Why You Need This Thousand-Year-Old Legume in Your Life (Spoiler: It's Lentils)

Lentils are filling, versatile, inexpensive, and nutritious, so it’s no surprise humans have been eating them for thousands of years. This simple edible legume has been traced back to around 8,000 BC—back then, lentils likely helped to sustain people living on the banks of the Euphrates River. Throughout the following centuries, they were eaten by the poor (in ancient Greece), the rich (in Ancient Egypt), and everyone in between. And it’s the same story today. In 2023, the global market reached 16 million tons of lentil production.

jump to the recipes

Nowadays, however, lentils are more than just a simple nutrition source. Their many different varieties (including brown, red, green, and black) are used in a wide range of creative, delicious, and nutritious plant-based recipes—as you can see from our list below! The vegan lifestyle is rising in popularity, and this is pushing simple plant-based whole foods, like lentils, into the spotlight. A quick search for lentils on TikTok, for example, brings up pages of recipe videos, some boasting millions of views.

The rising popularity of lentils is good for our health, and it’s good for the planet, too. Before we get to the fun part (the food), here’s a little bit more about this humble legume and its many benefits.

Are lentils nutritious?

It’s a big yes. Lentils are low in fat, rich in protein (100 grams of boiled lentils provide around nine grams of protein), high in dietary fiber, and they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron, potassium, and magnesium. They’re also a great source of antioxidants, which help to protect the body’s cells from damage caused by harmful free radicals and in turn, may help to lower the risk of chronic disease.

VegNews.veganlentildish.unsplashUnsplash

Are lentils sustainable?

Lentils are not only good for us, but they’re good for the environment, too. For one, they require significantly fewer resources, like water and land, than meat to produce, and they also help to promote biodiversity and soil health, thanks to their nitrogen-fixing properties.

Lentils are also a pretty resilient food source, too. They can grow in semi-arid and arid regions, as they don’t need huge amounts of rain to survive. This means they can tolerate significant amounts of drought stress (an important quality, as the frequency of extreme weather events increases with the climate crisis). 

How to cook with lentils: 12 vegan recipes 

If you want to learn more about how to prepare this versatile, sustainable, healthy ingredient, we’ve compiled some of our favorite vegan lentil recipes below. You’re very welcome.

VegNews.SpaghettiSquash

1 Easy Vegan Lentil Bolognese Spaghetti Squash Boats

Filled with a red lentil Bolognese sauce, these Italian-inspired roasted spaghetti squash boats are best topped with vegan parmesan and fresh basil. This dish is delicious comfort food with a unique, plant-based twist.
Get the recipe

VegNews.CurriedCarrotsoup

2 Vegan Creamy Curried Carrot and Lentil Soup

This hearty recipe combines carrots, onions, celery, and red lentils to create a flavorful, nutritious creamy soup. Garnish with cilantro for a comforting, nourishing meal, and make sure to pair with plenty of rustic bread.
Get the recipe

VegNews.chiliconchiliCharity Morgan

3 Meaty Vegan Lentil Chili Con Chili

Made with a hearty combination of green or brown lentils, beans, and vegetables, this nourishing, easy chili is perfect for game day. You can even allow guests to customize their bowls with a variety of toppings (plenty of vegan cheese, please).
Get the recipe

VegNews.VeganLentilStewwithKale

4 Vegan French Lentil and Kale Stew

This delicious French lentil and kale stew recipe combines tangy balsamic vinegar and luscious coconut cream for a flavorful, comforting weeknight dish. It’s best served with vegan parmesan and some hearty homemade meatballs.
Get the recipe

VegNews.SmokyChili

5 Easy, Smoky Vegan Bean and Lentil Chili

For an easy, nourishing midweek dish, you can’t go wrong with this smoky vegan bean and red lentil chili, which also packs in fresh vegetables, chickpeas, and a tasty blend of chili powder and cinnamon.
Get the recipe

VegNews.WarmLentilSalad

6 Vegan Warm Lentil, Sweet Potato, and Arugula Salad

This nutritious, satisfying salad balances sweet potatoes’ natural sweetness with protein-packed green lentils. The dressing, which combines soy sauce, maple syrup, and whole-grain mustard, adds the perfect blend of tangy, salty, and sweet.
Get the recipe

VegNews.VeganMeatloafDreena Burton

7 Savory Vegan Lentil and Sweet Potato Meatloaf

Sweet potatoes, lentils, and Italian herbs come together to create this delicious and filling vegan meatloaf recipe. Serve with mashed potatoes and garlicky green beans, for a nutrient-packed, comforting weeknight meal.
Get the recipe

VegNews.Red Lentil Marinara SpaghettiAshley Madden

8 Vegan Red Lentil Marinara Spaghetti

Served with red lentil marinara, this simple, gluten-free spaghetti dish makes for a quick, crowd-pleasing weeknight meal—especially when it’s complemented by salad or crusty bread.
Get the recipe

VegNews.Lentils1Sam Turnbull

9 Sweet Vegan Korean-Inspired Lentils

This easy, versatile plant-based dish can be served with rice, tacos, or wraps, and comes together in just under 20 minutes. It’s also packed with flavor and protein, thanks to the rich soy-sesame sauce and red lentils.
Get the recipe

VegNews.VeganAutumnHarvestBowlswithTahini

10 Herb Roasted Autumn Harvest Bowls 

In this autumnal dish, roasted parsnips, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and green lentils are topped with tahini dressing and pumpkin seeds—it’s a simple, nutritious weeknight delight.
Get the recipe

VegNews.SweetandSourPineappleMeatballsKenden Alfond

11 Vegan Sweet and Sour Pineapple Meatballs

Made with a mix of oats and cooked brown lentils, these meatballs are hearty, nutritious, and delicious, especially when served in a tangy pineapple juice-based sweet and sour sauce.
Get the recipe

Recipe.VeganLentilSoup

12 French Lentil Soup With Herbes de Provence

Made with green French lentils, fresh vegetables, fragrant herbs, and a drop of dry sherry, this soup is a comforting, nourishing, lunchtime delight. Serve with a warm, toasted baguette, smothered in vegan butter.
Get the recipe

For more on vegan cooking, read: