Today, let’s cook up some lentils!!! In this vegetarian makeover of a traditional comfort food, red bell peppers are filled with a spicy mixture of lentils and brown rice. I enjoy cooking with lentils because they packed full of nutrients and are actually a really quick plant-based protein source to prepare.
Serve this recipe up along side a quick salad and you have dinner in less than an hour. Plus there are some tricks you can use to prep up ahead so that it goes together even quicker.
Lots of things come into play as I develop recipes for this blog. I choose first to create food that I enjoy and satisfies me, that I think others will appreciate. Next is overall health and nutrition, followed by time and meal prep.
I want to provide you with quality recipes that are easy, nutritious and fairly quick to whip up for dinner. Most of my recipes are plant-based because I think that all of us just need to be eating more plants in general and less meat.
Lentils, a protein powerhouse, contain more protein per cup than most other types of legumes. Eating one cup of lentils provides you with 18 grams of protein. According to some online sources, lentils are the world’s healthiest food. Now I am not sure if that is exactly true, but in addition to protein, lentils are rich in fiber, folate, copper, manganese and phosphorous providing over 50% of the RDA for each of these nutrients. In addition, they are also a source of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin E. All of these nutrients are important to the function of our body and we must eat them in our food for our bodies to use.
What makes lentils such a great plant-based protein is that unlike other pulses, there is no need to soak lentils. Most varieties cook from a dry state in less than 30 minutes, so they work well for an unplanned, on-the-fly dinner. Lentils also work well in a wide range of dishes including soups, salads, tacos, pasta dishes and much more.
Varieties of lentils
The main varieties of lentils available in most grocery stores are red, brown and green lentils. Other specialty varieties that I’ve cooked with are Black Beluga Lentils and French Lentils. These varieties are generally found in specialty food stores though some larger grocery chains may carry them.
- Red lentils are actually a pale pink color and they cook the quickest of all lentil types. They do tend to fall apart and get kind of mushy. Since they don’t hold their shape I do not recommend using them in salads, tacos or with heavy sauces. Personally, I prefer to use them in soups as they kind of add a creamy consistency since they tend to get mushy.
- Brown and green lentils are generally similar in terms of consistency though their flavors may differ a bit. These are generally flatter, but hold their shape well when cooked so you can use them in just about any type of dish. Just be sure not to overcook as they will quickly get mushy.
- Specialty lentils such as Black Beluga and French Puy both have a rounder type of shape than the other types. When cooked they keep their rounded shape and have more of a creamy to firm texture than other types of lentils. Both of these specialty varieties are great to use in stews, tacos and with pasta.
Cooking tips for lentil and brown rice stuffed peppers
When cooking lentils and brown rice for this recipe you can use any of the varieties I mentioned above except for the red lentils as I think they just will not hold up well enough in the recipe since they get so mushy.
So if spending an hour on cooking dinner, is just unfathomable for you, it is possible to prep up the rice and lentils ahead of time. That’s actually what I did when preparing the recipe to take photos (and eat for my dinner).
If you do cook the lentils and brown rice ahead of time, I suggest reheating it in a pan on top of the stove for a few minutes to just warm it up. That way it won’t take so long in the oven. It may be a little dry when reheated, if so just add a bit of water.
Also, there’s some flexibility here with this recipe, so if you prefer something a little bit spicier consider using poblano peppers or other spicy pepper in place of the red bell pepper. Really, just about any type of pepper will work.
There is a possibility that you may have filling leftover after preparing, but if that happens just save the filling for later in the week and use it to make tacos or just heat and eat topped with some salsa, avocado and sour cream.
Spicy Lentil and Brown Rice Stuffed Peppers
- ½ medium onion finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 T olive oil
- 3/4 cup brown rice
- 14 oz can of whole tomatoes with juice
- 1 cup dry brown or green lentils
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 T chili powder
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 6 medium red bell peppers
- ¾ cup cheddar or mozzarella cheese
- Heat 1 T olive oil in a pan.
- When ready, add onion and cook until translucent stirring frequently so that onion doesn’t burn. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds stirring well.
- Add one can of whole tomatoes along with the juice and break apart the large chunks into smaller pieces.
- Add ¾ cup of rice and ¾ cup of water. Cook for about 30 minutes or until rice is cooked through. Check frequently and add more water if needed while cooking.
- While the rice is cooking, place 2 ½ cup of water in pan and add rinsed lentils and ½ tsp salt and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20-30 minutes or until tender. Be sure not to overcook to the point where the lentils are mushy. Add a bit more water as needed. When they are cooked, drain off any excess water.
- Once both are ready, set aside and allow them to cool a bit.
Prep and stuff peppers
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- While the rice and lentils are cooling, cut peppers in half and remove the stem, seeds and trim the inside to make more space.
- Heat up a large pot of water to boiling. Place peppers into hot boiling water for five minutes and then remove.
- Place the peppers with the open side facing up into a lightly sprayed baking dish.
- Mix together rice, lentils, cumin, chili powder, oregano and cayenne pepper.
- Fill each pepper with filling, gently press down but it’s ok if the filling mounds up over the pepper top. Each pepper should hold about ½ cup or so of the lentil and rice mixture.
- Top each pepper half with 1T of cheese and bake at 350 degrees until heated and cheese is melted, approximately 10- 15 minutes.
Did you try out this recipe using lentils and brown rice? If so, share your pictures on Instagram and be sure to tag @cook.eat.live.love. If you have any comments on this recipe or other content you would like to see, please comment here on the blog or send me a message via any social media or the contact me page.
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