Stewed Lentils with Pickled Fennel Salad

5 from 5 votes
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Harissa-Stewed Lentils with Pickled Fennel Salad makes the humble legume feel downright swanky. This hearty plant-based meal is brimming with nutrients and will satisfy vegetarians and omnivores alike.Stewed lentils in a skillet topped with shaved fennel salad

Why You’ll Love these Stewed Lentils:

I could wax poetic about this recipe all day long. It’s honestly one of my favorite vegetarian recipes to date. It strikes the perfect balance of hearty and light, fiery and cooling, and comforting yet nutritious.

And since anything stewed always tastes better the next day, it makes the most incredible leftovers. 

If you’re not yet familiar with fennel, it’s a mildly licorice-flavored member of the parsley family. One of Italy’s most popular vegetables, it has a bulb-like base, stalks like celery, and feathery fronds. (Oh, and the entire plant is edible!)

This recipe is nutritious comfort food at its finest, and I have no doubt you’ll love it.

Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions:Recipe ingredients in separate bowls with blue labels

  • Lentils: Lentils are fiber and protein powerhouses. They are an excellent swap for meat in vegetarian and vegan cooking, because they make dishes extra hearty and satisfying, no meat needed! Plus, they’re budget friendly, and keep for a while. 
  • Fennel: Just one cup of fennel offers almost 20% of your recommended daily value of vitamin C. You’ll also find plenty of iron, fiber, and potassium. 
  • Harissa: Harissa is a peppery chili paste that originally hails from Tunisia. It’s a staple in many Tunisian, Israeli, and Moroccan dishes, and is now widely available at most grocery stores. Its flavor ranges from mild and sweet, to spicy and smoky. My go-to brand is Mina Harissa, which you can find at Whole Foods, Sprouts, Amazon, and many more large retailers.
  • Tomato Paste: One of the secret ingredients to achieving supreme depth in this recipe is tomato paste. It’s probably one of the most under-appreciated pantry items, yet one of the best flavor boosters.
  • Aromatics: Onion, yellow bell pepper, and garlic give the lentils an aromatic foundation. If desired, you can use orange or red bell pepper instead, which offer similar sweetness.
  • Diced Tomatoes: I prefer using petite diced tomatoes, which meld better with the lentils. Alternatively, you can use the classic size of diced tomatoes. 
  • Greek Yogurt: For a creamy counter to the crunchy fennel salad, these lentils are fantastic with a dollop of Greek yogurt. If making the dish vegan/dairy free, use coconutmilk yogurt instead. 

Yogurt mixed into stewed lentils in a gold bowl

Step-by-Step Instructions:

Step 1: Slice and Pickle Fennel

Remove stalks and fronds from fennel bulbs. Remove fronds from stalks (discard stalks) and coarsely chop fronds; set aside. Cut fennel bulb in half and thinly slice on a mandoline (if you have one; if not, thinly slice with a knife). Place fennel in a large bowl. 

Bring vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Pour vinegar mixture over fennel; let cool to room temperature while you prepare lentils. Shaved fennel being quick-pickled in a bowl

Step 2: Sauté Aromatics

Heat olive oil in a large skillet with a fitted lid over medium heat. Once hot, add onion and bell pepper; cook 6 to 7 minutes, stirring occassionally, until soft. 

Stir in garlic, tomato paste, and harissa; cook 3 more minutes, until tomato paste darkens in color. Onions, bell peppers, and tomato paste being sautéed in a skillet

Step 3: Simmer Lentil Mixture

Stir in lentils and cook 2 minutes to lightly toast. Add broth, diced tomatoes, and salt; bring mixture to a low boil. Cover, reduce heat, and gently simmer for 25 minutes, until lentils are soft. Remove lid and continue simmering 5 minutes, uncovered, until most of the liquid evaporates.Lentils, broth, and diced tomatoes being mixed in a skillet

Step 4: Prepare Fennel Salad

During final 5 minutes of cooking lentils, finish preparing fennel salad. Pour fennel through a strainer and discard pickling liquid; transfer fennel back to bowl. Add mint leaves, reserved fennel fronds, almonds, and remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Season with black pepper and additional salt, if desired.Shaved fennel, mint, and sliced almonds tossed in a clear bowl

Step 5: Top Stewed Lentils with Fennel Salad

Divide stewed lentils evenly between 4 bowls. Top with a dollop of yogurt and a scoop of fennel salad. Serve warm. 

Stewed lentils and tomatoes after being cooked and topped with fennel slaw

Even though the harissa lends a very subdued heat, a cooling, crunchy topper marks a beautiful breakthrough moment. And if you’ve never experimented with fennel before, this pickled fennel salad is a foolproof gateway recipe to try.

