When I told my mom the other day that I was making lentils, she was quiet for a moment before asking, “What?”  See, lentils aren’t on the list of traditional Southern foods.  If I had told her I was making butter beans or black-eyed peas, there would have been no questions.

When I told Michael I was making lentils, he, too, asked, “What?”  But I said, “They’re kind of like little tiny beans.”  And he was fine with that.  Yes, I know they’re not really tiny little beans.  That was just the easiest explanation I could come up with!

I am making a concentrated effort to make least two really, really cheap meals each week.  Sometimes that means that the entire meal comes from the freezer – whether the foods all go together or not.  But sometimes, like with the lentils, it means that I make something that is really, really, really cheap!

The lentils were seventy-nine cents for a pound bag, the onions and rice were around a dollar each.  So I fed my entire tribe of very hearty eaters for less than three dollars!  There were leftovers, too.  Seriously!  You can’t beat that with a stick!

Lentils with Caramelized Onions

  • 1 pound of dried lentils
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 2-3 medium onions, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt
  • 2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 6 cups of cooked rice
  • 4 tablespoons of butter

Pour lentils into a large pot and add the water.  Add the spices and seasonings and stir.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to medium.  Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a cup more water, if necessary.  When lentils are as soft as you’d like them, remove the pot from the heat.

In a large skillet, drizzle olive oil and add onions and a pinch of salt.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until onions are golden and caramelized.  Don’t rush this process and turn up the heat.  It took about 20 minutes to get the onions to this point.


Add the balsamic vinegar and stir for 1-2 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon to drain the juices, add about 3 cups of the cooked lentils to the onions and stir to combine until warmed through.

While the onions are cooking, cook the rice according to package directions, being sure to add salt.  Once rice is cooked, add the butter in slices and stir through until melted.

To plate, scoop rice onto the plate to the make a bed and then top with the onion and lentil mixture.

Well Duh #1:  Pumpkin pie spice?  Okay, you can leave that out, if you’d like.  I was going for some Mediterranean flavors and discovered that I didn’t have cinnamon.  The pumpkin pie spice was as close as I could get!  It was really good!  And it smelled so good as it was cooking!

Well Duh #2:  I didn’t use all of the lentils in this dish, even though I cooked the whole bag.  You could certainly add all of them to the skillet, but I knew my family would like a higher ratio of onions to lentils.  I had about 2 cups of cooked lentils left over and somebody ate them out of the refrigerator the next day.

Well #3:  We ate ours topped with a little green tomato relish that I canned a couple of summers ago.  The spicy/sweet/vinegary flavor of the relish really complimented the lentils.  You can find similar pepper relishes in most grocery stores.

Well #4:  Cook the lentils until they are as soft as you like them.  We like ours really soft.

The verdict?  Everybody loved it!  A three-dollar dinner that feeds my whole family and makes them happy?  I’ll take it!


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