This lentils and rice recipe is a hearty and complete meal made from super economical ingredients. It’s easy to make and packed with flavour!
If you’re looking for a way to combine rice and lentils into a dish that’s NOT mujadara, you’ve come to the right place!
Lentils and rice are two very versatile and healthy ingredients that can be spiced and seasoned in a million different ways.
For this recipe, I took inspiration from my Spanish vegan lentil stew and incorporated Mediterranean vegetables and a touch of Spanish smoked paprika.
All the ingredients are cheap and accessible and this recipe is super easy to prepare.
This vegan dish makes a satisfying main, or can be served as a side or brought along to a potluck or barbecue.
Are lentils and rice healthy?
You bet they are!
A recent study found that changing from the typical Western diet to an optimal diet could extend life expectancy by more than 10 years, with the biggest impact on life expectancy being made by eating more legumes, whole grains and nuts.
Lentils and rice contain all the necessary dietary minerals. They’re high in B vitamins, folate, fibre and protein, and low in fat.
Lentils help to reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels.
While brown rice is higher in certain nutrients than white rice, white rice is a daily staple food across the world and in countries where people have a much lower incidence of chronic diseases than Western countries.
Plant-based meals such as these lentils and rice are a much healthier choice than the meat- and dairy-heavy standard Western diet.
Are lentils and rice a complete protein?
Foods that have all 9 essential amino acids are called “complete” proteins. Foods that lack one or more essential amino acids are called “incomplete”.
Lentils and rice are both “incomplete” proteins, but pairing them together will form a “complete” protein.
HOWEVER, protein combining is a myth and the terms “complete” and “incomplete” protein are outdated.
It was a popular theory in the 1970s that vegetarians had to eat rice and legumes together in each meal to avoid deficiencies.
This has been debunked.
It is now known that the human body takes whatever essential amino acids it needs from whatever food we consume throughout the day.
Rice and lentils are nutritious and delicious. No need to worry about how “complete” it is.
Cooking lentils and rice together
You may have noticed a lot of recipes on the internet are titled “one-pot lentils and rice”.
While it’s convenient to cook them together, it’s hard to get it right.
Since lentils and rice have different cooking times, throwing them into a pot together often leads to mush.
Usually, the rice will be overcooked and falling apart by the time the lentils are done.
My recipe takes the different approach of steaming the rice with the perfect amount of stock. This makes the rice super flavourful. Meanwhile, the lentils are cooked in a separate pot.
The end result is perfectly cooked lentils and rice that are combined at the end without ending up as a bowl of mush!
Ingredients you’ll need
The ingredients for these lentils and rice are cheap and easily accessible. After all, veganism expensive or a luxury; it’s very easy to eat vegan on a budget!
Long-grain white rice: Long-grain rice has less starch than short-grain rice so it cooks up less sticky and is a better choice for this pilaf-style recipe. This recipe is written for white rice. Swapping brown rice will require adjustments in the liquid measurement and cooking time.
Dried lentils: I used green lentils but you can use brown lentils. They have different cooking times but it doesn’t matter since the lentils are cooked separately from the rice. You can skip cooking the lentils and just use canned if you prefer.
Olive oil: To fry the vegetables. If you’re oil-free you can use water. Or you can use any other type of oil, it doesn’t really matter.
Onion and garlic: This is the flavour base for our rice.
Carrots: Carrots are a delicious and cheap vegetable that add a touch of sweetness.
Green pepper: I use green pepper but any colour of bell pepper will work. If you don’t have bell pepper, you can substitute celery.
Tomato: The juice from the tomato helps to add flavour to the rice.
Vegetable stock cube: A stock cube mixed with water boosts flavour and is significantly cheaper than bottled vegetable stock. I used a whole cube but you may need to adjust the amount depending on the saltiness and strength of your stock cubes.
Smoked paprika: This is my favourite spice to add a touch of smokiness to vegan dishes.
Soy sauce: I use this to add a bit of umami and extra flavour to the stock. If your stock cube is salty enough, you can leave this out.
How to make lentils and rice
This vegan lentils and rice dish is very easy to make and ready in about 30 minutes!
Preparation: Lentils don’t need to be soaked before cooking but it’s a good idea to give them a rinse to get off any dust and debris. You can also check for any small stones that may be mixed in.
Place the lentils in a strainer and run them under cool water while swirling them with your hand.
The rice should also be rinsed in the same way as the lentils in order to remove the excess starch. This will help prevent the rice from cooking up mushy.
