Golden Lentils With Soft, Sweet Onions 8.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post; tableware from Crate and Barrel

Weeknight Vegetarian Jan 8, 2014

Red lentils are what you want when you're after something comforting and soft: They lose their shape during cooking, resulting in an appealing mash. Simply adding caramelized onions turns them into something truly memorable -- and versatile.

In summer, top with chopped tomatoes; in winter, go with pomegranate seeds and yogurt.

Serve as an appetizer, a side dish or part of a collection of small plates.

Make Ahead: The dish can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost, then reheat in a 250-degree oven or in the microwave on LOW.

8 - 10

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Tested size: 8-10 servings; makes 5 cups

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
  • 2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed
  • 5 cups water
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Ground cayenne pepper


Pour the oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onions, stirring to coat; cook until the onions wilt, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes. Add the 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are super soft and very sweet, 10 to 20 minutes or longer, if needed. Stir in the 2 tablespoons of vinegar during the last 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the lentils and water in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low until barely bubbling around the edges (use a heat diffuser, if you have one, underneath). Partially cover and cook gently until the lentils are perfectly soft, about 40 minutes. The mash will be supple at this stage. If you'd like it stiffer, simmer uncovered for a little longer.

Add the lentils to the onions, stirring to thoroughly blend; taste, and add salt and/or vinegar as needed. Season to taste with black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "The Heart of the Plate," by Mollie Katzen (Houghton Mifflin, 2013).

Tested by Joe Yonan.

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