(today’s article is by Diane Vukovic)
Veganism often gets criticized for being more expensive than an omnivore’s diet. True, if you are just eating mock meats and Tofutti, you are probably going to rack up a large grocery bill. But these critics obviously have never heard of lentils. Not only are lentils one of the cheapest foods you will find, they are also one of the healthiest.
A single cup of lentils has:
- Protein: 35.7% RDA
- Fiber: 63% RDA
- Folic Acid: 90% RDA
- Thiamin: 22% RDA
- Vitamin B6: 18% RDA
- Magnesium: 18% RDA
- Potassium: 21% RDA
- Zinc: 17% RDA
- Manganese: 49% RDA
- Copper:: 25% RDA
It gets a bit boring eating lentils with rice all the time though. So, here are 7 exciting ways to prepare lentils.
Indian Lentil Dishes
Lentils are a staple in India, so you can always find some good Indian recipes which call for lentils. If you are a really poor vegan, then just throw together some lentils and potatoes with curry powder and you’ve got yourself a cheap, yummy and nutritious dish.
You can also check out these cheap and easy Indian lentil recipes:
- Lentils samosas
- Lentil curry
- Red lentil dahl (use veggie butter instead of ghee)
- Dal Bhaji
Cook some lentils and then blend them together with sautéed or roasted veggies. You will have a delicious, nutritious vegan spread that you can add to toast or as a filler for sandwiches. My favorite pâté combo is:
- Onions, garlic, red peppers, and zucchini with green lentils
- Just sauté the veggies until they are soft and use a bottleneck blender to mix them in with the cooked lentils.
If you find your fridge empty except for a lone carrot, stalk of celery, and a potato, just add some lentils and you have the makings of a delicious vegan soup! Lentil soup is one of the cheapest meals you can make and is especially great in winter to warm you up.
Lentil Burgers or Balls
This is my fallback dinner plan when I am too lazy to think of something unique to make. The beauty of lentil burgers or lentil balls is that they can be made with just about any veggies which you have in the fridge. Here is how I usually make them:
- Sauté garlic, onions, and red peppers until onions are translucent
- Add shredded carrots and continue to sauté until carrots are softened
- Add a big handful of chopped fresh parsley (or use another green, like spinach or kale). Let it cook until softened.
- Remove veggie mixture from heat and let cool.
- Add veggie mixture to cooked lentils.
- Add 1 egg/fake egg (1 teaspoon flax seed meal plus 1 tablespoon water works well)
- Add bread crumbs
- Mix with your hands. Don’t use an electric mixture or it will be too mushy! Add more
- Form balls or patties with your hands and fry them until browned.
- Serve as is, in a sandwich, or topped with a delicious sauce.
***You can really experiment with the amounts of each ingredient. I generally use ½ cup veggies, 1 cup lentils, ¼ cup bread crumbs. You can also bake these balls too.
Lentil Macaroni and Pasta Dishes
Macaroni and other pastas are one of the cheap vegan fall-backs. But eating just macaroni is a sure path to nutritional deficiencies! Add some nutrients (and excitement) to your macaroni by adding some lentils. It can be as simple as tossing them on top of that instant vegan mac-and-cheese or a culinary sensation like lentil and sun dried tomato spaghetti.
Pancakes don’t have to be sweet, nor are they just for breakfast. One of my favorite standby recipes is pancakes with lentils and veggies. Just mix up the pancake batter and then add some cooked, chopped veggies and lentils. ***By hiding veggies in pancakes, I get my vegetarian toddler to eat anything!
Here is the pancake batter recipe that I use:
- 1 ½ cups flour
- ½ cups wheat bran
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 egg substitute
- 2 cups soy milk
***If you use water-laden veggies, like zucchini, then only use about 2 ¾ cup of soy milk
If you are looking for a more exciting way to prepare lentils, just stuff them into something else. For example:
- Zucchini stuffed with lentils
- Tomatoes stuffed with lentils
- Mushroom caps stuffed with lentils
- Red peppers stuffed with lentils
- Kale leaves with lentil filling
You can basically take any “stuffed” recipe and add lentils to the mix. For example, you can easily veganize a simple stuffed pepper recipe by using lentils instead of beef.
Lentil Tip: Dry lentils are much cheaper than the canned variety. It can be a pain to cook lentils (especially if you are hungry now or just cooking for one). My solution is to cook tons of lentils at once. Then I divide them into portions, put them into baggies and put them in my freezer. When I want to cook something with lentils, all I have to do is take them from the freezer and let them defrost in warm water for a few minutes.