White Lentil Risotto with Mushrooms


Eating out is a grand seduction. From the moment I step into a restaurant, I am totally open and utterly surrendered to the experience. The first thing I notice when I enter is the smell – I actually like it to hit me with an assertive thwack – like someone proudly shouting a rainbow of aromas to my face that something amazing is happening in the kitchen. I love sitting down at the table, gently touching the cutlery, unfolding the napkin and placing it in my lap, the first exchange with the server, opening the menu. It’s all very weighty, very important, very ritualistic for me.

While I was on my cookbook tour, you can imagine that I ate out a lot. Mostly out of the necessity of not having a kitchen, but also because going to restaurants is a rare privilege for me and I’ll take any excuse. During my few harried days in New York City I went to dine at a new, hip joint in the west village that came highly recommended (although I’ll refrain from naming names). The place was packed with an intimidating blend of gorgeous locals and well-dressed, in-the-know tourists. The menu looked incredibly promising with Sarah B. favourites and buzz ingredients like chia seeds, cashew cheese, baby kale, and turmeric oil. I was explosive with anticipation. I immediately committed myself to the ivory lentil risotto with peas. I’d seen ivory lentils at the market before but never bought them, and had never had the revelation to try making “risotto” with them. I could feel my expectations soar and the desire pulsing between us. Hold me back!

The dish arrived, its scent wafting up from the pristine white bowl and pools of amber oil intermingling with green globes of seasonal spring perfection. I looked at my friends with great eagerness, dipped my spoon in and took the first bite.

The lentils were raw.

No, not al dente. Raw. Crunchy. Hard. Uncooked.

I rarely, rarely send something back to the kitchen, but because I was so seduced by the idea of this dish and it completely fell flat, I just had to. The lentils had obviously been cooked, but so far from properly cooked that it baffled me – what kind of chef would send a dish out like this unless by mistake? It must have been a mistake. I could feel myself losing trust in this impeccably designed, obviously happening restaurant, but how could all of these hipsters be wrong?

The waiter returned and said that there was nothing wrong with the dish. The chef meant it to be that way. He placed the plate of cold food back on the table in front of me, smiled, turned, and left. I was crushed. After all we’d been through.

Although it has been months since this experience, I can’t shake it – the lunch bag letdown of a genius concept failing to meet its true potential, the fact that I was served undercooked legumes, and that I paid $30 for them. In order to right all of these wrongs, I headed to my local Indian grocer, bought some white lentils and made a date with my stove. What manifested was not just a better meal, but a new favourite one.


It’s pretty clear that I’m into making “risotto” out of anything besides rice, such as the Miraculous Riceless Risotto and the Inspirational Sunflower Seed Risotto, but I’m digging this new recipe for a lot of reasons. First, it’s grain-free and in my rice-loving life it’s nice to have an alternative. It’s very high in protein, something that I’m always mindful of as it is so important to balanced health. It cooks quickly so it’s perfect for a weeknight, and it’s endlessly customizable to the season simply by changing up the veggies on top. It’s divinely creamy, rich and velvety and so much like risotto (by far the closest I’ve come so far!). If you are looking for me this fall, you can find me tucked into a big bowl of this stuff. It’s like eating hugs.


Yum, Yum, Molybdenum
Chances are you haven’t heard of molybdenum, but I will wager that you had to sound it out a couple times (let me help you: “muh-LIB-duh-num”). Moylbdenum is an essential trace mineral and happens to be wildly abundant in our pal, the lentil. It is found first in the soil where we grow our food and water, so healthy soil and groundwater is essential for healthy plants that contain good amounts of this stuff. In our bodies it is stored in the liver, kidneys, adrenal glands bones, and skin, but it is present in some amount in all of our tissues.

Molybdenum is important because it is part of several enzyme systems, the most notable being that of xanthine oxidase. Xanthine oxidase (XO) helps the liver mobilize iron for use in the body and aid uric acid metabolism. Molybdenum also helps us digest and assimilate carbohydrates and detoxify the body from exposure to sulfites.

Besides lentils, other sources of molybdenum include dried peas and beans, oats, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, cucumber, celery and eggs.


A few notes on the recipe.
First, white lentils are available at Indian grocery stores, but I’ve also seen them at Middle Eastern markets and online. If you can’t find white lentils, it’s good to know that they are also called urad daal or urid daal. To confuse you a little, the unhulled lentils themselves are called black lentils or black gram since their skins are completely black. It should be obvious, but I’ll advise against buying the unhulled kind or you will have a very different result – a black one to be precise. Because someone will inevitably ask if they can make this with any other colour of lentil, I will say a half-hearted yes, but I wouldn’t recommend anything other than red lentils due to their properties.

Second, you can definitely make this a vegan recipe by leaving out the cheese rind, but good golly, it really makes for some delicious eating. I also like a grate a bunch of pecorino over the top right before serving, but I’m pretty wild like that. Oh baby.

