Pantry items are a whole lot easier to incorporate into meals when you get them cooked. This photo is of a salad I threw together last week with grated beets, garbanzo beans, tahini dressing, and my latest obsession—crispy lentils.
Thanks to Anna Jones and her beautiful book, The Modern Cook’s Year, I now know that you can make a batch of crispy lentils by starting with the harder, Du Puy (French green) lentils, boiling until tender, then oven roasting with a little olive oil. You can spread these steps over days if you want to enjoy some of the lentils in a softer style (for example, dressed with a vinaigrette and served with duck confit and chicories) then make the crispy lentils later.
Once you oven roast the cooked lentils to crispiness, they stay crispy even if you keep them in the refrigerator, which makes them a delicious and convenient way to add crunch and protein to salads, sheet pan dinners, and bowls. Get the best organic “French green lentils” from Timeless Foods.
Crispy French Lentils
makes 1 sheet pan full, about 2 ½ cups
- 1 cup dry French green lentils ("Du Puy" and "Le Puy", same thing)
- 2 ½ cups water
- a pinch of kosher salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- zest from 1 lemon optional
- kosher salt
Start by cooking some French green lentils—or if you're really lucky, you already have some cooked and in the refrigerator.
Bring water to boil, add a pinch or two of salt, and the lentils. Cook at a slow simmer for about twenty minutes, just until al dente. Taste some as you are getting close to the end time so you don't get them too soft.
Drain the lentils in a colander over the sink, shaking out as much water as possible, then turn out onto a clean kitchen towel to pat dry. (White flour sack towels are the best for this and save you from using too many paper towels, but those work too.)
Make the Lentils Crispy
Preheat oven to 425° F.
On a rimmed sheet pan, mix the cooked (and patted dry) lentils with the olive oil, lemon zest (if using), and a sprinkling of salt. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes at which time they should be sizzling and crispy. Keep a careful eye on them if you go longer, as they will burn (and that is sad).