Stories from Healthy Recipes for Dinner

Easy Lentil Recipes That Add Quick Fiber and Protein to a Week’s Worth of Healthy Dinners

Emily Laurence

Emily LaurenceMay 8, 2020

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Photo: Stocksy/Ina Peters; Art: W+G Creative
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Now that we’re spending more time at home, does anyone else have the feeling that they’re cooking All.The.Time? That’s where Well+Good’s Prep School series comes in. Each week, a different healthy food expert shares a plan covering what to make on Sunday, and ways to recreate that core Sunday food into five different dinners to enjoy throughout the week. Plus, you also get a grocery list outlining everything you need. All May, Prep School is spotlighting different pantry staples. This week, we’re sharing easy lentil recipes to help you get more out of the legume.

Healthy cooking teacher Pamela Salzman comes from a big, Italian-American family. (We’re talking 28-first-cousins big.) Meals that can be made in big batches and can feed a lot of mouths were a cornerstone of her childhood, and they’re the type of dinners she learned to master early on, using core ingredients that were cheap, shelf-stable, and packed a lot of nutritional power.

One such food is lentils, the pantry item she’s highlighting in this week’s meal prep plan. Lentils are loaded with fiber and protein (a win for your gut health!), and they’re also super versatile. Need proof? Here, she shares some of her favorite easy lentil recipes, including one from her new book, Quicker Than Quick($25.20), and shows how to enjoy the legume all week without getting bored.

Keep reading to see Salzman’s easy lentil recipes designed for meal prep:

prep school may week 2
Art: W+G Creative

Ingredients to buy for the week:

Produce

  • 1 avocado
  • 2 onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 1 package frozen mixed veggies
  • 1 package frozen corn
  • Garlic
  • Fresh thyme (optional)

Meat and dairy

Spices and sauces

Pantry goods

What you’ll need from the pantry/fridge:

What to make on Sunday:

what to make with lentils
Photo: Pamela Salzman

smokey braised lentils with sausages

Meal prep tip: This easy lentil recipe is flavorful and nutritious enough to enjoy on its own, but even all spiced up, it can be reinvented into meals with completely different taste profiles. If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just can’t find meat right now, that’s totally fine; it tastes just as delicious without the sausages, or you can use a plant-based sausage substitution. The below recipe makes nine cups, enough for you to enjoy for dinner as-is on Sunday and in five different ways throughout the week. 

Makes 9 cups

Ingredients
2 Tbsps olive oil
1 1/2 large onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 tsp paprika
2 cups French lentils, rinsed (flat green or flat brown lentils don’t hold their shape well and get a little mushy)
2 tsp sea salt (+ 1/2 tsp if you don’t cook sausages with lentils)
5 cups water
Freshly ground black pepper
1 package precooked sausages (4/package)
2 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until tender and translucent, about eight minutes.

2. Add the carrots, garlic, and paprika.  Cook for two more minutes.

3. Add the lentils, thyme, salt, and water and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. (Some lentil brands take 30 minutes to cook while others can take up to 50 minutes.) If lentils seems too liquid-y, simmer a little longer uncovered.  Taste lentils and season with salt and pepper as needed.

4. If making sausages: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake sausages on a baking sheet until heated through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Slice sausages into thirds and serve with the lentils.

5. Store the lentils and sausage separately in air-tight containers in the fridge for up to one week.

Other meal prep staples to make ahead of time

Roasted asparagus and radishes: Washing, cutting up, and roasting vegetables takes about five minutes of prep work (and 10 minutes of cook time, with the oven at 400°F) and can be incorporated into lunches and dinners throughout the week as a way to get more fiber beyond relying on greens. All you need is salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil on top before sticking them in the oven to roast. This will be part of your dinner later in the week, so prepare a serving size of each (roughly half a cup of each veggie) to eat then, but feel free to prep more to eat for lunch throughout the week if you want.

Okay, prep work done! Here are the easy lentil recipes you’ll be enjoying all week:

monday dinner: lentil and sausage soup

Leftovers: 1/2 cup braised lentils and sausages

New ingredients: 1 cup frozen mixed veggies, 2 cups chicken stock (vegetable broth works too)

Place one cup of the cooked lentils in a medium saucepan with one cup of frozen mixed vegetables. Add some leftover sausage, if you want. Then, add the chicken stock or vegetable broth to create the consistency of soup you desire and heat until everything is hot.

TUESDAY dinner: lentils and roasted spring vegetables

Leftovers: 2 cups braised lentils and sausages; 1 cup roasted asparagus and radishes

New ingredients: 1/2 Tbsp olive oil,  1/4 cup chopped cashews, 1/4 cup crumbed feta cheese

Time to dig into the asparagus and radishes you roasted on Sunday. Simply reheat the lentils and veggies on a skillet on the stove until they’re warm, with a little olive oil. Serve topped with chopped cashews and feta cheese.

wednesday dinner: dijon-cashew brussels sprouts and lentils

Leftovers: 1 cup braised lentils and sausages

New ingredients: 3/4 cup shredded Brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt, pepper, 1/4 cup soaked raw cashews (cashew butter works too), 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 garlic clove (minced), 1 tsp white wine vinegar, 6 Tbsp water

This Dijon-cashew sauce only takes a couple minutes to make, but it completely transforms the lentils. Blend the cashews or cashew butter with six tablespoons of water, Dijon mustard, garlic clove, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper in a food processor or blender.

Then sauté the shredded Brussels sprouts in olive oil with a pinch of salt in a medium skillet for three to four minutes, until they start turning tender. Move the sprouts over to one side of the skillet and add the cooked lentils and sausage. Warm the lentils and combine them with the sprouts. Plate the lentils and Brussels sprouts, then drizzle the sauce on top.

thursday dinner: lentils and corn tacos

Leftovers: 1 cup braised lentils and sausages

New ingredients: 3/4 cup frozen corn (thawed), 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp hot sauce, 2-3 tortillas, 1/4 1 avocado, sliced, 1/4 cup salsa, 1/2 can pinto beans, rinsed

A few simple condiments give the lentils a Mexican-inspired taste. To make these tacos, add the defrosted corn, lentils and sausages, salt, cumin, and hot sauce to a skillet over medium heat. In another pan (or in the microwave) heat up the pinto beans with a pinch of salt and pepper. Divide the lentils and corn among two or three warm tortillas (depending on how full you want your tacos) and top with salsa. Eat the pinto beans as a side.

friday: lentil sloppy joes

Leftovers: 1 cup braised lentils and sausages

New ingredients: 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1/4 cup diced onion, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, 1/2 can pinto beans, rinsed, 1 cup tomato puree, 1 Tbsp tomato paste, 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp maple syrup, 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp hot sauce, 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, burger buns 

Think you need beef to make sloppy joe’s? Lentils actually work perfectly! Heat the diced onion and garlic over medium heat with the olive oil. Sauté for four minutes until the onion is tender. Then, add the lentils, pinto beans, tomato puree, tomato paste, white wine vinegar, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Let the lentil mixture simmer for 15 minutes, stirring it periodically. Serve over toasted buns.

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