Slow Cooker Lentil Soup
This is one of my favorite soups, especially in the winter or on a rainy day. Lentils are relatively quick and easy to prepare when compared to other dried beans, and their low cost makes them an accessible form of high-quality protein for many people around the world.
Lentils, a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only do lentils help lower cholesterol, they are of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. But this is far from all lentils have to offer. Lentils also provide good to excellent amounts of seven important minerals, our B-vitamins, and protein—all with virtually no fat.
One cup of cooked lentils contains:
18 grams of protein
1 gram of fat
40 grams of carbohydrates (including 16 grams of fiber and 4 grams of sugar)
That same 1 cup serving provides the following proportion of your daily intake:
90 percent of folate
37 percent of iron
49 percent of manganese
36 percent of phosphorus
22 percent of thiamin
21 percent of potassium
18 percent of vitamin B6
Lentils are also a source of riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
Eat This With That
Lentils are so versatile. You can add lentils to any soup or stew recipe to add extra nutrients and fiber. Precook lentils and keep in your refrigerator for a quick protein source. Use lentils in place of beans in any recipe. Make a lentil dip by smashing cooked lentils with a fork and adding garlic, onion, chili powder, and chopped tomatoes.
Brown lentils are the least expensive and soften the most upon cooking; they are best used in soups in stews. Green lentils have a nuttier flavor. They stay firm when cooked and make great salad or taco toppers. Red lentils have a more mild taste and cook the fastest. They are typically used in Indian dals and purees. Black lentils, also known as beluga lentils for their resemblance to caviar when cooked.
I use green or brown mostly when making slower-cooker lentil soup. You can also make this Whole Wheat Pasta and Lentil Dish that fits the bill for any night of the week when you have little time and want something quick and filling. You can vary the lentils, the shape of the pasta or the add-ins. Add a side of broccoli rabe and/or a side salad and you have a complete nutritious meal.
Lighten It Up
For a lighter flavor; replace the broth with 4 cups of water. Also, use Canadian bacon instead of regular bacon.
To make this vegetarian, substitute a cup of sliced shiitake mushroom caps for the bacon and use vegetable broth.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 6 Hours
- 2 medium carrots, peeled, roughly chopped
- 2 ribs of medium celery, roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves, minced
- 2 cups dry lentils, picked over
- 3 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 8 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 4-5 slices of nitrate-free bacon
- Place all ingredients in a 4-5 quart slow cooker in the following order: carrots, celery, onion, garlic, lentils, bay leaves thyme, salt, pepper, and broth. Cover slow cooker; cook on low setting for 6 hours. Uncover, stir in bacon and heat for 30 minutes more; remove bay leaves.