17 Vegan Lentil Recipes For Cheap, Nutritious Meals

These vegan recipes make cheap, nutritious meals out of the humble lentil - a human staple for over 9,000 years


11 Minutes Read

Photo shows a large blue cooking pot full of a spicy red lentil dal Lentils are nutritious, affordable, and versatile. These recipes show just some of the ways to prepare them. - Media Credit: BOSH!

The lentil is a tasty, affordable, nutrient-dense powerhouse of meat-free cooking. Shake up your weekly meal plan with these 17 cheap, nutritious, and delicious vegan lentil recipes.

Read more: 50 High-Fiber Recipes

Lentils are one of the world’s oldest crops, and humans have cultivated them since around 7,000 BC. There are lots of different varieties of lentils, but they can be broken down into four main categories: brown, green, red, and yellow, and specialty, such as beluga and puy.

Per the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), each variety of lentil has its own unique qualities that suit different dishes and styles of cooking.

For example, brown lentils are the most common, and hold their shape extremely well even once cooked. This gives them a hearty, meaty texture, and makes them a good meat substitute in lasagnas, chilis, meatloafs, and bolognese.

Green lentils have a similar size and texture, but with a stronger, slightly peppery flavor, Meanwhile red and yellow lentils, which can be purchased split, tend to break down quicker during cooking, making them ideal for dals, stews, soups, and as an all-purpose thickener.

Specialty lentils vary, but both black beluga and puy varieties have distinct flavor profiles and a striking appearance. This and their slightly smaller size make them a popular choice for salads and side dishes. In France, puy lentils are often used alongside meat and fish.

Read more: Eat At Least 75% Plant-Based Foods, Say Germany’s New Dietary Guidelines

Are lentils nutritious?

Photo shows three different varieties of lentil on a wooden surface: brown, on the table; red, in a small bowl; and green, in a wooden spoon
Adobe Stock Different varieties of lentil provide different flavors, textures, and nutrients

Lentils are frequently overlooked by the modern plant-based movement amid increasingly high-tech approaches to manufacturing meat-free proteins. However, they remain a nutritious, affordable, and sustainable staple for much of the global population.

According to Healthline, a single cup (around 198 g of cooked lentils) provides approximately 17.9 g of protein, 15.6 g of fiber, and 39.9 g of carbs compared to just 0.8 g of fat.

The same portion size also includes nearly 30 percent of your RDA of thiamine, 13 percent of niacin, 21 percent B6, 25 percent pantothenic acid, 37 percent iron, 17 percent magnesium, and a significant 90 percent of folate, along with phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.

In addition to their various nutritional benefits, lentils and other legumes remain one of the single cheapest and most accessible forms of protein around the world. While canned varieties are slightly more expensive than dried ones, they are still relatively cost-effective.

Read more: Mediterranean Diet Vs Plant-Based: Which Is Best?

17 Vegan Lentil Recipes for Cheap, Nutritious Meals

The evidence shows that lentils are unequivocally nutritious, but they’re also one of the most versatile ingredients to cook with. Thanks to the lentil’s often beautiful appearance, earthy flavor, and variable texture, it suits countless different cooking styles and recipes.

These 17 vegan recipes show just some of the ways you can incorporate more lentils into your diet for cheap, nutritious, and delicious plant-based meals.

Spicy red lentil dal

Photo shows a large blue cooking pot full of a spicy red lentil dal
BOSH! Try this Sri Lankan-style spicy red lentil dal

This Sri Lankan-style spicy red lentil dal is packed with protein and comes to Plant Based News (PBN) from BOSH! It takes 30 minutes to make and works served over rice, with chapati, or even with toasted pita bread. Top with crispy onions, green chilis, and coriander.

Find the recipe here.

Quick, lazy dal

Photo shows a simple-to-make one-pot dal prepared using a vegan recipe
BOSH! This dal is even easier to make and requires just a single pot

Another dal by BOSH!, this recipe is an effortless one-pot affair packed with vegetables like cherry tomatoes, spinach, and of course, the mighty lentil. Serve over white rice or with flatbreads for dipping, and top with a healthy scoop of your go-to vegan yogurt. 

Find the recipe here.

Vegan lentil salad

Photo shows a colorful lentil salad complete with fresh vegetables
The Garden Party Light, refreshing and nutritious: this lentil salad does it all

This recipe from The Garden Party combines canned lentils with sweet mini peppers, tomatoes, and cucumber for a light, refreshing, and beautifully colorful salad. If you have a little extra prep time, try it with dried lentils to make it even more cost-effective.

Find the recipe here.

High-protein mac and cheese

Four dishes of meal prepped high protein vegan mac and cheese with greens ontop
Plant Baes This high-protein mac and cheese has a secret ingredient in red lentils

This recipe was created by Sarah Cobacho of Plantbaes and uses red lentils for a high-protein and surprisingly cheesy sauce. Combine with grilled greens for a delicious and nutritious side, and perhaps some baked tofu for even more protein. (This recipe is also particularly easy to batch cook and freeze, making it ideal for meal prep.)

Find the recipe here.

Turmeric ginger lentils

Photo shows a white bowl of turmeric and ginger lentils
Natalicious Food Turmeric and ginger add even more nutritional benefits to this lentil-based dish

Natali Eleftheriou (owner of Natilicious Food), created this recipe to include both ginger and turmeric, each with its own nutritional benefits. The result is a fragrant, warming, and nutritious lentil bowl that is best served with fresh salad, black olives, and bread.

