recipe: barbecue baked lentils, minus the grill

bbq lentils with riceTHE HOUSE SMELLED SUMMERY yesterday. No; I didn’t bring home some flowering, fragrant tropical beauty from the garden center. I made an ovenproof dish full of “barbecued” lentils. If cheap, easy, good for you and full of flavor sounds like the right ingredients, read on for the recipe.

These may remind you of my popular vegetarian baked heirloom beans, but lentils cook much more quickly, and I don’t use molasses or the same spices in these as I do in the beans. That said, you could alternate either flavor with either “pulse,” and simply vary the cooking time.

bbq lentilsbarbecue lentils, minus the grill


  • 1¾ cups lentils, rinsed (I use the basic greenish kind; black “caviar” ones are fine, too)
  • Water to cover the lentils to twice their depth (about 4 cups)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ cup ketchup (or tomato paste and water mixed to equivalent consistency and volume)
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • salt and pepper to taste


Rinse lentils and put in pot with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 30 minutes, but before they get mushy!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Meantime, chop and sauté onion and garlic in olive oil.

Drain lentils, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid.

Put lentils in an oven-proof covered dish (Dutch oven or Pyrex type), and add reserved liquid, plus all the other ingredients. Stir until well mixed.

Bake, covered, until the liquids are absorbed, about one hour.

I remove the cover for the last 15 minutes, and put the oven on “broil” for the last 5 to finish the top.

Serve as a side, or as a whole Margaret-style happy meal with brown rice (as up top, no free plastic toy included).

Note: Depending on the age of the lentils and how well they were pre-cooked while simmering, you may wish to add liquid. If lentils are not at desired tenderness shortly before most of the baking liquid is absorbed, add a small amount of water.

possible add-ins or substitutions

  • Saute a diced sweet potato with the garlic and onions, recommends Serious Eats.
  • Hate using ketchup? (I use a corn-syrup-free organic kind, but still…it’s sugary stuff.) As mentioned, try tomato paste mixed with water to equal ½ cup with a ketchup-like thickness.
  • Like them spicier, or with additional flavors? Adjust your cayenne. Paprika, chili powder and allspice are some of the other barbecue-sauce possibilities I’ve seen elsewhere. Worcestershire is usually recommended, but it’s not strictly vegetarian (contains anchovies).
  • Apple-cider vinegar can be subbed for the balsamic, and is more traditional in BBQ sauce.
  • Instead of maple syrup, some cooks use use brown sugar and extra liquid. Want to limit the sugar? Swap out the ketchup as above for water-tomato paste mix.
    1. margaret says:

      I have no idea, Lori–look up a Crock-pot recipe for, say, lentil soup and see the cooking time. Also: It won’t get nice and crusty in there there way it does in the oven.

  1. Jane Sherrott says:

    Use up your leftover cranberry sauce from Christmas or Thanksgiving by substituting 1/2 c. -3/4 c. cranberry sauce plus a can of tomato paste for the ketchup and maple syrup.

    The BBQ Lentils Without the BBQ adapts in many ways with whatever is left over in the fridge.

  2. Sandy says:

    This is very good. I rarely have all ingredients on hand when I am browsing recipes but I happened to have everything and so bingo now I am having a bowl. I am not a vegetarian but am finding that I am eating eat less meat than I used to and it just feels right to my body to do so. Thanks for the recipe and I will try the others too.

  3. Rhody says:

    I’ve been staring at my one bag of lentils since we started quarantine. Couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with it. Just made this for lunch today. It was delicious – thank you.

  4. Michelle says:

    This was so good! I added diced green bell peppers and Worcestershire sauce. Tomorrow I will have it over an air fried potato with a side of broccoli.

  5. Nancy says:

    Looks wonderful. I wish I could copy it out as a PDF and place in my recipe file.
    I suggest you try making your own ketchup. Years ago a found a recipe online from a man, which seemed so odd to me, ubt
    I tried it and it was fabulous. Because I had no way to save the recipe it is lost to me forever. There are tons of them out there and every year I try a new one but have yet to find his. I look for lots and lots of spices because that’s all I remember was lining all of them up. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed. I love to see what other gardeners are devising in their kitchens, after all, what better reason is there to garden than to enjoy the harvest?

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