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Crispy Lentils Are The Easy, Crunchy Salad Topping You Need

black lentils over a green salad with pomegranate and roasted beets in a white serving bowl
black lentils over a green salad with pomegranate and roasted beets in a white serving bowl - Tejal Pandya/Shutterstock

Crunchy salad toppers have expanded far beyond the croutons in a Caesar salad, with Southwestern salads using tortilla strips, fried crispy chow mein noodles topping Chinese chicken salads, and pine nuts sprinkled over an Italian chopped salad. Crispy beans are the newest frontier, offering a quick and easy homemade salad topper that's crunchy, savory, and packed with protein.

Crispy chickpeas and fava beans are longstanding popular snacks around the world, only recently becoming popular salad and grain bowl ingredients. Crispy lentils are just as easy to make, and their small size and distinct meaty taste will give you a pop of crunchiness and flavor in each forkful of salad. Crisping them with a bit of oil only bolsters their savory, umami nature, while also serving to bind and absorb any spices, herbs, and seasonings you want to fit the culinary theme of the salad in question.

For example, you can use a spice mixture of smoked paprika, thyme, oregano, coriander, cinnamon, and garlic powder for your lentils to top Mediterranean salads like Greek salad, or to replace cooked lentils in this lentil fattoush salad from Tasting Table recipe developer Miriam Hahn. Chili powder, cumin, and onion powder would bring Mexican zest to savory lentils, adding a spicy, earthy, and tangy salad topper for a roasted corn and avocado salad or a Southwestern chicken salad.

Read more: 21 Delicious Ways To Use Up Leftover Rice

How To Crisp Lentils

bowl with black lentils on a wood surface
bowl with black lentils on a wood surface - Africa Studio/Shutterstock

As some of the smallest legumes, lentils are more delicate and quicker to cook than most other types of beans. Lentils come in various types, with some sturdier and larger than others. For the sake of crispy lentils, the firmest, largest types of lentils like French lentils and black lentils are the best choice. The most effective and convenient way to crisp lentils is to use dried beans, soaking them overnight before draining and sauteing them in oil in a skillet. You won't have to waste 20 minutes boiling them. An overnight soak will partially cook them till al dente, preventing them from falling apart or turning to mush as you saute them with oil. You'll want to season them while they're hot for maximum absorption, serving them once they've cooled and are at their crispiest.

You can also transform leftover cooked lentils or canned lentils into crispy lentils using the same methods employed for canned chickpeas, namely roasting or air frying. The first step is to dry out cooked lentils as much as possible by gently patting them with a paper towel or dish towel or spreading them out in a single layer to air dry for a good 15 to 20 minutes. Then, place them on a baking sheet or air fryer tray in an even layer, drizzle with oil, and roast them for around 20 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven, or 400 degrees Fahrenheit in the air fryer.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.