Your days of boring, forgettable side dishes are done!
While plain white rice, mashed potatoes, and steamed veggies are all perfectly acceptable sides, they can get a little… well… boring.
Fight back your jaded yawns, and get pumped up to make this exciting lentil and brown rice salad!
You can perk up any meal with its bold flavors from tamarind paste, fresh cilantro, and fresh lime juice.
And the meaty lentils and chewy whole grain brown rice bring a fun texture to every bite.
Other than the delicious flavor, the nutritional value of both the legume and the grain is also something to note – you’ll be getting a nourishing intake of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
It’s about time that your side dish game gets a makeover.
Go beyond the same old same old and make something new, healthy, and fun with our recipe below:
- 1 cup uncooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup brown lentils soaked overnight in water and rinsed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons tamarind paste **
- 3 teaspoons water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice approximately 1/2 a lime
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro for garnishing
- Lime wedges for garnishing
- Fresh chopped cilantro for garnishing
- In a large pot over high heat, combine the brown rice with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil before reducing heat to low. Simmer the rice, slightly covered, for approximately 40 minutes until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender with a slight chew.
- In a large skillet or pot, combine the soaked lentils and 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender, approximately 25 minutes.
- Combine the vegetable oil, tamarind paste, and 3 teaspoons of water in a small bowl. Thoroughly whisk together to make the dressing.
- Combine the cooked rice and lentils together in a separate serving bowl. Drizzle the dressing and lime juice over the grains and mix everything thoroughly together with a spoon. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges. Serve warm.
Recipe by Felicia Lim.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Get the Ingredients Ready
Measure out the grains, overnight-soaked lentils, vegetable oil, tamarind paste, and lime juice.
Set out the limes, cilantro, and salt and pepper.
Step 2 – Cut and Chop
Cut the limes into wedges and chop the fresh cilantro, using a sharp knife and sturdy cutting board. Set them aside.
Step 3 – Boil and Simmer
Combine the brown rice with 2 cups of water in a large pot over high heat. Once the water starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer, partially covered, for approximately 40 minutes until all the water has been absorbed and the grains are tender but still have a nice bite to them.
Alternately, cook them in a rice cooker or electric pressure cooker, following the directions for your specific model.
While the rice is cooking, combine the lentils with 2 cups of water in a large skillet or pot over high heat to bring it to a boil. Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for the next 25 minutes until the legumes are soft.
Note: If you have vegetable stock on hand, you can use stock instead of water to give them more flavor.
Step 4 – Prepare the Dressing
In a small bowl, mix the vegetable oil, tamarind paste, and 3 teaspoons of water together, whisking well to make the salad dressing.
Step 5 – Toss and Combine
Combine the hot, cooked rice and lentils together in a large serving bowl. Pour in the dressing and lime juice, and mix well until everything is evenly distributed. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges, and serve.
This dish can be served warm, or at room temperature. Alternatively, you can chill the salad in the refrigerator once everything is combined, and serve it cold. The flavors will meld together the more you let it rest.
Plenty of options!
A Most Delicious Side Dish Makeover
Swap out your usual white rice or bland steamed vegetables with this fun lentil and brown rice salad to accompany future meals.
The amazing flavor boost from tamarind, cilantro, and lime will leave an unforgettable impression.
Serve this dish during your next turkey dinner, or keep it vegan by enjoying this salad with tofu instead.
Leftover lover? This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled for more servings.
For other side dishes that aim to thrill, try our roasted rosemary carrots glazed with honey, or our sauteed Brussels sprouts with bacon, fennel, and dill.
And if you’re looking for more lentil salads, try our lentils with shallots, strawberries, and goat cheese!
We’ve shared some of our favorite fun sides – what are yours? How do you like to add some pizazz to a typical meal accompaniment? We’d love to know! Post your favorites in the comment section below.
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Photos by Felicia Lim, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. With additional writing by Felicia Lim.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is a full-time cheesemonger and specialty foods buyer living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.