You could remove the ground beef and add more lentils if desired. The taste will change slightly and more seasoning may be required.

One pot penne with lentil ragout

As the weather cools, this cheesy pasta with lentils hits the spot.

  • 2 1/2 c. water 625 mL
  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes796 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. tomato puree (passata or bottled sauce) 375 mL
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 0.5 lb. mushrooms, sliced (about 1 cup)227 g
  • 1 c. green lentils 250 mL
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried Italian herb seasoning 7 mL
  • 13 oz. pkg. penne 375 g
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper 2 mL
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, preferably fresh 60 mL

In a large, pot, stir together water, tomatoes and their juices, tomato puree, onion, red pepper, mushrooms, lentils, garlic, and Italian herb seasoning; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Stir in pasta, salt, and pepper. The mixture should be thick and only just cover pasta. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is almost tender but still slightly firm, five to seven minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Quick Tip: For a vegan option, leave out the cheese, or replace it with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast.

Lentil and rice pilaf

Did you know that when you combine a lentil, which is a plant protein, with a seed, a nut or a whole grain such as rice, you make a complete protein that is the same quality as meat. A 1/2 c./125 mL serving of cooked lentils provides about 12 grams of protein.

This can be a side dish that is delicious with salmon or chicken or add in some left-over protein and make a meal bowl.

  • 2 tbsp. oil (I use olive for this recipe) 30 mL
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped about 1 c.250 mL
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced about 1/2 c.125 mL
  • 1/2 c. fresh sliced mushrooms 125 mL
  • 1 large onion, chopped about 1 c. 250 mL
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or equivalent garlic seasoning or powder
  • 1 3/4 c. chicken or vegetable broth 425 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/2 c. dried green lentils 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. uncooked long grain white rice 125 mL
  • 2 medium roma tomatoes (or 4 cherry), seeded and chopped
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley 30 mL

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, mushrooms, onion and garlic, cook until the vegetables are tender.

Stir the broth, lentils and rice in the skillet and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the rice and lentils are tender. Stir in the tomatoes and parsley. Season to taste. Makes four servings. Source:

Lentil and bean casserole

Alma Copeland also shared this dish. Add a hearty bread for dipping.

  • 5 slices bacon, chopped fine (optional)
  • 1 c. onions, chopped 250 mL
  • 1 c. dry lentils 250 mL
  • 19 oz. can beans in tomato sauce 540 mL
  • 14 oz. can kidney beans 398 mL
  • 14 oz. can crushed pineapple 398 mL
  • 1/3 c. ketchup 75 mL
  • 1 tsp. mustard 5 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. Worcester sauce 1 mL
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed 125 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper .5 mL

In a large saucepan, cook the bacon until crisp. Drain off the fat. Add the onions and sauté until tender. Wash the lentils and place in a saucepan with at least 3 c. (750 mL) of water. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain.

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan, small roaster or a two-quart/two-litre casserole. Stir to mix. Heat on stove top or bake in the oven at 350 F (180 C) for one hour or until bubbly. Serves about eight.

Banana lentil muffins

  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 c. oil 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar 125 mL
  • 1 c. bananas, mashed 250 mL
  • 1 c. lentil puree* (use green or red) 250 mL
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 5 mL
  • 1 1/3 c. flour 325 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking powder 5 mL
  • 1/2 c. raisins, chocolate chips or fresh cranberries optional 125 mL

Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C).

In a mixing bowl, combine the egg, canola oil, sugar, bananas, lentil purée and vanilla. Mix well.

In another bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder and raisins. Stir into egg mixture until just combined. Spoon batter into greased muffin tins filling about two-thirds full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean. Cool and remove from muffin tins.

Makes 12 muffins. Source:

*Lentil Puree: In a food processor, place cooked lentils (or rinsed and drained canned). For every cup (250 mL) of cooked lentils, add ¼ cup (60 mL) water. Blend until smooth. Lentil puree has a similar consistency to canned pumpkin. Add additional water one tablespoon (15 mL) at a time if more moisture is needed. Store in the refrigerator for up to three to four days, or freeze for up to three months. Source: Chef Michael Smith at

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with red lentils

  • 1/4 c. dry split red lentils 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. butter, at room temperature 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. oil 60 mL
  • 1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar 125 mL
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 5 mL
  • 3/4 c. all-purpose flour 175 mL
  • 3/4 c. old-fashioned or quick oats 175 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 1 mL
  • 3/4 c. chocolate chips or dark chocolate, raisins, chopped nuts or dried cranberries 175 mL

Preheat the oven to 350 F(180 C).

In a small saucepan, cover the lentils with water and bring to a simmer; cook for eight to 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain well and set aside to cool.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, oil, and brown sugar until creamy; beat in the egg and vanilla. Then add the flour, oats, lentils, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and stir by hand until almost combined; add the raisins or chocolate chips or dried cranberries and stir just until blended.

Drop large spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 12-14 mnutes, until set around the edges but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies. Source:

Jodie Mirosovsky is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: [email protected].