Find the recipe here.

Red lentil tofu

Photo shows someone taking the top piece from a white bowl of cubed red lentil tofu
Plantbaes For soy-free tofu, try using red lentils

This recipe from Plantbaes makes an extremely cost-effective, soy-free, and iron-rich version of tofu using just red lentils. You can use this “tofu” any way you would the traditional version, including slicing, crumbling, scrambling, frying, and baking.

Find the recipe here.

Butternut squash dal

Photo shows a white bowl of butternut squash dhal served with quinoa
Rise Shine Cook Butternut squash adds a sweet creaminess to this dal

Another dal, this butternut squash-based dish from Ashley Madden (aka Rise Shine Cook) makes for a particularly sweet, creamy flavor. Squash is particularly high in vitamin A, supplementing the naturally nutrient-dense qualities of the lentils.

Find the recipe here.

Spanish white wine lentils

Photo shows a dish of lentils flavored with a Spanish white wine sauce.
Viva!'s Vegan Recipe Club Green salad or grilled veggies accompany this recipe well

Viva!’s Vegan Recipe Club created this recipe, which uses white wine and optional plant-based bacon to give it a unique flavor. (Lentil stews are frequently found in Spanish restaurants, and can include pork products too.) Serve with garlic bread and a green salad.

Find the recipe here.

Baked potato with BBQ lentils

Photo shows two baked potatoes topped with BBQ lentils and a drizzle of sriracha mayo
Vegan Richa White potatoes and red lentils make for a particularly affordable, quick, and nutrient-dense meal

This recipe from Vegan Richa combines baked potato with rich BBQ-flavored lentils and zingy sriracha mayo. It also includes carrots – a good source of beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A – and mushrooms for iron, potassium, and B vitamins.

Find the recipe here.

Lentil and broccoli summer salad

Lentil and broccoli vegan summer salad served on a rectangular platter
Natlicious Food Legumes plus greens equals a heart-healthy salad you can make anytime

This recipe from Natalicious Foods combines lentils and broccoli to make an iron-rich powerhouse. (What’s more, the vitamin C in this recipe will actually help your body absorb the iron.)

Find the recipe here.

Mushroom lentil risotto

Vegan lentil and mushroom risotto served with fresh thyme sprigs
Avocado Skillet Lentils and mushrooms make this a meaty, satisfying risotto

Kristi (aka Avocado Skillet on social media) combines lentils and mushrooms in this risotto for a meaty, high-protein vegan main. It’s also made in a single pot and comes together in just 40 minutes. Kristi recommends picking a seasonal mushroom for the dish to minimize its environmental impact and maximize both flavor and nutrients.

Find the recipe here.

Curried lentil one-pot

Photo shows several dishes of a lentil stew cooked simply in one pot.
The Vegan Chef School Two different types of lentils thicken this sauce and add texture

This recipe from The Vegan Chef School uses two different varieties of lentils – either brown or green as well as red or yellow – one to thicken the sauce and the other to add texture, making for a particularly hearty, filling, and nutritious dish.

Find the recipe here.

30-minute dal stew

Photo shows a large bowl of dal stew made with lentils and garnished with herbs and lime
Naturally Zuzu Red lentils, yellow lentils, and fragrant spices make this a quick and delicious weeknight meal

Naturally Zuzu created this recipe by combining red and yellow lentils and fragrant spices. It’s ready in under 30 minutes and best served with coriander, yogurt, lime, and naan.

Find the recipe here.

Red lentils with roasted pear and fennel

Photo shows a vegan lentil-based dish featuring roasted fennel and pear
The Vegan Chef School For an impressive and nutritious dish, try this recipe from The Vegan Chef School

Another one from The Vegan Chef School, this recipe looks fancy once it’s plated up but is surprisingly simple to prepare. It gets its deep, savory-sweet, faintly anise flavor from a marmite and stock combo alongside roasted pear and fennel.

Find the recipe here.

Lentil stroganoff

A vegan lentil stroganoff served with pasta
Romy London This lentil-based stroganoff makes for a protein-packed dinner

This recipe by Romy London packs in the plant protein thanks to a lentil-mushroom base. Traditional beef stroganoff typically features a rich sauce and a meaty texture, which this plant-based version has in abundance.

Find the recipe here.

Lentil and mushroom Wellington

Photo shows a vegan lentil and mushroom wellington cut open to show inside the pastry.
Romy London Replace beef with lentils in this veganized take on a classic Wellington

Also from Romy London, this lentil and mushroom Wellington swaps meat for lentils, too. Traditionally, wellingtons feature a beef-based filling, and this version combines green lentils, brown mushrooms, and chopped walnuts instead.

Find the recipe here.

Apple ginger dal

A vegan apple dahl recipe, a high protein vegan recipe
Happy Skin Kitchen Apples give this dal a beautifully sweet flavor and green color

This dal puts a sweet and creamy twist on curried lentils with the addition of apples and coconut milk. Jazz Apple uses red lentils, which contain around 3.3mg of iron per 100 g, while the addition of apple adds vitamin C to aid iron absorption.

Find the recipe here.

Read more: 15 High Protein Vegan Lunch Ideas

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