Mediterranean Lentils: a Tasty Way to Get Your Protein

Inspired by a recipe from Diane Kochilas, the Greek-American food show host and cookbook author, this is one of my favorite vegetarian options for loading up on protein. Mediterranean lentils combine the warm spices of cumin and coriander with a surprising burst of vinegar and honey to create a tasty main dish that can be eaten hot or at room temperature. Cooked in two stages, on the stove and in the oven, this dish hearkens back to the ancient tradition of clay pot cooking practiced around the Mediterranean for thousands of years. I serve it warm with a dollop of Greek yogurt, but you can keep it vegan if you leave out this step. This dish is terrific straight from the oven, but once it cools you can turn it into an excellent salad with the addition of sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and crumbled feta.


  • 1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp good olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts sliced thin
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 6 cups hot water
  • 4-6 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tsp cumin powder
  • 2 Tsp coriander powder
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp each)


Put 3 Tbsp of oil into a large stock pot and heat over medium heat on the stove. Add the leeks and saute until soft, about five minutes. Add the minced garlic and stir for another minute. Add the lentils and 4 cups of water. Add the bay leaves, oregano and thyme. Bring to boil, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375.

Transfer the lentils to an oven safe clay pot or glass casserole dish with a lid. Add the remaining 2 cups of water. Stir in the cumin, coriander, vinegar, honey, and remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and place in the oven for 45-55 minutes. Taste for doneness. The lentils should still be firm, not soupy, and have absorbed most of the liquid. Remove the bay leaves and stalks from the thyme and oregano. Drizzle with additional honey, vinegar and olive oil if desired. Serve with yogurt (optional), or garnish with chopped cilantro and/or sliced scallions.


Cheryl Shainmark is a writer, editor, and certified hypnotherapist with a private practice in New York. A long time contributor of articles and book reviews, Cheryl is now a senior editor and a regular columnist at Merlian News. When she is not reading, reviewing, or dreaming about books she can be found playing with cats of all stripes at her quiet country retreat.