This post is from KS Contributing writer Becca Stallings of The Earthling’s Handbook.
It’s late afternoon, and you’re stuck at home with the kids, no car, cold rain outside, and a menu plan that calls for fresh ingredients that you were going to get at the store – before your plans changed. The kids are wailing for attention, so you can’t cook anything complicated. Should you order a pizza?
No! What you need is this trusty recipe you can mix up in 10 minutes from shelf-stable ingredients. Just stick it in the oven for an hour with some sweet potatoes or winter squash, and dinner is done! (If you don’t have any orange vegetables lying around, quickly steam some frozen broccoli or something – but squash/sweet potato is the best side dish.)
Honey Baked Lentils is a main dish every cook should be ready to make on a moment’s notice!
- It’s truly easy! Simply measure ingredients and stir. Anyone who can read the recipe can make it – but small kids will need help putting the heavy casserole dish in the hot oven.
- It tastes great! The seasoning is a lot like teriyaki, but when combined with lentils it makes a flavor that’s not Japanese at all; it’s rich and full and very satisfying. This is a great dish for vegetarians and meat eaters to share. It’s an interesting flavor but not too spicy, so almost everyone likes it.
- It’s affordable! I calculate the total cost of a batch of Honey Baked Lentils at $3.63 if you buy the ingredients at my nearest supermarket – but I save money on spices by buying from the bulk section at the food co-op.
- It’s good for you! A serving (1/6 of the recipe) contains 40% of the Daily Value of fiber, 17% of iron, 10% of potassium, and only 13% of sodium and 8% of fat, along with 9 grams of protein, no cholesterol, and only 217 calories. More about nutrition below.
- It’s good for the Earth! Lentils have the lowest environmental impact of any protein source. Baking your main dish and side dish in the oven together uses less energy than baking one item while cooking the other on the stovetop.
- It’s safe for most food allergies and dietary restrictions! It’s free of dairy, egg, meat, nuts, and corn. Low cholesterol, low sodium and low on the glycemic index. If you are gluten-free, use wheat-free soy sauce. If you don’t eat soy, use liquid aminos. If you are a strict vegan who doesn’t eat honey, use maple syrup. If you are allergic to citrus, leave out the optional orange juice.
This is a great dish to bring to potlucks because it’s different from the usual standbys yet not too “weird” for people to try. It’s safe to serve at room temperature or can be reheated effectively.
- 1 cup uncooked green lentils
- 2 cups water, or 1 cup orange juice and 1 cup water
- ½ tsp. dry ginger
- ½ tsp. garlic powder or granulated garlic
- 1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. dried minced onion
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil or other cooking oil
- 2 Tbsp. honey or maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce or liquid aminos
- ⅓ cup uncooked white rice or ½ cup cooked brown rice
- Combine all ingredients in a casserole dish. (Measure them in the order listed for tidiest use of your measuring spoons!)
- Let it soak for a while before baking, if convenient – this makes the lentils and rice softer and may improve digestibility.
- Bake, covered, at 350F until liquid is absorbed and lentils are tender. Check it after 1 hour, but it often takes 1 hour 15 minutes.
Nutritional yeast flakes add flavor, nutrition, and appetizing color. What the heck are nutritional yeast flakes?
Maple syrup instead of honey gives it a different flavor, also very good, and makes the recipe totally vegan.
Brown rice will not cook completely in this dish--so unless you like your rice crunchy, use white rice or pre-cooked brown rice.
Originally adapted from a recipe in Faith and Family Magazine.
If you make my suggested side dish of squash or sweet potatoes, put the lentils in the oven first and then start prepping the vegetables because they typically need only 45-60 minutes of baking time. There are a few different techniques for baking each vegetable, but here’s how I handle them:
- Sweet potatoes – Scrub thoroughly. Poke with a fork or sharp knife to let out steam. Place on a cookie sheet.
- Squash – Use a cleaver to hack them in half, or in quarters if they’re big. Scrape out seeds with a paring knife. In a baking pan (or two) with sides put in just enough water to cover the bottom. Place squash, cut side down, in the water.