Think of the salad as a palate cleanser to balance the heartiness of the stewed lentils. Combined with fresh mint and creamy Greek yogurt, each bite strikes the perfect balance of flavors and textures.

Make-Ahead and Storage Tips:

  • Make-Ahead: Pickle the fennel up to 2 days ahead and store refrigerated in an airtight container. 
  • Store: Store the fennel salad and stewed lentils separately in airtight containers for up to 4 days. 
  • Reheat: Take the fennel salad out 30 minutes prior to serving to take off some of the chill. Stewed lentils can be reheated in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat with a splash of broth. 

A bowl of harissa lentils with fennel slaw and a dollop of yogurt

More Healthy Lentil Recipes to Try:

30 Minute Mushroom and Lentil Tacos

Moroccan Lentil Meatballs with Red Pepper Sauce

Lentil and Mushroom Stew over Potato-Parsnip Mash

If you give this recipe a try, be sure to snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your creations. Also, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates!

5 from 5 votes

Stewed Lentils with Pickled Fennel Salad

Harissa-stewed lentils with pickled fennel salad makes the humble legume feel downright swanky. This hearty plant-based meal is brimming with nutrients and will satisfy both vegetarians and omnivores alike.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients  

  • 1 small fennel bulb (with stalks and fronds attached)
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar (or rice vinegar)
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp. mild harissa (such as Mina brand)
  • Pinch of chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 cup dry green or brown lentils
  • 3 cups lower-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh torn or roughly chopped mint leaves
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt for serving
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Instructions 

  • Remove stalks and fronds from fennel bulbs. Remove fronds from stalks (discard stalks) and coarsely chop fronds; set aside. Cut fennel bulb in half and thinly slice on a mandoline (if you have one; if not, thinly slice with a knife). Place fennel in a large bowl. 
    Bring vinegar, 1/2 cup water, sugar, and 1 tsp. salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Pour vinegar mixture over fennel; let cool to room temperature while you prepare lentils.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet with a fitted lid over medium heat. Once hot, add onion and bell pepper; cook 6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft. 
    Stir in garlic, tomato paste, harissa, and a pinch of chili flakes (if desired); cook 2 to 3 more minutes, until tomato paste caramelizes. Stir in lentils; cook 1 minute to lightly toast.
  • Add broth, diced tomatoes, and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt; bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and gently simmer for 25 minutes, until lentils are tender.
    Remove lid and continue cooking, uncovered, an additional 5 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed (you may want a pinch more salt).
  • During final 5 minutes of cooking lentils, finish preparing fennel salad. Pour fennel through a strainer and discard pickling liquid; transfer fennel back to bowl. Add mint leaves, 1/4 cup of reserved fennel fronds, almonds, and remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil.
  • Divide stewed lentils evenly between 4 bowls. Top with a dollop of yogurt and a scoop of fennel salad.

Notes

Make-Ahead: Pickle the fennel up to 2 days ahead and store refrigerated in an airtight container. 
Store: Store the fennel salad and stewed lentils separately in airtight containers for up to 4 days. 
Reheat: Take the fennel salad out 30 minutes prior to serving to take off some of the chill. Stewed lentils can be reheated in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat with a splash of broth. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1.5cups | Calories: 365kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 850mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 12g

I calculate these values by hand to ensure accuracy, however expect up to a 10% variable depending on food brands.

If you love this recipe, please leave a star rating and review below!

 

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5 Comments

  1. E. says:

    5 stars
    This is a fantastic recipe that I’ll be making again in the future. It’s 1) delicious, 2) easy to cook, and 3) easy to scale up. I was a bit concerned about the pickled fennel since they, by themselves, have a strong flavor, but eating them with the stew really mellows the flavor out.

  2. Claudia says:

    5 stars
    First of all: OH MY FREAKIN’ LORD, was that delicious! Thank you so much for that recipe! Second of all: I can beat Stefanie’s 40 minutes green lentils stubbornness with my 60-minutes beluga lentils’ sloth-like behavior until all the liquids were absorbed :). Long story short, I ate three servings right away because I couldn’t stop… Sorry, not sorry ;). Thanks, Jamie!

  3. Stefanie says:

    5 stars
    Delicious! I made this with green lentils (mine stubbornly took a good 40 minutes to cook and thicken up). The flavour and depth were definitely boosted by letting it sit overnight – though next time I’ll use a better quality veggie broth, as I think it impacted the flavour a little. I ate it for lunch today and mixed in some spinach (yum). The pickled fennel on top really was the perfect little cleanser. Thanks for another brilliant recipe!

    1. dishingouthealth says:

      Hi Stefanie—SO glad you made and enjoyed this! It’s truly one of my fav all-time recipes. Cheers!

      1. Seba says:

        5 stars
        Thank you for recipe, it was very good. Especially the salad!