Finely dice all the vegetables. The smaller you dice them, the faster they will cook and I like this recipe to be quick!
Finally, dissolve the stock cube in warm water and add the soy sauce.
Cook the lentils: Place the rinsed lentils in a small pot with abundant water. Bring the pot to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Cook until the lentils are tender.
Fry the veggies: While the lentils are cooking, place the onion, garlic, carrots, bell pepper and tomato in a medium-sized pot with the oil and fry until tender.
The bottom of the pot will have a kind of juicy sauce.
Season: Add the smoked paprika to the vegetables and cook, stirring continuously so that the paprika doesn’t burn, for 30 seconds to a minute, or until the paprika is fragrant.
Cook the rice: Add the rinsed rice to the pot of vegetables and pour in the prepared vegetable stock. Mix it all up well.
Bring to a boil, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
Cook for 12 - 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. It helps if your pot lid is clear glass so you can check it without lifting the lid.
Once the water is absorbed, turn off the heat but do not remove the lid. Let the rice steam for a further 10 minutes.
Combine: When the lentils have cooked until tender, drain off any excess water.
Add the lentils to the pot of rice and vegetables and gently stir it up to combine.
Variations and substitutions
Vegetable substitutions: Lentils and rice go with a variety of different vegetables. Parsnips, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, diced sweet potato or butternut squash, peas, etc.
Rice and lentil substitutions: I used generic long-grain rice but basmati or jasmine rice will also work. This recipe is written for white rice. If you want to use brown rice, you will need longer cooking time (about 35 minutes) and possibly more liquid.
You can use either brown, green or black lentils. Red or yellow lentils break down while cooking and are better for things like red lentil curry than for this recipe.
Herbs: Add in some dried basil, oregano or thyme. Garnish with some fresh chopped parsley, cilantro or green onion.
Use it as a filling: You can serve these lentils and rice as a main or side dish. You can also use it as a filling for stuffed peppers or stuffed zucchini, or in veggie wraps, burritos or tacos.
For this recipe I recommend brown, green or black lentils which hold their shape when cooked. I don’t recommend red or yellow lentils because they break down when cooked.
No, you don’t need to soak lentils before cooking. Dried lentils cook much faster than dried beans and soaking them won’t save you too much time anyway.
Yes, you can use canned lentils instead of cooking dried lentils.
Yes, you can use brown rice but the cooking time will be much longer - about 35 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot in case you need to add more water or stock.
Sure, but you should reduce the amount of stock to ½ cup. First sauté the vegetables. Add the rice and vegetable stock. Cook on high for 4 minutes, then do a natural release for 10 minutes. Stir in the cooked lentils. Lentils need longer to cook so you can cook them first or use canned lentils.
Make ahead and storage tips
This recipe is great for vegan meal prep because it can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
It also tastes great hot or cold and can be eaten as-is or used as a filling for wraps or burritos.
Lentils and rice can be reheated in the microwave or in a pan on the stovetop.
To freeze, allow to cool completely then transfer to a freezer bag. Squeeze out all the air then freeze for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
What to serve with lentils and rice
Serve lentils and rice as a main dish, a side dish or as a filling.
- A green salad
- Fresh bread, garlic bread or vegan cheesy bread
- You favourite steamed or roasted vegetable
- Baked potatoes or sweet potatoes
- Choose your favourite vegan soup recipe
Lentils and Rice
- ½ cup (115 grams) dried brown or green lentils
- ½ cup (115 grams) long-grain white rice
- 1 cup (240 ml) warm water
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ medium onion finely diced
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 carrots peeled and finely diced
- 1 green pepper finely diced
- 1 large tomato
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Place the lentils in a strainer and run them under cool water to rinse. Transfer to a small pot and cover with abundant water. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer until tender - about 15 - 20 minutes, then drain off the excess water.
- Place the rice in a strainer and rinse under cool water, swirling it through your fingers to remove the excess starch. Set aside.
- Combine the warm water and stock cube. If your brand of stock cube is really salty, you may want to use just half of it. Stir well to dissolve the cube as much as possible. Add the soy sauce and set aside.
- In a medium-sized pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, green pepper, carrots and tomato. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are mostly tender - about 10 minutes.
- Add the paprika and fry, stirring, for 30 seconds to bring out the flavour.
- Add the rice and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer until all the liquid is absorbed - 12 to 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and, without removing the lid, allow to steam for 10 minutes.
- Uncover the pot, add the cooked lentils and combine.
Leave a Reply