I really love lentils, but lentils don’t always love me back. Whenever I make a salad or grain bowl and add in a cup of cooked brown/green/black lentils as my protein source you can bet my stomach will be singing a tune not long after lunch. My co-worker jokes that it’s “concert time” because my digestive system is hard at work! Does this happen to anyone else?
These sounds and movements, however, are music to my dietitian ears because it reminds me of the powerhouse nutrition they are packed with. Lentils are naturally gluten-free and so can please many diners, they are low on the glycemic index and actualy aid in blood sugar control, and they are naturally low in fat but definitely help provide belly-filling satisfaction. To get a little more nerdy, a serving of lentils contains:
26 grams of protein (the same amount of beef contains 27 grams)
72% of your daily fiber needs (a whopping 18 grams!)
copious amounts of folate and iron (which is tough to get from non-animal food sources)
So, despite some gurgling and normal passing of these high-fiber legumes, I truly love including lentils in my plant-based eats for their nutritional benefit. Plus, they taste delicious and are so easy to cook! Determined to continue including them, but with less digestive distress, I have played around with different cooking methods and have been pleasantly surprised to learn that processing lentils, by first soaking them well and then blending or pureeing them, lessens the post-meal concert- hurray!
Lentil “meatballs” or as I’ve just thought of, “plantballs”, have become my new favorite meal prep and protein addition to lunches and dinners. I originally got the idea for these gluten-free and vegan lentil balls from my friend Gena Hamshaw of The Full Helping. I had the pleasure of hosting Gena as a dietetic intern and during our time together I became an avid follower of her blog and have since made many delicious recipes from her book, which she graciously gifted me. Her passion for all things plant-based is approachable and non-judgmental, making it easy for anyone to feel more comfortable incorporating more vegan meals into their eating habits.
I happily served these meatballs straight from the fridge over a green salad with plenty of fresh summer veggies, but they would also work well heated up with some brown rice and steamed or sauteed broccoli and cauliflower, or roasted carrots and cabbage.
1/2 cup dried black lentils
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
In a medium pot, bring the lentils and 2 cups of water to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and add cooled lentils to a food processor.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a medium baking tray with parchment paper.
To the bowl of the food processor add the oats, cashews, curry powder, turmeric, black pepper, salt, and red wine vinegar. Process for a few second until a coarse mixture is formed. Add in the water and pulse again until the mixture starts to stick together. A touch more water or olive oil might be needed, but 2 tablespoons worked well for me.
Use your clean hands to form the mixture into 12 equal meatballs. Set the meatballs on the baking tray and place tray in the oven to cook for 10-12 minutes until the outsides start to turn golden.
Serve lentil meatballs warm or cold as suggested above. Meatballs will keep fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days and in the freezer for 2-3 months.