Chile Lentil Puree

This recipe was originally published casual in my run of zines. You can read more about the project and also see what other projects I've have as well.

We are a dip, spread, and sauce household. If a meal doesn’t have one of those companions, it can be a tough sell. As such, I have an extensive collection of these recipes that run the gamut of flavors from herby to ones with a kick. This chile lentil puree falls into the latter category with help from fresh Fresno chiles pureed with tender red lentils. 

Close-up of a creamy lentil puree topped with a drizzle of olive oil and flakey salt.

Red Lentil Puree, Why it Works

One thing always holds when making dips from legumes: for a spreadable, perfectly smooth dip, the seed coat has to go. This tough exterior is great for the seed but does us no favors in these moments as it will never puree smooth (this is why so many hummus recipes call for the process of seed-coat removal!)

This is where red lentils shine because they’ve already had their seed coat removed during the splitting process. This is why red lentils often fall apart as they cook- there’s nothing holding them together, which is a bonus for us dip makers. 

Can you use other lentils? No, I wouldn’t recommend it because all other lentils are still in their whole form. Either stick with red lentils or look for another split ingredient, such as split peas or chana dal (the desi variety of chickpea with its seed coat removed for splitting). 

To make it smooth, some notes

Purposely Overcooked: This is one of those times that it’s a bit impossible to overcook, other than running out of liquid and having the cooked lentils stick to the bottom of the pot. No texture should be left in the lentils by the time they are pulled from the stovetop. Taste and cook longer if needed. If your lentils have difficulty softening, it might be time to evaluate if they are older and need to go.  

Trust your judgment: When pureeing, the mix may be too thick. Add a splash of water or more oil until the lentils puree smooth. If you add too much liquid, know the dip will thicken as it cools, so give it some time to cool before serving. 

Chile Alternatives

I adore fresh Fresno chiles because they bring just a tiny amount of heat and flavor without overpowering, a plus for a household that doesn’t all appreciate the appeal of heat. However, ground chiles or even a chile paste would work well as a replacement. For either swap, add during the pureeing stage. 

You can also play around with varying heat profiles. Want it smoky? Add a bit of smoked paprika or ground ancho chile. Want more heat? Try adding a spoonful of harissa. 

Zucchini fritters a top a creamy lentil puree in a white and brown speckled bowl.

Lentil Puree Uses

Dip: Swoosh into a bowl and top with a solid drizzle of olive oil and fried shallots. Serve with crackers, bread, or fresh vegetables for an easy appetizer. Or, use as a base for a fritter!

Roasted Vegetables: Roast your favorite vegetables, such as cauliflower or winter squash, and serve atop a thin layer of the puree. 

Sandwich Spread: Stack a sandwich high with fresh cucumbers, avocado, carrots, greens, a slice of cheese or fried cheese if desired, and a thick spread of this puree. 

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Chile Lentil Puree

A creamy lentil puree with a small bit of heat that works as a filling, bowl base, or dip.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • large onion ((120g))
  • 1 Fresno chile
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (plus more to taste)
  • ½ cup red lentils (90g)
  • 1 ⅓ cup water (260g)
  • 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • Hot water for thinning (if needed)
  1. Dice the onion and chile and mince the garlic. Heat a medium pot over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Stir in the onion, chile, and salt, cooking until the onion is soft, 8 minutes or so.
  2. Stir in the garlic, cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute, then add the lentils and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook until the lentils fall apart, about 20 minutes. The mixture will look relatively thin—I assure you it will thicken as you blend.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a high-speed blender or food processor. Add the vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, then puree until smooth. If the puree is too thick, add a splash or two of hot water. It will continue to thicken as it cools. If the puree feels too thick to spread, add a bit more water and puree once more. Taste and adjust the vinegar and salt to your liking before serving.
This dip will thicken as it cools and if thick right after blending, you’ll find the dip will have congealed to the point of not being a very good dip. If this happens, return to the blender and puree with a splash of hot water until a solid dip consistency forms
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time :25 minutes

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Welcome to my little internet nook. On this site you'll find over a thousand vegetarian recipes, pantry knowledge, and more. I'm ever obsessed with food from gardening, cooking, and preserving. I hope you'll find endless inspiration on these pages and visit often. 

Virtual hugs, Erin (aka: e.l.l.a.)

a few good grain recipes

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