Did you know that, in addition to there being different colored lentils, there are also a number of brown lentils varieties? These edible legumes have an earthy taste and are used in a variety of dishes, including Indian cuisine, soups, casseroles, and vegetarian dishes.
These legumes are also heart-healthy, protein-rich, fiber-rich, and full of folate (enough to meet the daily recommended intake). Furthermore, they are low in fat and caloric content, making them an ultra-healthy addition to any diet.
From light brown (almost khaki-colored) to dark brown lentils (almost black in some cases), this color variety is one of the more common you’ll find.
Let’s explore five of the different varieties of brown lentils that you will find for different cooking purposes.
5 Brown Lentil Varieties
1. Spanish Brown Lentils
The first variety of brown lentils we’ll cover is the Spanish brown. This variety is sometimes referred to as Spanish Pardina lentils (lens esculenta).
They have a tan color to them, making them one of the lighter-colored brown lentils. They also sometimes have greenish highlights to them.
People often describe their flavor as nutty and mild, making them common in Asian and European dishes that have other, stronger flavors. Their texture, on the other hand, is more creamy and firm.
You’ll often find this variety of lentils in soups, stews, and salads.
Many people prefer these brown lentils because they cook quickly and don’t need to be soaked beforehand. They’re also lauded for their possible benefits in reducing the risk of heart disease and cancers, as well as being helpful during pregnancy.
Some of the nutritional qualities of Spanish brown lentils include:
- High fiber
- High protein
- Iron, potassium, magnesium, and zinc
- High folate
Brown lentils actually have more potassium content in ¾ of a cup than a whole banana.
2. Beluga Lentils
Beluga lentils are among the darker brown lentil varieties. In fact, they’re a black lentil that is pretty small. Their signature texture is al dente, and they tend to maintain their shape even when you cook them.
These lentils are notably dense compared to other lentil varieties. Further, they resemble a certain type of caviar (that’s how they got the name “Beluga”).
One of the benefits of Beluga lentils is that they absorb other flavors and spices well when cooking. Because they hold their shape/texture and absorb other flavors, they are a great plant-based ingredient for veggie burgers.
Their high protein content makes them ideal for those on a vegan diet who need to supplement protein sources. Did you know that a cooked cup of lentils contains almost 20 grams of protein?
Some of the nutritional qualities of Beluga lentils include:
- High protein
- High fiber
- High in folates
3. Indian Brown Lentils
Also known as Masoor Dal or Sabut Masoor Dal in Hindi, this brown lentil variety is orange on the inside and brown-skinned on the outside.
This type of lentil is commonly used in Indian cooking for brown lentil curry, made with spices, onions, and tomatoes. People often serve it with grains such as rice or quinoa. It’s common in vegan or vegetarian dishes because it supplies so much of the protein that plant-based dishes miss without meat.
This brown lentil variety holds up well even when cooked for a long time, which means they don’t get mushy. Instead, they become creamy when cooked in dishes like stews and curry (dal).
Some of the nutritional qualities of Indian brown lentils include:
- Amino acid content
- Potassium, iron, copper content
- Vitamin B1 and B6 content
This nutritional content makes Indian brown lentils ideal for supplying protein to vegan diets, as well as essential nutrients that are heart-healthy and good for digestion.
4. German Brown Lentils
When it comes to German brown lentils, we’re mostly referring to the famous dish of Southern Germany called Schwäbische Linsen mit Spätzle. It’s a thick stew with bacon, vegetables, and lentils served over German Saitenwurst (sausage).
Many people from Swabia, Germany know this brown lentil dish to be a comfort food that has a nostalgic taste to it.
People recognize the distinct flavor of these lentils as sweet and sour (Linsen mit Spätzle). Brown lentils give this dish its signature texture and provide a lot of protein and fiber.
You also get a lot of iron content when you eat these brown lentils in German food.
Some of the nutritional qualities of German brown lentils include:
- High fiber
- High protein
- High zinc, potassium, and iron
- High folate content
In some cases, German brown lentils may also be referred to as “Alb-Leisa” lentils. This is one of the most popular brands that produce brown lentils in Germany. It also refers to the traditional varieties of lentils from Germany’s Swabian Jura. Therefore, it is these brown lentils that are really of German origin.
5. General Brown Lentils
There are a variety of brown lentils used in different cultures and cuisines around the world. However, you will sometimes find brown lentils sold in America as just “lentils”. In fact, many times, when you see a bag of lentils being sold as just “lentils”, chances are they are brown lentils.
This is because brown lentils are one of the most common color varieties, among red, green, and black lentils. Brown lentils are pretty soft and they tend to split when they’re cooked for a long time. Many people use brown lentils for curries, soups, stews, salads, and plant-based dishes.
In general, brown lentils are an excellent source of calcium, iron, potassium, folate, protein, and vitamins. They’re also rich in fiber, which makes them ideal for plant-based diets, such as vegan and vegetarian.
Many people believe that brown lentils (and other varieties) have properties that reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and other health maladies.