Fresh Seasonings vs. Dried Seasonings
One of the unique things about this recipe is that it’s actually better with the dried stuff that lasts for years in the pantry. Fresh ginger root or crushed garlic work ok, but their flavors tend to stand out rather than blending into the wonderful Honey Baked Lentils flavor. Fresh onion does not work well in this recipe – it floats to the top and gets soggy, so you have to stir it in before serving, and it’s still quite noticeable.
How Nutritious is This Meal?
I used this handy online recipe analyzer and this site for more detailed nutrition data. The nutrition facts I cited above are for 1/6 of the basic recipe (without orange juice or nutritional yeast flakes) not including a vegetable side dish. I was able to get vitamin and mineral details only for lentils and rice by themselves (not for the whole recipe) and for sweet potatoes and squash; I looked at butternut squash, which is the variety shown in my photos, and white rice that’s not “enriched.”
Honey Baked Lentils combined with squash or sweet potato give you a meal that’s high in fiber, B vitamins, Vitamin A, potassium, and manganese. Folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, and pantothenic acid all are B vitamins, each with a different role in the body. Many animal foods are great sources of B vitamins, but they’re harder to find in plant foods; that’s one of the things that makes this meal so special.
Eating 1 cup of butternut squash along with 1/6 of the Honey Baked Lentils will give you:
- 4-day supply of Vitamin A plus 51% of the Daily Value of fiber, 25% of folate, 17% of thiamin, 4% of riboflavin, 18% of niacin, 19% of B6, 11% of pantothenic acid, 24% of iron, 27% of potassium, 19% of , 35% of manganese, and 13% of copper.
Eating 1 cup of sweet potato along with 1/6 of the Honey Baked Lentils will give you:
- 7-day supply of Vitamin A plus 66% of the Daily Value of fiber, 18% of folate, 21% of thiamin, 13% of riboflavin, 23% of niacin, 36% of B6, 22% of pantothenic acid, 25% of iron, 37% of potassium, 18% of magnesium, 67% of manganese, and 22% of copper.
Lentils are an 86% complete protein. That’s not as good as meat, but it’s pretty good, and it gets better when combined with the different amino acids in the rice and the squash/sweet potato. If you are eating other proteins in your other meals, you’re likely to get a good balance over the course of the day.
Lentils, squash, and sweet potatoes all have low glycemic loads, ideal for people at risk of diabetes or cardiovascular problems. Plus a serving of Honey Baked Lentils contains less than 7 grams of total sugars.
Is it dangerous to eat so much Vitamin A in one meal? The type of Vitamin A found in plants is different from the Vitamin A in animal foods, and the type in plants is unlikely to cause an overdose. Just don’t eat this much orange vegetable in every meal, and you should be fine!
B vitamins and magnesium are especially important to me because they help to prevent migraines and premenstrual syndrome, both of which are problems for me.
I’m used to looking for fiber and iron in foods, but what about those other minerals? Potassium helps nutrients move between cells. Manganese helps with wound healing and bone and cartilage growth. Our bodies use copper for a bunch of things related to energy, nerves, and properly metabolizing iron.
My Favorite Way to Eat This Meal
A baked orange vegetable goes so well with Honey Baked Lentils that I literally eat them together!
This is my serving suggestion: Put a chunk of squash (or a sweet potato cut in half) on your plate, and add a nice glob of butter. Mash with a fork such that the flesh is loosened from the skin and the butter is mixed in, but the skin is still intact. Fill with a big scoop of lentils. Eat some squash and some lentils in each bite.
But of course, if you’d rather have a main dish and a side dish (like the rest of my family), you can serve it that way!
Convenience, money-saving, and low environmental impact are all great features, but my very favorite thing about this meal is the way it makes me feel. It’s so good at the end of a long, cold day. After just a few bites of Honey Baked Lentils and squash/sweet potato, I feel warm, comforted, calm, nourished, and alert. I can eat until I’m quite full without getting logy, and then I stay full for hours. It’s a great combination of foods!
More KS Lentil Recipes to Enjoy: