Jerk-style lentils bring all the flavor of the Caribbean but with a vegan twist. They pack all the punch of jerk-spiced chicken but with a nod to those of us who’d rather be meat-free. Puy lentils, Scotch bonnet peppers, maple syrup, jerk seasoning, and tomatoes make this vegan version exceptional.
Jerk spices are among my favorite flavors: whenever I smell a little jerk seasoning, it feels like a big warm hug. Jerk seasoning is not limited to use with meat–trust me, you can still enjoy the flavors in fun plant-based ways.--Rachel Ama
WHAT ARE PUY LENTILS?
Lentils can be confusing if you’re not a full-time legume eater. This recipe calls for Puy (or Le Puy) lentils which are also sold in the US as French green lentils. A small, gray-green legume, Le Puy lentils come from a specific place in France, where they’ve grown for over 2,000 years. They’re recognized for their peppery flavor and ability to retain their shape after cooking.
They have a high protein and fiber content, making them desirable for vegan diets. If you can’t find them, you can substitute most other lentils. Brown makes the best sub, while red makes an unappealing substitution in a recipe like this, as they get really soft, really fast. They’re best left for thickening soups and stews.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 (8 oz) red onion sliced
- Thumb-sized (about 1 tablespoon) piece of fresh ginger grated
- 1 1/2 tablespoons jerk seasoning
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon tomato purée
- 4 garlic cloves finely sliced
- 4 large (2 1/4 lbs) tomatoes quartered
- 10 1/2 ounces dried Puy lentils
- 1 1/2 pints store-bought vegetable broth or homemade vegetable stock
- 1/2 Scotch bonnet chile seeded
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- Handful of fresh cilantro chopped
- 2 scallions sliced
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a deep skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and sauté until softened and slightly browned, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in ginger, jerk seasoning, maple syrup, tomato purée, and garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes, then add the tomatoes, lentils, vegetable stock, chile, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the lentils have softened, 35 to 45 minutes.
- Sprinkle cilantro and scallions on top and serve. The lentils will keep in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 3 months.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
These jerk-style lentils were absolutely delicious! When you initially hear jerk seasoning, you automatically think of traditional jerk chicken, not jerk lentils. However, the jerk seasoning worked perfectly with the lentils and was such a surprisingly flavorful dish, that you won’t even think of chicken. The combination of flavors created such rich, deep and savory flavors.
I wasn’t sure if the half of the scotch bonnet chile and tablespoon and a half of jerk seasoning would be too overpowering, but it turned out to be just the perfect amount of spiciness. The aromas alone in the kitchen during cooking were mouthwatering. The fact that this was also a meatless dish packed with so much flavor was another great surprise! This dish could easily be on a menu at a restaurant. This was by far one of the best and most delicious lentil recipes that I have ever eaten.
Lentils are a favorite of mine, whether simply prepared as a salad with shallots and a Dijon vinaigrette and now in this tasty version with spice, ginger, and tomatoes. These lentils are so good they don’t need to be served with anything else. The jerk spice isn’t too assertive and the ginger adds a nice bit of zing.
They’re good warm, room temp, and cold out of the fridge. The cilantro and scallions add crunch and brightness to the mellow flavors of the spices and ginger. I took them to work for a mid-shift snack all week and they were delightful.
I’ve made jerk chicken countless times and always enjoy the heck out of it and while I’ve thought it would be good with pork, I never considered lentils. So when I saw this recipe, I had to make it. And boy was I glad I did! It’s very easy to make, gives you the satisfaction of making your own jerk seasoning, and is absolutely delicious.
With three easy steps, I had the dish on the table within an hour. The lentils simmer for a good 30 minutes, allowing the seasonings to really come alive and the tomatoes to soften, adding a nice tartness to the spicy jerk lentils. I loved the idea of maple syrup to give a touch of sweetness, and it’s the kind of dish that allows you to crank up (or down) the heat level. Of course, the kitchen smelled wonderful. I served it with coconut rice, which was a perfect complement to the full flavor of the lentils. A definite go-to meal for weekdays.
Originally published October 11, 2021