Italians eat lentils to bring good fortune, linking their round shape with gold coins. No wonder: at 20¢ per 1/2-cup cooked serving (of brown lentils), these peppery little legumes practically put money in your pocket. (Brown are the most widely available, but you might also find French green "Le Puy," orange or black.) A serving contains over 9 grams of protein and a jaw-dropping 8 grams of dietary fiber, making them a boon to heart health as well. Plus, they taste great.
To cook lentils: Place in a saucepan, cover with at least 1 inch of water, bring to a simmer and cook until just tender, 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the type of lentil. Drain and rinse with cold water. 1 cup dry lentils = about 2 1/2 cups cooked. Or use canned lentils: 15-ounce can = 1 1/2 cups. Rinse canned lentils before cooking with them to reduce the sodium by 35%.
Check out the slideshow above for our best recipes that use lentils.