Red Lentil ‘Risotto’


3 red lentil risotto

Red Lentil ‘Risotto’

serves 2-3

One of the requests for this class was for healthy ‘comfort’ food. For me it doesn’t get more comforting than a good risotto. Which gave me an idea to experiment with non-rice based risotto-style dishes.

I couldn’t be happier with how this red lentil ‘risotto’ turned out. All the oozy goodness with lots more protein and fibre than your boring old rice risotto.

3 knobs (hunks) butter
1 onion, diced
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
200g (7oz) red lentils
2 handfuls grated parmesan + extra to serve

1. Heat half the butter butter in a medium saucepan and add onion. Cover and cook on a medium low heat, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes or until onion is soft.

2. Meanwhile place stock in another pan and bring to a simmer.

3. When the onion is soft, add the unwashed lentils and increase the heat to medium high. Stir for a minute.

4. Add 2 ladles of stock. Stir well then simmer for 3-4 minutes or until the stock is absorbed.

5. Repeat until the lentils are tender and oozy. If you run out of stock, use water.

6. Add remaining butter and cheese and stir until combined. Taste and season. Serve with extra parmesan shaved over.

Prepare Ahead?

Like rice risotto this is best when freshly made. You could par cook the risotto, adding about half the stock then refrigerate until you’re ready. Reheat and keep adding stock, you’ll probably need more than you think.

Leftover Potential

Will keep for a week or so in the fridge but the texture is best when fresh. You could use it to make ‘risotto cakes’


carnivore – crumble some pork sausages or chicken and brown in the pan with the onions. A splash of red wine might be nice.

dairy-free / vegan – to be honest I can’t imagine risotto without the butter and cheese. But if you’re willing to give it a go use olive oil to fry the onion and finish with a tablespoon of tomato paste and more olive oil.

paleo (grain, legume & dairy-free) / ultra low carb – macadamia Satay instead.

budget – the stock really makes this dish. If you must use a cheap bullion cube, follow the tips for ‘bland’ in the troubleshooting guide to boost the flavour.

use your imagination
– pretty much any rice risotto can be adapted to the lentils. Just remember the lentils don’t need quite as much liquid as arborio rice.

more substantial (low carb) – poach chicken in the stock.

more substantial (carb lovers) – extra lentils or steamed rice.

Waste Avoidance Strategy

butter – keeps in the fridge for months. Can be frozen.

onion – keeps in the pantry for months. Can be frozen (chop first for easier defrosting).

stock – pantry if in a sealed commercial packet or freeze.

red lentils – pantry.

parmesan – keep wrapped in baking paper inside an airtight container in the fridge for months. Can be frozen.

Problem Solving Guide

watery – you’ve gone too far! Next time stop adding stock and cooking when the lentils are no longer crunchy but still have a bit of texute – like al dente pasta.

too salty – with all the stock, cheese and butter it can be easy to have a salt overdose. I’ve used salt-reduced stock and butter and then added salt at the end to taste.

bland – if you’re using supermarket stock, jazz things up a bit by adding an onion and some roughly chopped carrots and celery to the stock and let it simmer away for a few minutes – or 1/2 hour if you have the time.

short on time
– skip the onion and add a little more cheese to make up for it.

Serving Suggestions

Serve however you’d normally serve risotto. I think a green salad or something light is essential to balance all that heavy richness. And go for small portions.

back to: The 5 Habits of Healthy Cooks Overview page.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Denise Pastor March 30, 2020

Made this again with the cheese, so tasty!


jules March 30, 2020

I got some lentils last week to make for my boys. I’m hoping if I add enough cheese they will love it too xx


Denise Pastor September 20, 2019

The lentils are so tasty I left out the cheese and my husband and I added on top to personal taste. This is because I had no fresh salad. But I did cook some cauliflower and added at the end. Very tasty, great pantry meal, when you are tired and don’t know what to cook!


jules September 23, 2019

Glad you liked it Denise 🙂


David May 13, 2018

Really helpful recipe, thanks so much. I was looking for a protein-rich vehicle for broccoli rabe and mushrooms and this will work perfectly with yellow lentils for a nicer color contrast. One thing I did find during my vegan period is that a faux-risotto is cheered up nicely by adding in some finely ground flax seed in lieu of butter, and nutritional yeast can plug the texture gap of parmesan, though of course never quite the flavor. I love the way your video forgives innocent little mistakes like browning the onion or grabbing the wrong lid – very reassuring to real-world cooks!


jules May 15, 2018

Glad you found the recipe (and my mistakes!) helpful David 🙂


Carolyn Pendley February 19, 2018

I made a variation on this tonight – used coconut milk, a touch of vermouth, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, cayenne. Sauteed the lentils in olive oil until a bit crispy then added spices and the other ingredients. Cooked it to al dente and will be serving with cinnamon/ginger/garlic fried plantains, crispy onions and spiced coconut matta rice (

Crispy Onions:
Instead we fry a single batch of onions in just 1 1/2 cups of oil. The trick: removing a good bit of the onions’ water before frying by tossing them with salt, microwaving them for 5 minutes, and drying them thoroughly. Prepared this way, the onions cook in a single batch in about 25 minutes.


jules February 21, 2018

Yum Carolyn!
Thanks for sharing 😉


Valerie October 4, 2017

Once prepared, would this lentil risotto freeze ok you think?


jules October 4, 2017

Absolutely Valerie!
I have some in the freezer now. Just be prepared to add a little water / stock when you reheat it if it’s a bit dry. More butter will be lovely too


