The People's Perspective on Medicine

How Do You Make These Yummy Lentil Dishes?

Renowned nutrition researchers and loyal listeners share their favorite recipes for yummy lentil dishes on The People's Pharmacy.
Bowls of assorted dried lentils with red lentils, black beluga lentils and mountain lentils over white

We recently spoke with nutrition experts about how to follow a plant-based diet. You can listen to the interview here (Show 1051: How Can Vegetarians Get All the Nutrients They Need?). During that interview, we spoke with Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, Chairman of Nutrition and Frederick John Stare Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the T. H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. He described a lentil-walnut loaf recipe that his family enjoys frequently.

The recipe is included in our book, Recipes & Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy. There are lots of other great recipes in that book, too, including one for lentil salad that we discussed with Christopher Gardner, PhD, professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center.

Recipes for Yummy Lentil Dishes:

Listeners have asked for the recipes. So here they are.

Lentil Nut Loaf with Red Pepper Sauce

Contributed by Gail Pettiford Willett and Walter Willett, MD, DrPH

Lentil Nut Loaf:

  • 1 cup lentils, washed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional oil for greasing the baking pan
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon mixed herbs of your choice

Red Pepper Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • One jar of roasted red pepper
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

For lentil loaf: preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a baking pan. Combine lentils and water in a large pot, and cook lentils until they’re soft, about half an hour. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan or skillet, and sauté the onions and mushrooms until they’re soft. Mix all other ingredients in with the mushrooms and onions. Sauté for three to four minutes. Place the mixture in the greased baking pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

For red pepper sauce: heat oil in sauté pan or skillet, and sauté the garlic on medium heat for three to four minutes. Add the red pepper and tomatoes. Cook until the mixture thickens– about 15 minutes. Ladle over the lentil loaf. Can be served hot or at room temperature. Makes four servings.

(Lentil loaf recipe adapted from Recipes for Natural Health; red pepper sauce recipe adapted from

Lentil and Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

Contributed by Christopher Gardner, PhD


  • 1 ½ cups dry lentils
  • ½ cup of diced onion, yellow or red
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely minced
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups vegetable stock (or water)
  • 2 cups roasted bell peppers (red and yellow preferred), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Lemon Vinaigrette:

  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced lemon peel (optional, easy if you have a lemon peeler)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely minced
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 6 ounces olive oil
  • 6 ounces crumbled feta cheese (leave off for vegan option)
  • Pepper, to taste

8-12 cups loose mixed salad greens

Add the dry lentils, onion, garlic, carrot, salt, bay leaf, and vegetable stock or water to a pot large enough to hold them, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender but firm. Drain the liquid and set aside. You can roast and peel the skin off the bell peppers yourself, but it should be easy to find these already roasted in a jar, which you simply have to drain and chop.

Whisk together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Add the bell peppers and chopped herbs to the lentil mix, then fold in the vinaigrette and the crumbled feta. Add pepper to taste, then serve over 2 to 3 cups of loose mixed salad greens per person.

Listeners Offer Their Yummy Lentil Recipes:

Some of our listeners were kind enough to offer their own delicious recipes. Here they are:

Lentil Salad

Contributed by Barbara (her original recipe)

1 and ½ cups dry green French lentils (available at the supermarket in the dried bean section), rinsed off in a mesh strainer

Chopped onion to taste (¾ to 1 cup, or more if you like – I usually chop an entire small onion, or half of a very large one)

1 Green pepper, chopped

Chopped celery – 3 to 4 ribs

1 Pint grape tomatoes, quartered or diced (if you don’t have grape tomatoes, chop up some other tomatoes)

Cracked black pepper to taste

Sea salt to taste

Garlic powder to taste

Celery seed to taste (about 1 to 1 and ½ tsp.)

Fresh parsley, chopped – about ½ cup total – start with about 6 big sprigs (do not omit this ingredient – it adds an important flavor note)

Dressing ingredients:

1/3 cup red wine vinegar (do not substitute)

1/3 cup light olive oil

1 rounded tsp. prepared Dijon mustard (such as Grey Poupon)

About 2 – 3 tsp. Sugar – or just enough to cut tartness of vinegar


Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add rinsed lentils. Cover, reduce heat, and boil very gently (or at a lively simmer) for 22 to 25 minutes, or until lentils are “al dente.” (Chop the vegetables while the beans are cooking.) Drain into a large mesh strainer (not one that the lentils will slip through), under cold running water. Continue to rinse until lentils have cooled.

Add drained, cooled lentils to the chopped vegetables. Add seasonings. Whisk dressing ingredients well and pour over lentils/vegetables. Stir well to coat. Adjust seasonings if needed.

Cover and chill several hours. Keeps well. Good over greens, such as wild arugula (Trader Joe’s). Good recipe for a pot luck or picnic. This recipe has converted non-lentil eaters into lentil lovers.

Lentil Walnut Salad

(lentils, walnuts, capers, walnut oil, lemon juice, and mint salad)

Contributed by David Terry

Cook lentils (everyone knows how to do this) in water or chicken stock. USE ONLY THE VERY SMALL, DENSE, GREY “French Lentils.” They’re available in bulk at Whole Foods. The best (if you can find them) are “Lentiles du Puy (which grow in the volcanic region of the Auvergne and show it….they have distinct “flinty” taste, like some white wines). Don’t boil them to death; cook them until they’re still a bit “toothy”.

Drain the lentils.

Break up or crush-into-quarters about 1 cup of walnuts for every 1.5 cups of lentils.

Make a strong vinaigrette of walnut oil (buy a new bottle….the stuff goes rancid very quickly), lemon juice, salt, and freshly cracked pepper.

Add 1/2 cup of good capers and about 1 cup of fresh, chopped mint leaves.

Mix it all (including the vinaigrette) up with your hands. Garnish with mint leaves and thin lemon slices.

(Spicier) Vegetable Lentil Soup

Contributed by Lora

Makes 10 cups

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
5 garlic cloves, sliced
2 quarts (8 cups of water), we used 2 cups of vegetable stock and the rest water.
1 cup dried lentils
1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes, undrained
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4-1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
salt and fresh ground pepper

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in carrot, bell pepper, and garlic; cook 3 minutes.

2. Add stock and/or water, dried lentils, tomatoes, bay leaves, and vinegar; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 18-20 minutes until the lentils and veggies are tender. If you prefer a heartier texture to your soup, let it simmer for another 20 minutes or so to cook off some of the liquid.

3. Season to taste with the chili pepper flakes and a few pinches of salt and a few twists of fresh ground pepper.

We hope you enjoy making these yummy lentil dishes. Be sure to share your own favorites in the comments below.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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