Stewed Lentils with Marinated Feta

5 from 22 votes
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Hearty Stewed Lentils with Marinated Feta is a comforting vegetarian dish with rustic, rich flavors. This humble and hearty combination makes a satisfying main dish, and can be enjoyed over several days.Stewed lentils in a pot topped with chunks of marinated feta and herbs

The first recipe of 2023 also happens to be my favorite solution to weeknight dinner.

The humble, almighty lentil is a go-to plant-based protein source over here. Not only is it endlessly versatile, but lentils are a fabulous source of dietary fiber and folate.

Beyond this rustic stewed lentil dish, I love using them in Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, Lentil Salad, and Cozy Soups and Stews.

Like most legume dishes, this stew improves after a day in the fridge. I suggest making the whole recipe, and eating it over several days.

The leftovers can be reinvented in multiple ways:

  • Top them with a crisp-edged, soft-yolk fried egg
  • Add a drizzle of lemon-y tahini dressing
  • Serve with crusty bread or pita

While the lentils will keep well in the fridge for the better part of the week, they will absorb their liquid (and its flavors) the longer they sit. When reheating, add a splash of water or broth to loosen and revive the mixture.

How to Make Stewed Lentils with Marinated Feta

The marinated feta is optional, however it serves multiple purposes in this dish. It provides:

  • Creamy, tangy notes
  • Brightness and acidity from the lemon
  • Fresh top notes from a mix of dill and parsley

However if you’re making it vegan, a lemony tahini drizzle will achieve a similar outcome.

The IngredientsRecipe ingredients in separate bowls arranged on a wooden serving platter

  • Lentils: For the best results, look for French lentils, also known as Le Puy lentils, or small black (Beluga) lentils. If you can’t find them, use any size green or brown lentil.
  • Aromatics: A mix of yellow onion and garlic create the aromatic foundation of the dish.
  • Spices: Here is where the real fun starts. A rustic, earthy combination of fennel seeds, cumin, and cinnamon create a robust spice profile. I also like to throw in a bay leaf or sprig of fresh rosemary.
  • Tomato Paste: The key to unlocking the full flavor potential of tomato paste is to cook it for at least 2 to 3 minutes. The caramelization helps to eliminate the raw tomato flavor, which deepens its umami.
  • Carrots: For sweetness and to help add bulk to the dish, add 3 to 4 large carrots. I like to slice them at an angle into 2″ long pieces.
  • Feta: You need about 5 ounces of feta cheese, which should be broken into chunks.
  • Lemon: You need the zest and juice of 1 lemon, which adds bright top notes.
    • If you’re not using lemon, the lentils will still greatly benefit from some form of acid. A drizzle of sherry vinegar, for example, is a great alternative.
  • Herbs: I prefer using a combination of dill and parsley, however cilantro also works great here.

The Directions

Step 1: Sauté Aromatics

Add a good glug of olive oil to a large pot with a fitted lid over medium heat. Add onion; cook for about 10 minutes, until soft.

Stir in garlic, tomato paste, and spices; cook 3 more minutes, until fragrant.Sliced onion, tomato paste, garlic, and spices being sautéed in a white skillet

Step 2: Simmer Lentils and Water

Add lentils, water, bay leaf, and salt; bring mixture to a boil. Cover, and transfer to a 350ºF oven. Bake for 1 hour, until the lentils are tender and the liquid is mostly absorbed.Water, lentils, and bay leaf being added to pot to simmer

Step 3: Prepare Marinated Feta

Meanwhile, combine feta, herbs, lemon, and olive oil in a small bowl. Let this mixture hang out while the lentils cook.Marinated feta being mixed in a red bowl

Step 4: Assemble Dish

Spoon the feta mixture over the stewed lentils. Add extra fresh herbs, if you wish, and dive in!Marinated feta being dolloped over a pot of simmered lentils and carrots

FAQs and Expert Tips:

Do I Need to Soak Lentils for Stew?

Unlike other dried legumes, lentils do not require soaking prior to cooking.

If you do choose to soak lentils, it will slightly lessen their cook time. However, for this dish, I do not suggest presoaking the lentils.

How Long Should Lentils be Cooked for?

The cook time for lentils will vary slightly based on the variety:

  • Green Lentils: 18 to 20 minutes
  • French Lentils (Lentils de Puy): 25 to 30 minutes
  • Brown Lentils: 20 to 25 minutes
  • Black Lentils (Beluga Lentils): 25 to 30 minutes

How to Make Lentils Taste Better:

Lentils absorb the flavors of the liquid they are cooked in. You can enhance their flavor by boiling them in broth, as opposed to water, or by heavily seasoning the water bath.

Lentils also greatly benefit by being finished with a form of acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice. It really brings their flavor to life!

Recipe Variations:

  • Vegan Stewed Lentils: Omit the marinated feta and finish the dish with a lemony tahini sauce instead. 
  • Lentil and Chorizo Stew: Sauté crumbled Spanish chorizo in the pot before adding the aromatics. When you’re ready to cook the lentils in the oven, add the cooked chorizo back to the pot.
  • Moroccan Lentil Stew: Substitute the 3 Tablespoons of tomato paste for 2 Tablespoons of harissa + 1 Tablespoon tomato paste.
  • Lentil Goulash: Add 8 ounces of tomato sauce to the mixture before baking.

