Barbecue Lentils

December 28, 2009
2 Ratings
  • Serves 2-3
Author Notes

I first made this recipe to go with some simple grilled fish and set it all on a bed of spinach. But since then I've made it again and again, more often than not as a homey vegetarian main course. Served over toast, it resembles a lentil-based sloppy joe; over mashed potatoes, it's comfort food extraordinaire. I like to use black lentils in this dish, since they hold their shape--I figure lentils are humble enough without them bursting and turning to mush. —Cara Eisenpress

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup black lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, one minced, one whole
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup sweet potato, diced
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 dash Worcestershire sauce
  1. Bring the lentils to a boil with 3 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, the bay leaf, and the whole clove of garlic. Simmer, uncovered, 30-35 minutes, until the lentils are soft but hold their shape. Toward the end of cooking, add 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and minced garlic and saute until soft and slightly brown. Add the sweet potatoes and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cayenne and ginger, tossing to coat the vegetables, then add the ketchup, mustard, sugar, vinegar, and remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and bring to a simmer.
  3. Drain the lentils, reserving the cooking water, and add them and about 1/2 cup of cooking water to the pan. Keep simmering until the sauce coats the lentils and is no longer soupy. Taste for balance of flavors, adding more sugar, vinegar, salt, or cayenne as necessary.
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I'm the founder, editor, and head chef at the blog Big Girls, Small Kitchen (, a site dedicated to easy-to-execute recipes and stories from a quarter-life kitchen. I'm also the author of In the Small Kitchen published in 2011.

12 Reviews

Odegaard January 3, 2016
Flavorful & delicious! I doubled the recipe and felt the vinegar was a bit much, so will tone down next time. Served it on hearty toast and might top with a little parmesan for tomorrow's lunch. It definitely has heat -- but not too much. I recommend using a high quality, flavorful ketchup. Thanks for the recipe!
Mamax3 September 16, 2014
I made this last night and had leftovers for lunch today! So good. I served it with garlic bread and homemade baked fries. Served up BBQ style!
Brenda R. August 24, 2014
Could I make this with red lentils instead? I don't have regular lentils or black lentils
leahkv October 30, 2013
this was kinda gross.
AmieVV821 October 30, 2012
So good! Served with rice and was delicious!
LloJo February 4, 2011
I made a variation of this this week; it was a great idea! I used smoked paprika and a scant sprinkle of chipotle powder. Loved the sweet potato in it. always looking for new ways to use lentils. Served it just with some basmati. Yum. Thanks!
Maria T. December 30, 2009
Looks very good indeed, I like the sweet potato and ginger idea. Thanks for sharing the recipe
lastnightsdinner December 30, 2009
Love this twist on lentils - yum!
testkitchenette December 29, 2009
I have just made these for dinner, they are great Cara! I am serving them over big polenta croutons. Thanks!
Cara E. December 30, 2009
So glad you enjoyed them! Polenta is a great idea...cornbread might be delicious too.
testkitchenette December 29, 2009
What a lovely and new way to present lentils. I'm going for over sweet potato fries.
Kayb December 28, 2009
This sounds absolutely wonderful, especially for a cold night. Think I'll try mine over home fries....