Finding the motivation to make a substantial meal on a busy weeknight can be difficult, to say the least—especially if your fridge is particularly bare. Because, let's face it, swinging by the grocery store to buy the ingredients needed to cook up a healthy dinner is the last thing anyone wants to do after a long day at the office. Reaching for the takeout menu of your go-to Thai restaurant can start to become routine—but stocking your pantry with this one staple ingredient can help shake things up.
This is where lentils come in. Ridiculously cheap, packed with protein, and insanely versatile, the humble legume is the unsung hero of easy, healthy weeknight dinners. Found in the canned goods aisle alongside popular pantry fallbacks like chickpeas and black beans, we're making the case that oft-overlooked lentils are deserving of a spot in your shopping cart, too. From a simple vegetarian skillet lasagna to a creamy coconut curry soup, we're willing to bet the best lentil recipes on the web will have you stocking up on the $1.50 pantry staple stat.
Simple Vegetarian Skillet Lasagna
The Recipe: Hearty lentils, mushrooms, and zucchini take the place of meat in this satisfying yet simple vegetarian skillet lasagna. Pro tip: Make this meal on a Sunday evening and devour the leftovers all week long.
The Prep Time: You only need 35 minutes to make this lasagna from start to finish, thanks to the fact that it's all made it one skillet. (AKA no sauce making, water boiling, or pasta layering required).
Caramelized Onion French Lentils With Cheesy Toast
The Recipe: Cooked in a balsamic red wine sauce, the lentils in this stew are bursting with flavor. Topped with crunchy, cheesy toast, these caramelized onion French lentils are about to become a comfort food favorite.
The Prep Time: Allot 15 minutes for chopping and caramelizing the onions before tossing in the rest of the ingredients and allowing everything to simmer down into a stew-like consistency (about 30 minutes).
Crockpot Moroccan Lentil and Chickpea Soup
The Recipe: Filled with spices like smoked paprika, red harissa, cumin, and cinnamon, this crockpot Moroccan lentil and chickpea soup certainly doesn't skimp on flavor—or protein, with both lentils and chickpeas in the mix.
The Prep Time: Set aside 15 minutes to prep this soup. (Note: You'll need to let this soup simmer in a crockpot for 6 hours.) Top each bowl with whipped goat cheese, toasted almonds, and fresh cilantro before serving.
Roasted Eggplant With Goat Cheese, Lentils, and Thyme
The Recipe: Season halved eggplants with olive oil, salt, and thyme before roasting them in the oven for 45 minutes. Stuff them full with lentils that have been seasoned with fresh parsley, lemon juice, and goat cheese as soon as they're hot out of the oven and tender to make this easy meal.
The Prep Time: Although roasting the eggplants requires quite a bit of time, whipping up these lentil-stuffed veggie boats only requires 10 minutes of active cooking time. Pro tip: Toss together the lentil filling while the eggplants cook to cut down prep time.
Deep Green Lentil Stew With Spinach, Tahini, and Lemon
The Recipe: This deep green stew is brimming with hearty, healthy ingredients like spinach, celery, and, of course, lentils. Packed with herbs, namely basil and parsley, this stew tastes as fresh and bright as it is satisfying and delicious.
The Prep Time: Yes, there is a lot of chopping and mincing required to prep this stew. However, once you have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go, you simply add them to the pot at various intervals to achieve maximum deliciousness.
Marinated Lentils With Sun-Dried Tomatoes
The Recipe: Ready in under 30 minutes, these marinated lentils couldn't be easier to make on a busy weeknight. As long as you keep simple ingredients like Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, and olive oil on-hand, you're pretty much set.
The Prep Time: While the lentils cook, mix the marinade and chop some fresh herbs. Combine and eat immediately or marinate in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight). The lentils will keep for about a week when stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
Coconut Curry Lentil Soup
The Recipe: Made with a base of creamy coconut milk and high-quality chicken stock, this coconut curry lentil soup is rich enough that you don't need to add any meat to the pot (although, of course, you can if you'd like).
The Prep Time: You'll need 15 minutes to cube the potatoes, chop the onions, and mince the garlic. Then, allow the soup to simmer for about 30 minutes before ladling into bowls and devouring.