When it’s cold outside, treat yourself to a healthy homemade vegetarian comfort food dish of Lentils with Winter Vegetables. This hearty lentil and wine glazed veggies stew is perfect for fancy holiday meals like Christmas Eve dinner. It’s also great as a traditional New Year’s Eve dish.
This high protein gluten free vegan dish is thick and satisfying with warm, earthy flavors from the lentils and the root vegetables. And what it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in flavor and variety.
This is an easy to make dish of root vegetables with onions, carrots, and sweet potatoes, simmered in red wine and tomato paste, then tosses with earthy lentils.
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Please let me know if you have any questions about this recipe. I read all the comments myself and I try to help as soon as I can. I have readers from all levels of comfort and experience in the kitchen on my site, and I’ve tried to answer some of your questions already in the post. But if I’ve missed anything, please feel free to leave a comment and ask. The comments can be easily found using the orange circle on the lower left, then Join the discussion!
Can I make this ahead?
This vegan lentil dish can absolutely be made ahead. And, it may even be better the next day when the flavors of the wine, vegetables, and herbs have had a chance to meld.
You can reheat it on the stove, or in the microwave.
I also like it cold on top of a big salad.
Lentils are one of my favorite high-protein vegan ingredients.
And they pair well with just about any veggie or herb.
In winter I like to pair them with root veggies, mushrooms, cauliflower, and cooked whole grains.
In the spring and summer, they go well with fresh greens, asparagus, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
How to cook lentils
Lentils are really easy to cook, and can be cooked in a variety of ways. I love these air fryer roasted lentils that can be cooked in the oven or the air fryer.
For this recipe, the lentils are cooked on the stove. They can be cooked in water or vegetable broth for even more flavor. Cooking the lentils takes about a half hour and is as simple as bringing some water to boil.
I’ve been asked if lentils are a vegetable?
The quick answer is, yes, lentils are a vegetable.
Lentils belong to a group of vegetables called “pulses” or “legumes”. This group includes beans, peas, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), and lentils.
Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium.
Tips for cooking lentils
It’s important to buy the freshest lentils you can. Fresh lentils cook more quickly and won’t split their skins when they are cooked.
Pour the dried lentils in a colander, rinse them under cool tap water, and take a look at them to remove any hidden stones or tiny shriveled lentils.
If you have a sensitive digestive system, you may want to soak the lentils first. Soaking activates a compound called amylase that breaks down complex starch and makes them easier to digest. The soaking process also removes the gas and bloating-causing compounds from the lentils.
To soak, pour the uncooked lentils into a large bowl, cover with warm water by 2 inches, and stir in about 2 tablespoons acid such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm spot in the kitchen for about 4 hours or up to 12 hours. Drain the lentils and rinse well.
Want to boost their flavor even more? Add a few cloves of garlic or a spring of rosemary to the cooking liquid.
If lentils are cooked in too rapid of a boil, they can split their skins and get mushy. To avoid this, bring the pot just to a boil, then reduce the heat to low so that you see just a few bubbles in the water and some gentle movement in the lentils. They will plump up nicely without splitting their skins or becoming mushy.
And, finally, wait until the lentils are done cooking to add salt. If added at the beginning of cooking, the salt can make the lentils crunchy. Stir them into the lentils while still warm and they’ll absorb the flavor perfectly.
The other trick is to wait to add the salt or any acidic ingredients until the lentils are done cooking. These ingredients can cause the lentils to stay crunchy even when fully cooked. If you stir in the salt while the lentils are still warm, they will absorb just enough to taste fully seasoned.
What’s the best way to eat lentils?
Lentils lend themselves to so many lentil dishes. And, I find that they are a welcome vegan addition to many dinners.
Lentils are healthy vegetarian comfort food like my vegetarian shepherd’s pie.
How to make this recipe
This vegan or vegetarian main dish is easy to make.
Be sure to scroll down to the printable recipe card for detailed ingredient amounts and instructions.
Cook the lentils in vegetable broth, and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet and add the onions. Cook until starting to caramelize.
Add carrot, and rosemary, and sauté 10 minutes or until browned.
While vegetables cook, cook the sweet potato in the microwave until soft and cooked through. Chop the cooked sweet potato into bite sized pieces.
Stir in some of the salt, tomato paste, and garlic powder into cooked veggies, and heat through.
Stir in red wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil; cover with aluminum foil, and reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Add lentil mixture and cooked sweet potato, and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf, and stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil, basil, and pepper.
Can I use something other than red wine?
Yes, you can substitute the red wine in this dish. A lot of the flavor comes from the wine, so know that you’ll be changing the flavors of the dish.
Red wine vinegar is a great substitution for red wine, as it shares a lot of the same flavors. So you don’t overpower the dish with vinegar, I’d suggest half red wine vinegar and half vegetable broth.
Of course, straight vegetable broth is always a great substitution. And if you eat meat, beef broth will work well in this dish (of course that means it’s no longer vegetarian or vegan).
Fruit juice will also work in this dish. Try pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, or grape juice. Note that using a juice will make the dish sweeter.
This recipe makes a great main dish for the vegans and vegetarians at your table. It also makes a wonderful side dish for the meat eaters.
It’s great over rice, either white rice, brown rice, or cauliflower rice.
Try serving it with some crusty bread and a bright green salad.
Sir in some spinach leaves after cooking so that they wilt and add some pretty color to the dish.
Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over the top for a pretty presentation.
Holiday entertaining Christmas eve menu
I originally shared this recipe in 2014 as part of my Christmas Eve menu. The post was definitely in need of some updating. I added new pictures, information, and updates to the recipe for a better user experience.
I loved the menu, so I thought I’d share it here as well. This menu would work really well for any gathering, like a birthday celebration or any holiday family get-together.
Braised Beef with Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes, Maple Roasted Carrots, Chipotle Seasoned Rice, and these Christmas lentils. It wasn’t an all vegetarian Christmas dinner, but it satisfied both the meat eaters and the vegetarian!
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Lentils with Winter Vegetables
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 ½ cups dried brown lentils
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon salt divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or oil of your choice divided use
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 1 red onion sliced
- 1 cup diced carrot
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary divided use
- 1 sweet potato
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2/3 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Combine vegetable broth, lentils, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes. Remove from heat, add ½ teaspoon salt, do NOT drain, and set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, swirling to coat pan. Add yellow onion and red onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 20 minutes. If onions start to cook too quickly, add about ¼ cup water to slow the cooking and allow caramelization. Add carrot, and rosemary, and sauté 10 minutes or until browned.
- While vegetables cook, pierce sweet potato with a fork or knife several times, and place on a microwave-safe plate. Heat on high in the microwave about 5-10 minutes or until cooked through. Cut cooked sweet potato into about 1-inch dice. Set aside.
- Stir ½ teaspoon salt, tomato paste, and garlic powder into cooked veggies, and heat through 1 minute. Stir in wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil; cover with aluminum foil, and reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add lentil mixture and cooked sweet potato, and cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf, and stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil, basil, and pepper.
- Garnish with additional rosemary and basil if desired.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations, and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary based on brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes, and more.