A spoon pulling out a spoonful of stewed lentils

Serving Suggestions:

This stewed lentil dish is best served with crusty bread for sopping up the remains.

If serving to a crowd, serve the marinated feta on the side, which lets the guests have control over how much they use.

How to Store and Reheat:

  • Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Store the marinated feta separately.
  • Reheat: Rewarm lentils in the microwave or in a saucepan over medium heat. Since the lentils tend to soak up liquid the longer they sit, add a splash of water or broth to loosen and revive the mixture.
  • Freeze: Let lentils come close to room temperature before transferring them to a freezer-safe storage bag. Remove as much air as possible, and lay flat in the freezer for up to 3 months.
    • When ready to reheat, let thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
    • Marinated Feta should NOT be frozen. Prepare a fresh batch when ready to reheat leftovers, or opt for a tahini drizzle instead.

Stewed lentils, carrots, and onion being stirred in a pot

More Healthy Lentil Recipes to Try:

Stewed Lentils with Pickled Fennel Salad

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

Pumpkin Red Lentil Soup

Sweet Potato Lentil Salad

If you give this recipe a try, I’d love for you to leave a rating and review. Also, be sure snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth so I can see your beautiful creations.

5 from 22 votes

Stewed Lentils with Marinated Feta

Hearty Stewed Lentils with Marinated Feta is a comforting vegetarian dish with rustic, rich flavors. Serve as a satisfying main dish, and enjoy leftovers on repeat!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 4

Equipment

  • Large oven-safe pot or Dutch oven with fitted lid

Ingredients  

  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 to 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of chili flakes or a few grinds of black pepper
  • 1 cup petite lentils, such as French (Le Puy) lentils or black (Beluga) lentils*
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 medium to large carrots, sliced at a diagonal into 2" long pieces
  • 1 bay leaf or sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Crusty bread for serving (optional)

Marinated Feta (optional)

  • 5 oz. feta cheese, crumbled or broken into chunks
  • 3 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest, plus 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt and cracked black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
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Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350ºF.
    Add olive oil to an oven-safe sauté pan or Dutch oven with a fitted lid over medium heat. Add onion; cook for about 10 minutes, until soft.
    Stir in garlic, tomato paste, fennel seeds, cumin, cinnamon, and chili flakes (or black pepper); cook 3 more minutes, until the tomato paste is caramelized and spices are fragrant.
  • Add lentils, water, carrots, bay leaf, and salt; bring mixture to a boil. Cover, and transfer pan to preheated oven. Bake for 1 hour, until the lentils are tender and the liquid is mostly absorbed.
  • Meanwhile, prepare Marinated Feta by combining feta, dill, parsley, lemon zest and juice, and olive oil in a small bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Let sit at room temperature while lentils cook.
  • Remove lentils from the oven and give them a good stir. Remove bay leaf. Spoon marinated feta mixture overtop (if using), and serve with crusty bread.

Notes

*If you can't find petite lentils, any variety of green or brown lentils will work. I just prefer the heartier texture of petite for this dish.
*If you're not using the marinated feta as a topping, I suggest stirring in 1 Tbsp. of sherry vinegar right before serving, along with a drizzle of tahini.
  • Store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Store the marinated feta separately.
  • Reheat: Rewarm lentils in the microwave or in a saucepan over medium heat. Since the lentils tend to soak up liquid the longer they sit, add a splash of water or broth to loosen and revive the mixture.
  • Freeze: Let lentils come close to room temperature before transferring them to a freezer-safe storage bag. Remove as much air as possible, and lay flat in the freezer for up to 3 months.
    • When ready to reheat, let thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
    • Marinated Feta should NOT be frozen. Prepare a fresh batch when ready to reheat leftovers, or opt for a tahini drizzle instead.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.75cup lentils with 3 Tbsp. marinated feta | Calories: 420kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 5.5g | Sodium: 1020mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 8g

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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26 Comments

  1. Maggie says:

    5 stars
    I’ve made this dish a few times now and can say this is a easy but spectacular dish. The lentils themselves are wonderful, but adding the marinated feta has made this a recipe I go back to again and again. Make this, it’s wonderful!

  2. Anne says:

    5 stars
    So hearty and delicious!

  3. Stephanie says:

    5 stars
    Delicious. Perfect balance of spices and flavors. Will be making it again and sharing the recipe with friends and family.

  4. Stephanie says:

    5 stars
    Amazing! So delicious. Thanks for another awesome recipe!

  5. Katie says:

    5 stars
    Made this exactly as instructions listed except for the addition of broccoli at the end when the carrots went in. So. Freaking. Good. This is a new staple for us. Thank you!

    1. Jamie Vespa says:

      Hi Katie – I’m so glad you enjoyed this one! Thank you for coming back and leaving a review!