Picking the Best Lentils for Your Mediterranean Diet Dish

By Meri Raffetto, Wendy Jo Peterson

Eating a plant-based diet is one of the fundamentals of Mediterranean cuisine and one of the major reasons for the health benefits found in the Mediterranean diet. Lentils are small, round legumes that make a healthy choice for any meal. They’re a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals such as folate and iron.

Lentils are great to cook with because they take on flavors well from other ingredients such as herbs, spices, or broths. If you look hard enough, you can find a variety of different types of lentils, all with their own unique flavor, color, and texture. Some types are better for soups, while others are great as a stand-alone side dish.

Use this guide to help you select the perfect type of lentil for your next dish:

  • Brown lentils are the most common type of lentil found in major grocery stores. They range in color from light brown to dark black and have an earthy, nutty flavor. Brown lentils can turn soft quickly if you don’t watch your cooking time. The mild flavor works well for many dishes, such as soups and salads, and these lentils are also good for purees because they’re easily mashed.
  • Green lentils are often glossy-looking, with a pale green/brown mix of colors. They have a strong flavor and take a little longer to cook than other lentils. The plus about green lentils, other than their taste, is the fact that they retain their texture and shape well, making them perfect for side salads.
  • Red lentils range from gold to red and have a sweet, nutty flavor. Like brown lentils, they run the risk of turning mushy from overcooking. You see red lentils most often in Indian dal or curry dishes. Red lentils are also fabulous in soups.