Lentils with Balsamic Vinegar

Posted: Fri, Feb 27
Filed under: dinner, recipes, sides, vegetarian, , , .
Written by: Dave

Photo by WordRidden, on Flickr.

Photo by WordRidden, on Flickr.

This is a great side dish, or with rice, and maybe a sliced sausage or two, a main dish. You can make it completely vegetarian starting off with olive oil, and simmering with vegetable stock or water, or, if you don’t mind a little meat, start off with a few slices of bacon and simmer in chicken stock. Add more stock or water if you want it more soupy, or hold back and monitor it while it simmers if you want it dryer. It’s based on a recipe I half-remember from Cooks Illustrated. It uses french lentils, which are the little dark green ones, sometimes called “puy lentils,” since they hold their shape better. You can either buy them prepackaged, or head over to the bulk aisle, and buy it by them by the pound.

2 T olive oil, or the drippings from 3 slices of bacon, fried
1 small onion, diced (about ½ cup)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped or sliced
2 carrots, diced (about ½ cup)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup french green lentils
1 16 oz can of tomatoes, whole or diced
1-2 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Resist the urge to add salt in the beginning, which tends to make the lentils tough.

If you’re starting with the bacon, chop into ¼ inch slices, and render the drippings in a medium sized saucepan (one that you have a tight lid). Remove the bacon once it’s browned and reserve for later – OR – heat the olive oil and add the onions and carrots, allowing the onions to become translucent, and the carrots to soften a little.  Add the garlic, the spices, the lentils, and the tomatoes, along with a little of the juice. Clamp on the lid and lower the heat, and let the mixture steam, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. Add the stock or water, and let simmer for 20 or 30 more minutes, until the lentils are tender. Just before serving, add the balsamic and the salt and pepper (and top with the reserved bacon if you haven’t already eaten it all while you were cooking.)

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Comments so far ...

  • You need to read the info on americastestkitchen.com which is affilated with Cooks illustrated.  They specifically tested results of when beans were salted before hand and when the were not and found that salt does not make beans tough. In fact, they recommend soaking dry beans in salted water (3 tablespoons in 3 quarts I believe it was or maybe 2 quartes).  I’ve been doing this and haven’t looked back.  Definitely salt before hand.   Thanks.

    Alice — Sat, Mar 6 @ 8:07 pm


  • I agree that salt in the soaking water works great for white beans, and other beans, but I don’t think it is the same when it comes to lentils, since you don’t soak them before cooking with them.

    Dave (Author)— Sat, Mar 6 @ 8:40 pm


  • Well actually I do soak lentils though I know they cook quickly but I do this to get the salt into their “centers” (don’t know how else to describe it.)  For those who don’t soak,  the comment about salting beans/lentils making them tough is still wrong. This is one of those myths that keeps being propagated by people who are just passing on information they heard instead of actually trying it themselves.  I hope you do try salting lentils when sauteeing even when you don’t soak and you will learn salt doesn’t make beans tough. Maybe you will stop passing on this mis-information.

    Alice — Sat, Mar 6 @ 8:55 pm


  • I actually had the episode of America’s Test Kitchen (episode 908, “Soups of the Day”) where I recently saw them and their claim about salting the soaking water. According to the episode, salting the cooking water makes the beans mealy, but salting the soaking water makes the skins more tender but also less likely to break. So I still believe that salting the cooking water is a bad thing to do, though I agree with you about salting the soaking water. As for soaking lentils, I still wonder if the step is really necessary, and might cause them to become kind of mushy, but since you have had good luck with it, more power to you!

    Dave (Author)— Sat, Mar 6 @ 10:34 pm


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