Lentils are a staple in our house. We love them and put them in everything! They are filled with protein and iron, both of which are needed in our vegan diet, along with tons of nutrients and fiber. Not to mention, they are super easy to cook because they don’t require soaking. So I set out to create yet a new lentil dish since we wanted something new in our lentil rotation. I wanted something warm and hearty, something that could be both a main dish and a side. At first, I thought I was moving towards a “Sloppy Joe” type of idea, but truth be told, I don’t actually like Sloppy Joe’s. With my red sauce foods, I actually like the more Italian feel versus the sweetness of baked beans or Sloppy Joe’s. So I set forth to make some sort of Italian flavored lentil dish with a touch of sweet and maybe even a little kick to it!
I started with the hidden veggies I wanted in it, and turned to my tried and true zucchini, carrots, and onion, which I knew would pair well with the tomato and not overpower on taste. Part way into it, I decided that I also wanted this to be a really easy thing to make, so I threw everything into the crockpot. No precooking required! This dish came out awesome! I even had a few friends try it out, and they agreed on both the really easy and the really good taste. The best thing about it though, is that these lentils can literally be used for so many things!
I first tried it as my original thought, a Sloppy Joe type sandwich. My one issue is that I don’t like soggy bread, so I put some pickles on the bottom piece of bread, then the lentils, then covered those with broccoli slaw (another awesome Trader Joe’s find). The combination of crunchy and soft was awesome in this sandwich and the layers protected the bread from getting soggy!
My next trial was a simple dip for some sprouted wheat breadsticks I had made. In full disclosure, this one came about because I was really hungry and couldn’t wait to make the lentils into anything fancy, so I grabbed the nearest breadstick and started dipping away. Delicious! A great way to use the leftovers!
The final way I used these was as a sub for my old favorite, bolognese sauce. I loved loved loved bolognese and as I was eating spoonfuls of the lentils, I got a hint of that old favorite flavor. So I cooked some quinoa pasta, steamed some broccoli for added veggies, and made an easy but incredibly good dinner! Everyone in the family loved it. Most likely, this will be our main use for this dish since we all love pasta equally. But I will continue to explore other ways to use this amazing creation. In the mean time, please share any new ideas you have! Happy cooking!
[recipe title= “Crockpot Lentils” servings= “Makes a full crockpot”]A versatile protein packed dish! Use it as a topping for pasta, sub for Sloppy Joe’s, or even as a dip or side dish. Either way it’s a meal you won’t regret.
- 2 ½ cups dry lentils (green or brown)
- 1 sweet onion
- 2 zucchinis
- 1 cup carrots
- 2 cups water
- 24 ounces crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ¼ cup white cooking wine (a vegan kind if you want this fully vegan)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- Himalayan pink salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Sprinkle of your favorite cooking oil (optional)
note: Green lentils remain the most firm after they are cooked, but take longer to cook. Brown can sometimes get mushy if overcooked but still retain their shape well. I have made this recipe with both and I prefer the al dente texture of the green lentils. However, the brown lentils have a milder flavor so choose which color you want based on both taste and consistency preference. Red or yellow lentils become mushy quickly so unless that is the consistency you are looking for, don’t use them.
Rinse lentils and add them to the crock pot. Wash and chop onions, zucchini and carrots and add them to the crock pot (I use a small electric chopper for quick and easy chopping and to get really fine pieces). Add the rest of the ingredients to the crock pot and mix until well combined. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed. Turn crock pot on low and cook for 6-7 hours, tasting for lentil consistency as you go. I like mine on the al dente side.
– on toasted gluten free or sprouted wheat buns with broccoli slaw (Trader Joes) and pickles as a Sloppy Joe alternative
– as a dip with breadsticks, crackers, etc.
– as a Bolognese alternative for pasta
And you can always just have them as a side dish for any meal! [/recipe]