Did you know that Canada is the largest producer and exporter of lentils? Canada began growing lentils in the 1970s and has over 5,000 active lentil farmers today! Lentils are produced in pods attached to the lentil plant, which are planted in May and harvested in mid-August.
Lentils are legumes with many different varieties: whole green, whole red, split red, French green, and beluga/black lentils. Split lentils typically cook much faster than whole. They break down quickly and are great to use as thickeners for soups, in curries and purees. Whole lentils, which are used in the chili recipe below, keep their shape and give texture to dishes.
Lentils are very high in fiber and protein. One serving, or ½ cup cooked lentils, contains about 8 grams (g) of dietary fiber and 9 g of protein. Fiber is important for gut health. It slows digestion which helps control blood sugar levels and keeps us feeling fuller for longer. Daily recommended amount of dietary fiber is 25 g for women and 38 g for men. So one serving of lentils will give you about 21-32% of your recommended daily intake! Lentils also contain several important vitamins and minerals: potassium, folate, iron, and manganese. Potassium is involved in regulating blood pressure. Folate helps support proper nerve function. Iron plays an important role in carrying oxygen to the cells so they can produce energy. Manganese helps regulate blood sugar levels. These vitamins and minerals are key players in major functions of our bodies, which make lentils a very nutritious food choice!
The Lentil Chili and Macaroni Skillet recipe below is a one-pan meal that is super easy to make. This comforting chili is perfect for a quick weeknight meal. For more delicious lentil recipes, check out lentils.org!
Lentil Chili and Macaroni Skillet
- 1 lb bacon chopped
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper chopped
- 1 cup frozen or fresh corn
- 1 ½ Tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups cooked green lentils
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
- 1 cup elbow macaroni I used Banza chickpea elbows
- ½ cup water
- 1 ½ cup extra sharp white cheddar
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Cook bacon over medium heat in large oven-safe skillet until desired level of crispiness. If you don’t have an oven-safe pan, you can transfer to a baking dish before putting in the oven. Take bacon out with slotted spoon and set aside on paper towel lined plate.
- Add onion, bell peppers, and corn to skillet and cook until onions are translucent. Stir in chili powder, cumin, coriander, dried oregano, salt, sugar, pepper and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add lentils, crushed and diced tomatoes, macaroni, and water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes until macaroni is cooked all the way through, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the bacon pieces. Top with cheese. Bake for about 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Broil for a few minutes to get the top extra bubbly, if desired.
Guest blogger: Seena Curry is a dietetics student at University of Alabama and expects to graduate in December. She hopes to find a career as a Registered Dietitian that combines her passions for food, nutrition education, and serving her community. Seena is a hobbyist food photographer and has an Instagram dedicated to her favorite recipes (sc_balancedeats).