We love lentils for their earthy flavor and tender yet meaty texture. And done right, they pair well with a multitude of flavors. The key is building complexity from the beginning. A whole head of garlic flavors the cooking water for our Lentil Salad With Gorgonzola, to which we add toasted walnuts for crunch. Peppery French green lentils combine with the sweetness of apple cider in a simple and hearty braise topped with pickled apples and radishes. And we lighten our version of lentils with Spanish chorizo by turning it into a soup, brightened with a dash of sherry vinegar.

Note: Don’t substitute brown lentils when French green lentils are called for. Brown lentils have a milder flavor and softer texture, and cook much more quickly than green lentils. Green lentils are also sold as lentils du Puy.


Cider-Braised Lentils With Apple-Radish Pickles

Makes 6 servings

For efficiency, prep the radishes and the apple while the lentils simmer. You could serve this as a vegetarian meal, or garnish it with ribbons of prosciutto. It’s also a great accompaniment to garlicky sausages.

4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter, divided

4 large shallots, sliced into thin rings, layers separated

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 sprigs fresh thyme, plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1 cup apple cider

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1½ cups French green lentils, rinsed and drained

3 tablespoons cider vinegar, divided

4 medium radishes, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

1 Granny Smith apple, cored, thinly sliced, and cut into rough ½-inch squares

5 ounces chèvre (fresh goat cheese), crumbled

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter, occasionally swirling the pan, until the milk solids at the bottom begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Add three quarters of the shallots and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme sprigs and cook until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.


Stir in the cider, mustard, 2½ teaspoons salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cider has almost completely reduced, about 6 minutes. Add 3½ cups water and the lentils, then bring to a simmer. Reduce to low heat, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, 45 to 50 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the vinegar and 2 teaspoons salt and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the radishes, apple, and the remaining shallots. Toss to combine and set aside.

Taste the lentils and season with salt and pepper. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs, then stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, the chopped thyme, and the remaining 1 tablespoon cider vinegar. Transfer to a bowl and serve with the apple-radish mixture and goat cheese on the side.

Spanish Lentil and Chorizo Soup

Makes 4 servings

Spanish lentil and chorizo soup.
Spanish lentil and chorizo soup.Connie Miller of CB Creatives

This flavorful soup is a lighter, fresher take on Spanish lentejas con chorizo, a thick lentil and chorizo stew, and, thanks to canned lentils, it’s quicker to prepare. We like smoked hot paprika here, but if you only have smoked sweet paprika, add ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper for a little heat. Serve with crusty bread.

Don’t use Mexican fresh chorizo in this recipe; the smoky intensity of cured Spanish chorizo is essential for developing flavor in the broth. Also, don’t allow the soup to boil, as this toughens the chorizo; aim for a gentle simmer.


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 medium garlic cloves, chopped

3 medium carrots, peeled and shredded on the large holes of a box grater

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons smoked hot paprika

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Two 15½-ounce cans brown lentils, rinsed and drained

6 ounces Spanish chorizo, halved lengthwise and sliced ¼ inch thick

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 ounce baby arugula (about 2 cups lightly packed)

Set a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the oil, and heat until shimmering Add the garlic, carrots, onion, tomato paste, paprika, and 2 teaspoons salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 6 minutes.

Stir in the lentils, chorizo, bay leaves, and 6 cups water. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

Off heat, stir in the vinegar, then remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and top with arugula.

Lentil Salad With Gorgonzola

Makes 6 servings

Lentil salad with gorgonzola.
Lentil salad with gorgonzola.Connie Miller of CB Creatives

Simmering the cooking liquid with vegetables and aromatics before adding the lentils infuses the dish with plenty of flavor and keeps it from turning mushy. A whole head of garlic, cooked with the lentils, flavors and thickens the dressing.


½ cup white balsamic vinegar

2 medium shallots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 garlic head

2 medium carrots, halved crosswise

1 celery rib, halved crosswise

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

6 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1½ cups (10 ounces) French green lentils, sorted and rinsed

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 ounces Gorgonzola, crumbled (about ¾ cup)

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

In a liquid measuring cup, combine the vinegar, shallots, and 1 teaspoon salt. Set aside. Meanwhile, cut off and discard the top third of the garlic head, leaving the head intact. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the garlic, 6 cups water, the carrots, celery, mustard seeds, thyme, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard the carrot, celery, bay leaves, and thyme.

Return the pot to medium-high heat and stir in the lentils. Return to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the garlic and set aside. Drain the lentils, reserving the liquid, and transfer them to a large bowl. Stir in the vinegar-shallot mixture and let cool to room temperature.

Squeeze the pulp from the garlic into a bowl and mash it with a fork. Stir in ¼ cup of the reserved cooking water, the oil, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir the garlic mixture, half of the cheese, the parsley, and half of the walnuts into the lentils. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a platter and top with the remaining cheese and walnuts.


Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.