We must congratulate the humble lentil. They have officially moved beyond soup and have been made into pasta, breads, chips and other snack foods, even plant-based meat replacements.
For home cooks, there are multitudes of reasons to love lentils. They’re versatile, healthy, economical and very easy to prepare.
They pack a wallop of bona fide nutrition and are one of the easiest legumes to digest.
As the world’s oldest cultivated legume, this superfood comes in colors that range from green and brown to red, orange and yellow.
Additionally, 1 cup of cooked lentils contains 18 grams protein, 16 grams fiber, 38 grams calcium and 6.6 milligrams of iron, plus magnesium, polyphenols and folate. All that for only 230 calories.
The best part, unlike most legumes, lentils don’t require soaking before cooking. They cook in about 20 minutes, making them perfect for busy weekday meals.
With their mild flavor and chewy texture, you can use them to replace or stretch the meat in your favorite recipes, like burgers, soups and casseroles. One cup of uncooked lentils becomes roughly 2 cups when cooked.
You can substitute 2 cups of cooked lentils for 1 pound of hamburger. Of course, it depends on the recipe and other ingredients.
Here is a recipe your whole family will love. Grab a fork and a bunch of napkins, because we’re getting delightfully sloppy — introducing Sweet & Spicy Lentil Sloppy Joes.
While these sandwiches are crave-worthy, it’s the toppings that take this over-the-top. I highly recommend copious amounts of bread and butter pickles and onion rings.
Should you choose, you could make this recipe with 2 pounds of ground beef, omitting the lentils. Or, you could halve the lentils and add 1 pound of ground beef for a blend.
You also could add more veggies, like chopped carrot, mushroom and celery. This is a wonderful vehicle for hiding veggies.
Lastly, this recipe is perfect for meal planning. You can store the sloppy Joe mixture in the fridge for up to seven days or freeze for six months.
Sweet & Spicy Lentil Sloppy Joes
Servings: 6 to 8
1 1/2 cups lentils, the common brown variety
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 package (16 ounce) frozen onion and pepper blend, thawed
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups (16 ounces) tomato sauce
2 tablespoons pickle juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Serving suggestions: hamburger buns, bread and butter pickles, onion rings, pickled jalapeños, mustard and coleslaw
Into a small saucepan over medium-high heat, place 4 cups water, the lentils and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer 20 to 22 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
If you’re serving this meal with onion rings, put them in the oven according to package directions now.
While the lentils are cooking, into a large skillet on medium heat, heat the oil, then add the onion and pepper, blend and cook with 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring until they are softened. Add the garlic, chili powder, paprika and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring well to coat the veggies. Add the tomato paste and stir well.
Next, add the tomato sauce, pickle juice, Worcestershire, mustard, and brown sugar. Stir well to incorporate. Add the cooked lentils and stir again, cooking on low for 5 to 10 minutes to warm through and to thicken. Serve on buns with condiments.