For a long time, I shied away from red lentils because I
hate usually dislike soup (I know, it’s strange) and I associated red lentils with soupy meals. But these berbere lentil bowls changed my mind in a big way. They’re spicy and hearty and pretty much everything I could ask for in a cold-weather bowl. Pair with fragrant ginger-garlic collard greens and some skillet-roasted chicken (or go vegetarian!) for a simple, fragrant weeknight meal. – Ally
All About Lentils
Lentils are one of my favorite weeknight meal ingredients because they’re quick cooking, inexpensive, and full of plant-based protein (and fiber, folate, calcium, and iron!). The trouble is figuring out which variety to choose from. Let’s break it down:
These are the most common types of lentils – found at all grocery stores. Usually just labeled “lentils,” they’re light brown and have a flattened shape. Think of them as the all-purpose lentil because they can go two ways: they can hold their shape if they’re not cooked too long (good for salads!) but can also be cooked a bit longer and mashed (think: veggie burgers!). Try brown lentils in the Lentil and Raisin Salad with Curry Vinaigrette from our 7-Day Salad Reset.
Where to buy: All grocery stores – middle aisles usually near the pasta or beans or in bulk bins at well-stocked stores.
Red lentils are usually split (as the ones shown in the photo above). They’re a bit sweeter than brown lentils and are often used in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. They become slightly mushy when cooked – which is perfect for hearty soups and bowls like these berbere lentil bowls (recipe below!).
Where to buy: Some grocery stores – middle aisles usually near the pasta or beans or in the International aisle. In bulk bins at well-stocked stores ( I found them in the Whole Foods Market bulk bins). Or online.
Green lentils – also called Puy or French green lentils when originally harvested in the French region of Le Puy – are a favorite for salads because, if cooked properly, they retain a slight tooth and hold their shape. The downsides? They’re the most expensive and take the longest to cook. But it’s totally worth it for bowls like these Lentil Tofu Bowls with Smoky Romesco Sauce, this Lentil Potato Salad with Paprika Dressing, or one of my favorites from My New Roots: the Best Lentil Salad Ever.
Where to buy: Most grocery stores – middle aisles usually near the pasta or beans or in bulk bins at well-stocked stores. Or online.
Also called “beluga” lentils because they resemble beluga caviar, are very similar to green lentils in terms of taste and texture. They’re great for salads and are also full of anthocyanin, an antioxidant found in purple and blue foods like blackberries, blueberries, and eggplants.
Where to buy: Speciality grocery stores – middle aisles usually near the pasta or beans. Or online.
A NOTE ABOUT BERBERE
Spicy and sweet, berbere is a fragrant spice blend used in Ethiopian cooking. “Berbere” literally means “hot;” perfect for cozy cooking.
You can make your own or buy it here. Some other ways to use it:
Mix Into Butter (and Put on Everything!)
Add to Olive Oil for Pita Dipping
Sprinkle on Meat or Vegetables Before Roasting
Stir Into Your Favorite Cooked Grain
Whisk Into Yogurt for a Veggie Dip
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (see notes)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root (see notes)
- 2 tablespoons berbere seasoning
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2½ cups water
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 lb collard greens, destemmed and coarsely chopped
- juice of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
- salt and pepper
- gluten-free toast or pita, optional
- Make the lentils. Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, ginger, and berbere seasoning and stir until fragrant, 2 minutes more. Transfer the onion mixture to a saucepot, add the lentils and 2½ cups of water, and give a good stir. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 35-40 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Meanwhile, make the collard greens. In a cast-iron skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 6-8 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, ginger, and ground cumin and stir until fragrant, 2 minutes more. Add the collard greens and lemon juice and cook for about 8 minutes until greens are softened. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
- Cook the chicken. Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet or a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for a total time of about 25 minutes, turning several times in between, but not disturbing the chicken for the first 6-7 minutes or so. When cooked through, set aside.
- Pack the bowls. Divide the berbere lentils, collard greens, and chicken breast between five meal prep containers.When ready to eat, serve with toast or pita, if desired.