Lentils and Rice – Get More Bang for Your Buck
We are in the midst of planning and budgeting for a wedding & honeymoon. Photographers, venues, deposits, rentals, florals, venue insurance, you name it. So to keep the budget balanced all around, we’ve opted to swap out some meals that are easier on the wallet. Lentils + rice + kale, with a few select spices, really bring a cheap vegan meal to life. So if you’re trying to save up, or just cut back on your food spending, give these cheap vegan lentils & rice a try.
Lentils and rice (or any bean/legume with rice in general) is the tried-and-true staple for a budget meals. Dried or canned beans and legumes can be found at under a dollar per pound in many grocery stores. Check the bulk section or the canned goods at your local market and see what you can find. The same goes for rice – bags of this dried grain can be found at a relatively inexpensive price.
Sure, that king-sized bag of cheesy Doritos may look like you’re getting more food for less money. But are you? Are processed GMO corn chips covered in dehydrated cheese-ish chemicals considered “food”? I’d argue no, they’re products on the shelf, but not nutrition meant for our bodies.
And speaking of nutrition, beans and rice eaten together provide the complete profile of nine essential amino acids. Therefore, even though is no meat or tofu in your bowl, you have a complete and holistic source of protein for your nourishment.
How to Make Lentils & Rice Flavorful
There are a few key tips to get the most flavor in your cheap vegan lentils & rice.
First, you want to fry your spices in a bit of oil, to allow the spices to release some of their own oils and deepen the flavor and aroma and this dish. Mustard seeds lend a rich flavor and crunchy texture, but they also help you know when the spices are done frying. Once you hear the mustard seeds pop in the hot oil, then you know it’s time to add the onions.
Second, I highly recommend you soak your lentils and brown rice for at least one hour before cooking them. If you’re using white rice, it only needs to soak for about 15 minutes. Soaking the dried lentils and rice helps them end up with the perfect chewy texture once it’s all done cooking. If you really want to make sure your body is able to absorb and digest all the rich minerals and vitamins in your lentils and rice, soak them in warm water overnight.
Third, it’s extremely important to salt the water in which you are cooking your grains. According to Samin Nosrat’s book Salt Fat Acid Heat, you want the boiling water to taste as salty as the ocean before you add your grains. This helps season the grains before they’re cooked, making them deliciously delectable even without other seasonings.
Cheap Vegan Lentils & Rice
- 1 cup red lentils (or any lentil of your choice)
- 1 cup brown rice
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp mustard seeds
- 1 Tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- ¼ tsp red chili flakes
- ½ cup onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 cups water
- 1 bunch kale, chopped (of your favorite variety)
- Soak the red lentils and brown rice fully submerged in water for at least one hour, or overnight.
- In a skillet with a lid or a large pot on medium heat, heat the extra virgin olive oil.Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric and chili flakes to the hot oil. Stir frequently to release the spices' aromas and natural oils, until you hear the mustard seeds start popping.
- Stir the diced onion into the skillet and cook (still on medium heat) until the onions are soft and golden, about 15 minutes.Stir in the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the soaked lentils and rice into the skillet along with the salt. Stir for a minute to mix the lentils and rice with all the spices and onion. Pour in the water and cover the skillet or pot with its lid. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low or low and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked through.
- Stir in the chopped kale and put the lid back on for a few minutes, for the kale to steam and soften. Spoon into bowls and enjoy! Optional: top with a dollop of dairy-free unsweetened yogurt