The humble lentil is a nutritional powerhouse. Packed with protein and fiber, this simple legume doesn’t get nearly enough credit for its versatility. But that may be changing. Foodservice operators are using lentils in unique and tasty ways on menus. Check out three ways to use lentils in creative, craveable dishes.
Globally inspired dishes
According to Technomic’s Ignite menu data, curry dishes featuring lentils are up 5.4% on menus year over year, and about 63% of college and university foodservice programs feature lentils. College students’ interest in plant-based dining, as well as their tendency to be more open to global flavors than older age groups, may be fueling the lentil trend. Try menuing dishes from around the globe that feature lentils.
For instance, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., students can order Moroccan Bulgur and Lentil Pilaf, a vegetarian lunch option. And at the University of Minnesota’s Sandford Dining Hall, diners can enjoy Cauliflower Lentil Curry, made with cauliflower, carrots and broccoli in coconut curry sauce with turmeric, over lentils.
Lentil soup is a classic menu staple, but variations on this staple keep the soup fresh. Operators both commercial and noncommercial are experimenting with unique ingredients in their lentil soups, such as cauliflower, barley, kale, sausage and more. Try adding a hearty scoop of lentils to tomato soups to make them a bit more filling or add them to classic bean-and-vegetable soups such as minestrone for a boost of nutrition. Try using different varieties of lentils, too.
At University of California – Los Angeles, several dining halls offer Black Lentil Soup, which is a vegan and halal-friendly option. And at the Bohemian Hotel Savannah in Orlando, Fla., diners can order French Green Lentil Soup, featuring vegetable broth, carrots, onion, celery, smoked sea salt, a lime wedge and microgreens.
Plant-based meat alternatives
Lentils are a popular component of plant-based burgers or meatballs. Blended with other ingredients, including rice, farro or barley, as well as veggies such as spinach or red bell pepper, lentils can be used to make hearty, vegetarian or vegan options for diners looking for a plant-based alternative to their favorite foods. At Boston University, for instance, BBQ Lentil Meatball Subs are available on Fridays. Foodservice operators can also form lentil patties to make tasty “burgers” that can be topped with cheese to mimic a standard cheeseburger. They can also be topped with unique ingredients: Try spinach and feta for a Greek-inspired option, or roasted, cubed winter squash and goat cheese to incorporate fall flavors.
Lentils, small yet mighty legumes, are perfect for menus of all types. Operators have plenty of opportunities to highlight this delicious ingredient, from vegan and vegetarian options to hearty soups and global-inspired dishes galore.
This post is sponsored by Furmano’s