Kevin June 8, 2017

For a posh veggie version add a glug of white wine when soften the onions, a clove of garlic, a handful of wild mushrooms, half a handful of soaked porcini mushrooms finely chopped, add the soaking liquid to the stock.


jules June 14, 2017

Yum Kevin!


julie December 30, 2015

I tried this recipe with a parsnip, carrot, garlic, ‘rosemary and thyme’ (like Simon and garfunkel, haha) for the stock, and chopped it up real nice. Then followed your recipe and put all the vegetable along with the stock. That is the best risotto I’ve ever tasted!! Thank you so much for the inspiration!


jules January 8, 2016

Yum Julie!
And you’ve gotta love some Simon and Garfunkel action in the kitchen 😉


Ruba Homaidi August 1, 2014

I am going to try this, one recipe i would like to share here is a mashed potato alternative with red lentils that I love with fish:
Cubed onions, cubed broccoli stalk if available, both fried a little, then add a cup or two of red lentils, water to cover and stir sparingly till cooked, and the lentils soaked up the water, add coconut milk or cream here and bring it to a consistency of mashed potatoes before you take it of the fire, hope someone tries it


jules August 8, 2014

I love the sound of your red lentil mash Ruba!
Will give it a go soon


Carol Brenneisen June 25, 2013

Thank you Jules! No no, the experiment was still fun. Actually this is the first thing I’ve made that I can remember throwing most of it away – so in a way it was still a successful experiment because now I feel like a real cook :). Thank you for your tips and I will try again! Yes, your grill = our broiler.

I will try again if I can stop experimenting with other recipes long enough to make the “risotto” a second time!



Carol Brenneisen June 8, 2013

Oh Jules….what wasn’t wrong with them? 😉

All (2) of the risotto cake recipes I looked at suggested a combo of bread crumbs, grated parmesan, and egg. And a bunch of other stuff (chives, etc) that I ignored. I ignored the grated parm too, because I didn’t feel like grating and I assumed it was superfluous (you see where this is going).

Next mistake was putting 2 eggs straight in instead of starting with 1 and seeing where things went. To recover the soupy mess I put in a bunch more bread crumbs (I used Panko). I did try leaving some soupy and just putting Panko on outside, because one recipe suggested the outside crumbs and it sounded crispy delicious. A commenter had said that refrigerating those was yucky because Panko gets soggy, so I only wanted to try a few that way. Those soupy Panko-crusted ones did fall apart a lot, and also the Panko on outside just tasted floury and bland.

In general all of them tasted floury and bland, which made me sorry I hadn’t at least split my bread crumbs with grated parm. I am wondering after watching your lentil balls video if almond meal wouldn’t be better than the crumbs (which I don’t love for their carbs) anyway. And I’m thinking it wouldn’t have killed me to fine-chop one highlighting ingredient like chives or sundried tomatoes.

Finally, I was frying them in quite a bit of oil (maybe 1/4″) per the recipes I read, and I felt like they soaked up too much oil in a bad way. If they would work in just a normal drizzle of oil or could be drizzled and baked or something, I think I would like that better.

There….while I’m sure you wouldn’t have made most of the mistakes I did, perhaps there is something in what I learned to speed up your recipe testing process 🙂


jules June 17, 2013

Oh no Carol!
Thanks for recipe testing for me 🙂

Usually when I make risotto balls I just form them into shape, dust with flour and then shallow fry (about 1/4in usually works). The flour dusting is to make them easier to handle and helps them brown and crisp on the outside. If my miture was really wet, I’d add a little flour or almond meal as you mentioned, to help dry it out a bit and then still do the dusting on the outside.

The trick is to make sure you get the first side well cooked and with a ‘crust’ forming before you turn them.

But baking them until golden all over is a more fail-safe method because you don’t have to turn them. Or you could cook under an overhead grill (I think you guys call that the broiler).

They can be tricky to get to hold together though.

Hope this hasn’t put you off experimentation!


Carol Brenneisen June 6, 2013

yum yum yum!! I just made this tonight and it was really awesome. I needed a full 4 cups of stock. I only wish I had read the variations beforehand, because the only thing I can imagine making it better is sausage and red wine! Well at least I had the good sense to serve some red wine on the side 😉


jules June 6, 2013

oh yay Carol…
I haven’t made a lentil ‘risotto’ in ages.. definitely need to get onto it asap.
And glad to hear you had the red wine on the side… very wise 🙂


Carol Brenneisen June 7, 2013

My lentil “risotto” cakes made with the leftovers tonight did not, shall we say, live up to the deliciousness of the fresh risotto. That and I ended up with about 11 mediocre risotto cakes! Next time maybe I’ll just halve the recipe from the start and experiment with 2 or 3 cakes the next day. I did get a few ideas for improvements :). Or if you wanted to post a recipe…

BUT my mushroom ragu also made last night, into which I threw a few tablespoons of Thai chili paste because it needed using up and a package of tofu because I didn’t have enough mushrooms, was great. And no, I don’t know why I’m trying all your winter recipes in the summer.


jules June 7, 2013

What exactly was wrong with the risotto cakes? Did you have problems getting to keep their shape?
Good idea for me to work on a recipe for them… Thanks!


Carol Brenneisen May 12, 2013

Hi Jules, question: what is a “knob” of butter? Is there a measurement for that or does it just mean a “hunk of butter?” 🙂 thanks.


jules May 13, 2013

You got it Carol!
Yes it’s just a ‘hunk’ although if you want more specific I usually think of it as about 2 tablespoons.


Mrs. Mack May 19, 2014

So, 3 knobs = about 6 Tbsp, then?


jules May 31, 2014

Yes Mrs Mack.. It’s a bit of a use your own preference amount of butter. I like lots 🙂


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