5 Ingredients or Fewer

Walnut-Lentil Lettuce Wraps

June 15, 2020
5 Ratings
Photo by Amanda Widis
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 3
Author Notes

A pantry-driven lunch or dinner as easy and breezy as summer should be. Once you have the lettuce, pantry ingredients will take care of the rest. I like brown lentils, but feel free to swap in green or black. (Avoid red lentils, which would be too soft in this particular recipe.) Likewise, walnuts can be replaced depending on whatever you have around: Pecans? Cashews? Those would be great too. When it comes to pickles, there are tons of options. You just want something that’s funky, salty, and briny, so it can double as a topping and dressing. Think: dill cucumbers, peppadews, cherry peppers, pepperoncini, kimchi, or sauerkraut.

This is one of our Big Little Recipes, our weekly column all about dishes with big flavor and little ingredient lists. Do you know (and love) a recipe that’s low in ask, high in reward? Let us know in the comments.Emma Laperruque

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Walnut-Lentil Lettuce Wraps
  • 1/2 cup brown lentils
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cups finely chopped pickled or fermented vegetables (see Author Notes for suggestions), brine reserved
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 2/3 cup walnut pieces (or another nut, chopped into pieces)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 head butter lettuce (or another wrappable lettuce), separated into individual leaves
  1. Combine the lentils and 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a confident simmer, then reduce to a soft simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain, then drizzle with a splash of pickle brine, to taste, while the lentils are still warm.
  2. When the lentils are done, combine 2 tablespoons of canola oil, 2 tablespoons of pickle brine, and shake until emulsified and creamy. Taste and season with salt as needed.
  3. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium to medium-low heat and add 2 teaspoons of canola oil. Add the walnuts, toss a couple times so all the nuts are coated, then cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the walnuts are toasty and golden, stirring frequently. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil and cooked lentils. Use a fork or potato masher to smash the mixture until broken down but still chunky. Season with salt to taste.
  4. To serve: Set out a plate of lettuce leaves, a bowl of the lentil-walnut mixture, the pickle brine dressing, and whatever pickled or fermented vegetables you’re using for sprinkling on top.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
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  • Linda D
    Linda D
  • Lynn
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

4 Reviews

jannosport April 19, 2022
Really surprisingly good! I like my lentils cooked with bay leaf so I did that. I also added caramelized onion when adding the walnuts since I had some sitting in the fridge. I went with kimchi on some and bread and butter pickles on others but skipped making a dressing with the brine because I was feeling lazy. It all came together so well I was shocked. Definitely my best attempt at a lettuce wrap.
Linda D. July 8, 2020
Very nice, Emma. The Kimchi I used had no brine. Since it tasted very sharp, I poured some brine from a jar of sweet gherkins into the Kimchi jar. That balanced the flavor nicely. And that's what we enjoyed so much about the dish: contrast of textures and flavors. Nicely done! Thank you!
Lynn June 16, 2020
5 stars!
What a lovely recipe. Super easy to make. Nice hearty, earthy lentil balanced by the “pickled” element. I made with hot cherry peppers and was amazed. The dressing is delicious! Can’t wait for leftovers. Thank you for this!
Emma L. June 17, 2020
So glad you enjoyed the recipe, thanks!