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

  • Sauté 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. Cary says:

    This sounds perfect for today! Thanks for sharing. Cannot wait to try your spice combo. Ginger, yumm!! Oh Margaret, banana shallot seed depth seems very forgiving… they are busting out of the soil (umm, make that soil-free mix ;))! Thanks again for your fun recommendation.

  2. Murrie says:

    ALWAYS looking for filling, tasty vegetarian recipes that will appeal to my husband too (trying to gently urge him to kick the meat habit) and this recipe looks perfect! Thanks!

  3. Terry says:

    I am not a vegetarian- but having said that- I also limit my meat intake to 2-3 times a week. I love your recipes! When I come across a good one I’ll make it a ‘Margaret’ style dinner. I’ll add a crisp crunchy salad, some bread and butter to make the man happy, and be satisfied with a big, hot bowl of pulses.
    By the way, ‘pulses’ is easier to say than ‘legumes’. Don’t you agree?
    Thanks for all the great recipes.

  4. narf7 says:

    As a vegan it often surprises my friends to find out that I don’t live on green/brown lentils. I have been a vegetarian/vegan for 24 years now and have studiously managed to avoid them like the plague. I prefer their quicker cooking less earthy red relatives and the split pea family in general. Your recipe has me actually wanting to head out and buy some regular lentils. You should be made the next pope just for that miracle alone! Thank you for this wonderful and most promising recipe. You can be assured that I WILL try these lentils and so will my husband and with winter creeping up on us I can’t think of anything more hearty than a pot of these lentils with some roasted vegetables and jalapeno salsa from the garden. Cheers for a wonderful recipe and for sharing it with us all :)

  5. Nadia Ameri says:

    I like to add a dollop of yogurt on top of lentil soup. I’ve never thought to BBQ them. It sounds interesting. My sister in law is Moroccan and she says lentils are a salad ingredient to her. So, its interesting how diverse lentils can be.

  6. Carly Casper says:

    The Southerner in me just has to add MOLASSES instead of maple syrup! I am making these for Sunday night dinner. Thanks for the great recipe!

  7. Lyne says:

    I just finished making your BBQ Lentils Margaret and it was delicious! I tweeked here and there by adding chunks of green and red peppers, fresh mushrooms and cut-up brussel sprouts. Also, I switched the ketchup for my homemade tomato sauce. That’s it.
    I especially enjoyed the herb and spice combination. Very tasty!
    Using your suggestion, I cooked up some brown rice and adding a green salad to complete the dish. Thanks for the recipe. It’s a keeper for me.

  8. Katie C. says:

    Be careful with the “broil” part of the recipe…most glass and ceramic dishes really aren’t broiler safe and will (eventually) break. Also, I’ve read that for crockpot recipes, you can add some liquid smoke to simulate the BBQ flavor of the grill. I imagine that this would work very well for your recipe too.

  9. JulieL says:

    I just made this last night. My modifications are: fresh grated ginger instead of powder, a little less catsup and added about a 2 TB tomato paste (to deepen the taste), omitted the pepper and added the following veggies: leeks, celery, spinach. After the dish cooked in the oven, I added the spinach and stirred till it was wilted. My husband and kids ate it in less than 5 minutes and the kids said it was good! Now that is saying something.

    1. margaret says:

      Hey, JulieL! Sounds like quite the supper. Glad it was success. I will try the red lentils sometime; I like to undercook mine a bit (green ones) so they are still firm. Wonder how the red ones are texture-wise?

  10. Dahlink says:

    Margaret, I’m no lentil expert, but I have played with various colors. I find that the re lentils tend to be softer than other varieties, so you may want to stick with the more traditional lentils if you like them firm.

  11. Vickie Moore says:

    Fantastic recipe! Made these for my husband since we are trying to eat less meat & more plant based proteins & loved them! I though I knew how to make baked beans but these barbequed lentils are to die for! I recreated the sauce the next night and used it on baked salmon to go with our leftovers. Home run!

  12. Kate says:

    Saw this recipe this morning and immediately made them for lunch… they were enjoyed very much by the hubbie and me. Had them over brown rice and spinach, yum. Thanks for the post!

  13. Deb McD says:

    I really like this idea and will try it. I’m wondering how this might work with yellow split peas which absorb flavours well. Yum.

    1. margaret says:

      I’d just be careful not to cook them too long, Deb, as without their seed coverings on they get soft faster! :)

      Hi, Alice. Yes, yummy. I think you will enjoy them — and play with the flavors to adjust how you like them — sweet spicy, etc.

  14. Glenda Berman says:

    This has become one of my favorite recipes and just the kind of thing to take to a pot luck supper. I love this dish thank you Margaret for sharing.

  15. BeBe says:

    Why can’t I print this recipe? Using control+p from keyboard it will print 7 pages of paper! Not good. I like to keep hard copies of recipes. Am I missing something here? No printer friendly version? Please! Thanks.

  16. Bridget says:

    These are divine. Thank you so much for all the wonderful recipes you share. Can you tell me …. do these freeze well? It makes so much I’ll never eat it all.

    Thank you again.

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