Black lentils are beautiful, nutritious, and so easy to cook. Until other lentils, they hold their shape well after cooking, so they’re ideal for warm and cold salads or as a side dish. Toss black beluga lentils with roasted vegetables and fresh herbs, then top with a dollop of greek yogurt for a quick and healthy plant-based meal.
Lentils are a healthy and inexpensive staple, and I encourage you to have a stash in your pantry at all times. You might be tempted to reach for your favorite soup recipe, but don’t underestimate the power of this mighty little legume – it’s the perfect base for a hearty and nutritious salad.
Black lentils are our number one choice for salads and side dishes. They’re sturdy and cook quickly, with an earthy flavor that pairs well with simple roasted vegetables and fresh herbs.
What are black lentils?
Black lentils are the superfood of pulses, packed with tons of fiber and protein. The cooked texture and flavor is similar to that of black beans. They’re tiny and very tender, but retain their shape well. They’re often referred to as beluga lentils, like the caviar. And it’s an apt nickname – beluga lentils are exceptional, and thankfully cost pennies compared to their namesake.
Black lentils can be a little hard to find, but they’re worth seeking out. I buy them at my local co-op and have seen them in the bulk foods sections at Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Market, but I’ve yet to find them available in a larger, chain grocery store (if you find them, let me know!).
How to cook black lentils
Black lentils are very easy to prepare – simply simmer in broth until bite tender, then drain and season with salt and a bit of lemon juice. Black lentils are both more mild and savory than other varietals, and easily take on the flavors of other herbs, vegetables and seasonings. Boost the overall flavor by cooking them them with onions, garlic, and fresh herbs.
- Measure one cup of lentils, transfer to a fine mesh sieve, and rinse under cool running water. Pick out any broken or bruised lentils.
- Sautee a diced sweet onion over medium high heat until soft. Add in a few cloves of minced garlic and continue sautéing until very fragrant.
- Add the black lentils to the pot and give them a good stir with the alliums, then add your cooking liquid. To keep this vegetarian, use water or vegetable broth, but you can also use chicken or bone broth. Pour in enough cooking liquid to cover the lentils by at least an inch (about 3 cups). Top with fresh thyme and a bay leaf.
- Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low or medium low to maintain a low, constant simmer. Cover and allow them to cook for 25-35 minutes, or until they are bite tender. Check the pot occasionally to ensure the lentils stay moist, and add additional cooking liquid if needed.
- “Bite tender” is subjective. I like my lentils snappy, but you might prefer them on the softer side. Simply start tasting around the 25 minute mark, and remove the lentils from heat once they texture is right for you.
- Once the lentils are cooked, fish out the bay leaf and thyme stem, then strain any residual water.
- Salt the lentils to preference, and then finish them off with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Black lentil salad with roasted vegetables
While the lentils are cooking, prepare some roasted vegetables. I reached for carrots and asparagus – roasting each brings out their sweeter side, and they perfectly compliment the earthy beluga lentils. Plus they roasted quickly and will finish right around the same time the lentils are finished cooking.
- Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast in a 425°F oven until charred and tender.
- Carrots and asparagus roast at different rates, so I suggest spreading them between two different sheet pans for best results.
- By the time the vegetables are roasted, the lentils should be just about finished.
- Transfer the cooked black lentils to a serving bowl, and top with the roasted asparagus and carrots. Add a few handfuls of fresh chopped mint and parsley.
- Toss the salad, then taste one more time for seasoning. Add a little extra salt, pepper, or lemon juice.
- I served these with a dollop of plain greek yogurt – that sour, fatty garnish is total flavor bliss.
Tips for Cooking Black Lentils
- There’s no need to soak lentils, black or otherwise.
- It’s important to wait to salt your lentils until after they’ve cooked, because science. Salting the uncooked lentils will make them tougher, and they’ll take longer to cook.
Did you make this black lentils recipe? I’d love to know how it turned out! Leave a comment and a rating below
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Black Lentils with Roasted Asparagus and CarrotsPrint Recipe Rate This Recipe Pin Recipe
- 2 Quarter sheet baking pans
- 4 tbsp avocado or olive oil, divided
- 1 small sweet onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 c black lentils
- 3 c water or broth
- 1/2 lemon, juiced (about 1 tbsp)
- 1 lb asparagus, trimmed and sliced into bite sized pieces
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced into bite sized pieces
- 1 tsp sea or kosher salt
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
- 1/4 c greek yogurt, optional
- Preheat the oven to 425*. Line two quarter sheet baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.
- Heat a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add the oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring continuously, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the lentils to the pot and stir to incorporate with the onions and garlic. Add enough cooking liquid to the pot to cover the lentils by about an inch. Top with the bay leaf and thyme spring.
- Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium low/low to maintain a steady simmer. Cover and cook until the lentils are bite tender, 25-35 minutes depending on preference (see section above "How to Cook Black Lentils). Check the water level occasionally and add more broth or water if the lentils become too try.
- Remove the lentils from heat, and remove the bay leaf and thyme sprig. Drain any residual water from the lentils. Stir in lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Transfer the warm, seasoned lentils to a platter or salad bowl.
- While the lentils are cooking, prepare the roasted vegetables. Trim and slice the asparagus and cut into bite sized pieces. Peel and cut the carrots into bite sized pieces.
- Toss the carrots with oil, then spread onto one of the parchment lined baking sheets. Dust with salt and pepper. Transfer the carrots to the oven and roast for 5 minutes.
- Toss the asparagus with oil, then spread onto the second parchment lined baking sheet. Dust with salt and pepper. Once the timer goes off, add the asparagus to the oven. Roast the carrots and asparagus for 7 additional minutes. The asparagus should be blistered and charred, but still retain a bite. The carrots should be caramelized and tender, but not mushy.
- Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven and add them to the black lentils. Sprinkle generously with fresh parsley and mint, then toss to incorporate.
- To serve, spoon one quarter of the lentil salad onto a plate, then top with 1-2 tbsp greek yogurt. Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled. This salad keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.