Hamburger Lentil Soup

Hamburger lentil soup is easy and nutritious, and can use Montana-produced grains.

The Montana Harvest of the Month is a program developed to support local communities, farmers and ranchers by showcasing local or Montana-grown foods.

Each month a different nutritionally dense food is highlighted and served in participating schools and food establishments. Educational information about the food is provided so students and consumers can learn more about the food and its nutritional value.

This month showcases lentils, the highly nutritious “superfood” that is one of the first crops cultivated by humans. Montana also happens to be the top producer of lentils. Lentils are an excellent source of fiber, and a good source of potassium, protein, iron, Vitamin B-6 and antioxidants.

When buying lentils choose a variety suitable to the way you plan to use them in your recipe.

• Green lentils: Larger, very versatile. Use for soups, salads or in baked goods as a puree.

• Golden and red lentils: Cook quickly and lose their shape. Good for adding to sauces, thicker soups, mashed potatoes nand baked goods as puree.

• Pardina, black Beluga, and French green lentils: Smaller and round, hold their shape, great sprouted and/or served in soups or salads.

Before cooking lentils, wash carefully and pick out any rocks or debris. They do not need to be soaked before cooking like other legumes, but soaking and sprouting does help to increase nutrient availability. Lentils can also be ground in a high-powered blender, food processor, or spice/coffee grinder to make a powder that can be used in smoothies or as a high-protein, high-fiber flour in baking. When shopping, also look for products made from lentils. More products are being developed all the time, such as lentil pasta and lentil flour. A cracker made from lentils is being developed at Montana State University.

The “Montana Harvest of the Month” program is a collaboration of the Montana Team Nutrition Program, MSU Extension Service, Montana Farm to School, Montana Office of Public Instruction, Montana Department of Agriculture, Gallatin Valley Farm to School, Food Corps Montana, National Center for Appropriate Technology, and Food Co-ops Montana.

This healthy and hearty soup is simple to put together when you have a busy day. Combine all the ingredients in your slow cooker and let it cook while you go about your activities.

Hamburger Lentil Soup

(Servings: 8)


1 pound ground beef

½ cup chopped onions

4 carrots, diced

3 ribs celery, diced

1 garlic clove, minced or 1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 quart tomato juice

2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon pepper

2 cups dry lentils, washed with stones removed (use any type except red lentils)

1 quart water

½ teaspoon dried marjoram

½ teaspoon basil

½ teaspoon oregano

1½ tablespoons brown sugar

*I have also added baby spinach to the soup during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking which adds another vegetable as well as flavor.


Brown ground beef and onion in skillet; drain. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on Low 8–10 hours or on High 4–6 hours. Source: With revisions, from “Fix –It and Forget-It Cookbook,” Dawn J. Rank and Phyllis Pellman Good.

Mac and cheese is popular and you can make a much healthier version using this recipe for Lentil Mac and Cheese that is packed with vegetables and lentils for a hearty vegetarian meal. You can make it with whatever vegetables and cheese you have on hand.

Lentil Mac and Cheese with Veggies

(Servings: 4–6)


1 cup pasta, uncooked (preferably whole grain)

¾ cup lentils, uncooked (choose a variety with skin, not a processed type)

2 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

3–4 cups mixed vegetables, diced (fresh, frozen or combination)

5 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted and drained (can substitute 3 handfuls fresh spinach)

2 tablespoons flour

1½ cups milk

5 ounces cheese, grated or crumbled

1 teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper


Cook pasta according to package directions. Cook lentils according to package directions. While pasta and lentils are cooking, melt butter in a large sauté pan. Add garlic and vegetables and sauté for 10 minutes. Sprinkle vegetables with flour. Add milk and cheese and stir until combined. Stir in cooked pasta, lentils and spices and serve warm. Source: The Lean Green Bean via the U.S. Dry Pea and Lentil Council and

Lentils also work well in baked goods, providing moisture, flavor, and added nutrition. These oatmeal raisin cookies are the official cookies of the Lentil Underground Book Tour. They are moist, rich and yummy.

Lentil Underground Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with Timeless Harvest Gold Lentils

(Yield: 3½ dozen cookies)


1¾ cups all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ pound (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1¼ cups light brown sugar, packed

2 medium eggs

2½ teaspoons vanilla

1½ cups cooked and pureed Timeless Harvest Gold Lentils

1 cup raisins, chopped

2½ cups old-fashioned oats


Cook ¾ cup dry lentils in about 1½ cups water, stirring occasionally, until lentils have absorbed all the water. Puree with potato masher or blender. Whisk together the flour, soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. In a separate mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until combined and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended. Stir in flour mixture until well blended. Stir in pureed lentils, along with the raisins and oatmeal. Drop dough by heaping spoonfuls on parchment-lined or greased cookie sheets, spacing about 3-inches apart. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 10–12 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned all over and almost firm at the center. Cool on wire rack. Enjoy! Source:

Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.


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