East-Facing Lentils


Three meals, one dish. You choose. A warm side dish for dinner. A room temperature salad for a picnic lunch. Or, my favorite, a hot savory breakfast entrée with an added poached, soft boiled, or fried egg. This dish is high in protein and can be made in 40 minutes. I call it “Eastern Facing” as it uses many Asian inspired ingredients. Surprisingly light. Not surprisingly delicious!

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I’ll be honest. Lentils used to scare me and I didn’t like them. They were heavy, mushy, and very 1970’s “health food.” They were the Captain and Tennille of the legume world. But once I learned how adaptable and light they can be, my mind was completely changed. For example, if the flavor profile in this recipe doesn’t call your name, trade out the herbs and spices for another country’s accents. Think French tarragon, or Herbs de Provence. Or, go Mexican with cumin and chili powder. In other words, make it your own (and contemporary to this decade). Share in the comments section how you’ve adapted it.


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East Facing Lentils

  • Servings: 10 1-cup servings
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print


  • 2 cups black or French lentils
  • 1 cup medium chopped mint, very lightly packed
  • 1 cup medium chopped cilantro, very lightly packed (or use basil if you belong to the percentage of the population whose genes make cilantro taste like “soap”.)
  • 4 large scallions
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (or 3 three in-season seeded and diced plum tomatoes)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha (or any hot sauce, but not tabasco). Adjust portion to your taste
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 limes (use zest and juice)
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  1. Prepare lentils according to package until just done (Here’s what I do: I use two cups of black lentils with five cups water. I place them in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to boil and reduce to simmer.) Lentils can take anywhere from 20 – 45 minutes to cook depending on how old or dry they are, so start tasting at 20 minutes and every 5 minutes thereafter for “firm doneness.” Mine were done in 25 minutes. “Firm doneness” means they have a chew with a little resistance, but not a crunch.) You want the cooked lentils to be firm so that they do not turn to “mush” when combining with other ingredients.
  2. Once lentils are cooked and drained, spread them out on a lined baking sheet for 15 minutes to quickly cool down. Transfer the lentils to a large mixing bowl.
  3. Combine the olive oil, lime juice and zest, salt and pepper, and hot sauce into a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Pour over lentils.
  4. Mince the garlic and coarsely chop the cilantro and mint (leaves only, no stems). Add to the lentils.
  5. Cut scallions approximately 1/8 inch (whites and greens). Add to lentil mixture.
  6. Slice cherry tomatoes in half and add to the lentil mixture.
  7. Gently stir the lentil mixture with all other ingredients. Taste for seasonings and adjust as desired.

This will keep well up to 4-5 days refrigerated. Feel free to swap out herbs and spices of your choice and dial up or down the salt, pepper and hot sauce to your preference.

Author: gregnelsoncooks

Visit weekly for original and adapted recipes as well as cooking tips to make your kitchen life easier — and more delicious! I’ll include simple, straight forward instructions along with recipes that are truly worth your time making. And, recipes that elevate the familiar and introduce you to the new and unexpected.

4 thoughts

  1. Are French lentils regular brown lentils? The photo looks like they are brown lentils. Looking forward to trying a new lentil recipe and this one looks great.


    1. Lentils usually fall into brown, green or red categories. Brown lentils range from grey/green to black in color. The ones I used were labeled “black beluga lentils.” They were black when raw, but lost some color once cooked. So technically, they were in the brown lentil family. French lentils (also called Puy lentils, or French Green Lentils) are smaller and greenish. They tend to hold their shape better when cooked, which is why I also recommended them. Avoid using the red/orange lentils. Because they are split, they very quickly turn to mush.


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