Adventures with Ami: Lentil Crumbles

At our house, we love having tacos or nachos for dinner.  Skipping the beef is easy, so is skipping the processed veggie crumbles that are highly processed and sometimes contain oil.  You can opt for using beans in your recipes, as so many varieties exist to give you just the right texture or flavor you seek.  You can also make your own lentil ‘crumbles’ or no-meat filling.  It’s really easy and can be customized for your recipe needs.
The basic ingredients include:
  • 1 cup bulgar wheat or steel cut oats
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 1 cup black lentils or french green lentils if you can’t find the black lentils
  • spices to taste
  • 6 cups water or veggie broth

Combine Lentils and bulgar wheat with the water or broth. Add any seasonings being used, in addition to onions or other vegetables you might be using in your recipe.

Cook the Lentils: Bring the water or broth to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes. You may need to add a bit more water to be sure you have enough liquid for your lentils to soak up depending upon your recipe.  You don’t want soupy lentils though, so only add a little water at a time. Test the lentils for tenderness to determine when done.  The lentils should be tender in the center. You want to let the lentils rest for about 20 minutes after cooking.  This creates a thick and crumbly mixture.

With this basic recipe, you can make lentil crumbles to fill your tacos, top your nachos, make BBQ sandwich filling or layer into your lasagna.  All you need to do is change the spices.

I make the basic recipe in a 5 qt stock pot.  It makes enough lentil crumbles to use for a family of four plus leftovers for using another day.  You can always halve or quarter the recipe if you only need a little to work with.  I love having small containers of these frozen for using in a pinch.  Easily warm up and top baked corn tortillas with taco crumbles and fresh veggies and salsa for a easy meal.  If you do not want left overs or are cooking for one or two you might want to halve the recipe.

Create your own variations by changing the spices!  Your imagination is the only limit!

Here are some of my variations:

Basic no-beef style:

I like the texture of black (caviar) lentils if you can find them in addition to the bulgar wheat and brown lentils.  I use garlic, a chopped onion, black pepper and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos to flavor my basic beef style lentils.  You can also use veggie broth in place of all or some of the water for a richer flavor.  Add your seasonings to taste.  Start with a little, as you can always add more.  Stuff peppers or zucchini with this blend along with some sliced mushrooms.

Taco crumbles:

I use my basic ingredients and use cumin, chili powder and cayenne pepper as my seasoning, along with Bragg’s Aminos and diced onions.  You can make your taco crumbles as spicy as you’d like by adding more cayenne.  Experiment with the levels of spice you use.

Italian crumbles:

Starting with the basic ingredients, I add garlic, basil, oregano and black pepper along with Bragg’s Aminos.  I like to add diced onions and sliced mushrooms or green peppers too sometimes.  This blend is perfect for layering in a lasagna or over whole wheat pasta with diced tomatoes.

BBQ crumbles: make the basic beef recipe, adding low sodium BBQ sauce and a little liquid smoke.  Use rosemary, sage and thyme for a Thanksgiving meal flavor.  Or try a Moroccan spice blend to spice them up or Herbs De Provence – one of my favorite spice blends that contains: French thyme, savory, fennel, rosemary, marjoram, basil, lavender and tarragon.  Have fun trying new variations!