Lentils are a great vegetarian alternative to ground beef, they are delicious healthy & easy! Here’s how to substitute lentils for ground beef in any recipe!
Since becoming a vegetarian several months ago I get asked a lot…
What do you eat?
When the typical meal for most people involves meat in some form the idea of going without it is strange.
What I’ve learned is how to make some easy substitutions that can replace meat in most dishes, without having to change the recipe too much.
One of my favorite is lentils… seriously I think I’m keeping the lentil farmers in business. When Aldi had organic lentils on clearance for $1 a bag I literally did a happy dance in the store and bought the last 5 bags… sometimes I think I’m cool, then stuff like that happens and I realize I am not.
Even if you’re not a vegetarian, knowing how to cook these tasty little legumes and how to use them in recipes has great benefits.
Lentils cost around $2 a lb and that will yield 5-7 cups of cooked lentils. Ground beef comes in at $4-$8 a lb and yields about 1 1/2 cups of cooked ground beef. So one bag of lentils is a fraction of the price and you can cook multiple meals from it!
Lentils are also chock full of health benefits, each serving has about 9 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, more iron, magnesium and potassium then ground beef, virtually no fat and only 2 milligrams of sodium vs beefs 76!!
So how can we substitute lentils for ground beef ?
Think of cooked lentils as crumbled cooked ground beef. What ever you would use the beef for you can use lentils instead. They are great as taco filling, made into sloppy joes, mixed into marinara sauce, tossed into fried rice, you can use them in shepherds pie or even on nachos! There are so many recipes you probably cook all the time where you can substitute lentils for ground beef!
They are very versatile and can be seasoned in so many way. You can mix them up in Mexican, Italian, or Asian dishes and they will take on the flavors beautifully.
There are lots of different varieties of lentils. The most common, and the one I always use are brown lentils. Green are very similar and work really well too. Other varieties are smaller or split tend to cook a little softer and don’t make as great a substitution for ground beef.
How much do I cook?
Like I said before, depending on the fat content of ground beef 1 pound cooks down to about 1 1/2 cups of meat. That is good to know when you want to make the substitution. Most recipes call for ground meat by the pound. You can substitute 1 1/2 -2 cups of cooked lentils for a pound of ground beef in most recipes.
How do you cook lentils?
Lentils are also incredibly easy too cook. You need a basic 1-2 ratio like cooking rice. For every one cup of lentils you need 2 cups of water.
1 cup of dry lentils will be about 2 cups cooked.
To make them just add 2 cups of water (you can also use broth) and one cup of lentils in a pan. Bring it to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 35-40 minutes. Check throughout the cooking and add water if needed to keep the lentils covered. In the last 10 minutes of cooking add a pinch of salt.
Once they are cooked drain off any excess water and they are ready to use!
How ever you choose to use them you won’t be disappointed, and you may discover you like the lentil version even better than the meat one!
Want to give it a try? Here are some classic recipes made over with lentils instead of ground beef!
Lentil Taco “Meat” – in the Instant Pot
What recipes do you have where you could substitute lentils for ground beef ? Have you ever tried it!??
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This is very useful! I DO eat ground beef but I love, love, love lentils. I’d love lentil tacos. Yum.
Valerie L. Wilson says
This was super helpful, thanks!
I’m going to try lentils in chili.
It doesn’t say what type of lentils. There are red, brown, green types. I know that red lentils are good for spaghetti sauce.
Happy to be vegetarian. 🙂
LuAnn Bowen says
I’m thinking of using lentils with hamburger as an extender too. Either way, I’m on board!
Such helpful information! Thank you so much for posting.