Not Adding Flavorful Ingredients To Your Lentils Is A Huge Mistake

Lentils are delicious and versatile, making the perfect protein swap for meat at a fraction of the cost. They come in hundreds of varieties that fall under seven main categories, each with a distinct flavor, color, shape, and texture. Lentils have subtle flavors and gentle textures that cook faster than other dried legumes, absorbing cooking liquid in 30 minutes or less and doubling in size. However, if you simply throw them in a pot with water, you'll end up with a bland bowl of beans. Instead, adding aromatic ingredients to the cooking pot is the best way to unlock lentils' full flavor potential.

You can capitalize on lentils' neutral flavor and efficient absorption by adding spices and aromatic vegetables to their cooking liquid. The sky's the limit with flavoring agents. Some recommended additives include garlic cloves, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and the famous mirepoix of onion, carrot, and celery. Heated water will draw the flavors out of these ingredients, and lentils will absorb them. 

But adding spices to your lentils isn't your only option; You can also change your cooking liquid.

How to cook lentils with aromatic flavors

While there may be many opportunities to season a lentil dish, the flavor starts with the cooking liquid. A simple first step can be substituting the water for broth. Follow the same ratio of lentils to water on the lentils' packaging or the recipe instructions, but swap in chicken stock, vegetable broth, or mushroom broth to add sodium and savory flavors. You can also add a bouillon cube or tomato paste to your cooking water to quickly create your own broth. A mixture of water and apple cider is another good option to bring a sweet, acidic punch to savory lentils.

Most importantly, don't limit yourself; the most flavorful and easy spiced lentils recipe combines spices, broth, and vegetables in the pot with lentils. And don't worry, if you forget to season lentils while they simmer, you can retroactively infuse flavor into cooked lentils too. It's common in South Asian cooking to fry or heat spices and aromatics separately to bring out their flavors before adding the mixture to cooked lentils and dressing cooked lentils in vinaigrette or other herb-infused oils is another way to season already cooked lentils. 

No matter where or when you add them in the cooking process, as long as you incorporate aromatics and spices to your lentils at some point, you'll certainly have a delicious and flavorful dish.