Third, I got pretty fancy and bought (not foraged – the shame!) wild mushrooms for this because I just love them so, but when I originally tested the recipe I used good ol’ brown button mushrooms and portobellos. Whatever mushrooms you choose the biggest secret to cooking them is not moving them too much. Like pancakes, grilled cheese, and I would imagine, a steak, don’t stir them for crying out loud. Get the pan pretty screeching hot, melt some ghee (or coconut oil), throw in the mushrooms, toss to coat, then just back away. Sure, you can watch them sizzle, talk to them, Instagram them, but do not touch them. The secret to really great mushrooms is a caramelized crust and that only happens with high heat and no mucking about. You are allowed to check the bottom of one (one!) after 3-4 minutes, but if there is no colour yet, flip it back until you have some serious golden going on. Also, don’t crowd the pan too much – this causes the mushrooms to steam instead of fry – an important distinction.



Show me your risotto on Instagram! #MNRwhitelentilrisotto

*   *   *   *   *

Hey Danes!
I’m doing three events this month and I would love to see you there.

First, I will be the guest chef at the organic and hyper-local food restaurant Mad Mad Mad Bodega cooking and serving a total pumpkin orgy, giving a talk and signing books as well. Click the flyer for a link to learn more.

Secondly, I am giving two lectures on Nutrition Fundamentals (way more rad than it sounds!) with a Q&A at Books & Company. You can come to one of the talks or both. Click the flyer for a link to learn more.




  1. Cleo Li-Schwartz

    I’ve been to this restaurant, and I thought it was absolutely delicious! I tried the cauliflower steaks, which were amazing, as was the branzino (not vegetarian, I know). One bad dish does not mean the whole restaurant should be avoided. I would highly recommmend Cafe Clover, it’s one of my favorites in the West Village (although it is overpriced, I agree).

  2. Lucy

    I made this recipe a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed it. (And thank you for finally helping me to get fried mushrooms right!) Leftovers were epecially good with a poached egg on top. Riffing off the idea, today I used white lentils in place of the arborio rice in Marcella Hazan’s smothered cabbage soup recipe. Worked really well! Next time I’ll try them in an avgolemono soup. Thanks for the recipe all the great ideas it’s leading to! 🙂

  3. Diane

    I am a lover of dal, but have only used it in more traditional ways (Indian dal),so this is exciting. One can never have too many dal recipes. Thanks. I will be making it tonight.

  4. Laurie

    I made the vegan version for dinner. Delicious and perfect for a cool Canadian fall evening. Thanks for another wonderful recipe!

  5. J

    This looks amazing, and I love that you took a bade restaurant experience and turned it into a culinary win. I also love a non-rice risotto as my son is allergic to rice, and really cannot wait to try this. I may add some thinly sliced radicchio to the mushrooms for the added superfood benefits as well as the color and bite, but otherwise leave it exactly as it is. Thank you for the new recipe!

  6. cecilia

    I made this for dinner tonight and i’ve just scarfed down a bowl. so tender and delicate. i used parmesean and you’re, right, the cheese rind takes this dish to another level. thank you, sarah! xoxo

  7. Abra Burke

    Have you considered filming any of your tour dates? Especially the ones where you’re giving a lecture? I would gladly pay a fee to watch or tune it at a specific time if there was the option!!!

  8. Laura Beth

    Just discovered your site and am thrilled to discover the healthy recipes. And based on the comments of other readers, I can tell I’m in for a treat! I am going to try this recipe and we’ll see how it goes. Sorry to hear of your poor dining experience.

    Laura Beth

  9. Brittany

    Such a bummer restaurant experience, but at least it inspired this amazing recipe. My local Whole Foods has white lentils in the bulk section and I’ve been eyeing them for months. I’m pinning this recipe so that I can finally try them.

  10. Cawfee Kath

    This looks delish and I am getting ready for cool weather meals.

    I am so sorry that your dining experience in NYC was less than great.
    In the future, try this with a bad entree: push it to the side of the table where it will be noticed. Any restauant worth its salt ( like what I did there?) will immediately remove it from view. Don’t ever be afraid to have something removed from your bill. I have a few times when my food was either un/undercooked or didn’t taste right. You can say it very pleasantly—and tip your server well for helping you out or not well if service was very poor and inattentive.

  11. Jilee

    Oh Sarah…I love you more then I already did! My husband and I made this for dinner this evening. We are ecstatic at how delicious it is and the endless flavor possibilities we can try with white lentil risottos. So happy about this because I recently found out I’m allergic to rice and was sad to think I’d never have risotto again. Your recipe is timely and perfect! We are Oregonians and wild mushroom picking is in full swing. We had to add just a touch of Oregon truffle oil to our plates to make it oh so evermore delightful. Thank you, thank you Sarah for sharing this!

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  13. DD

    I prepared this for dinner tonight — a cold, wet, blustery October night — and it offered comfort food down to the bones: Rich and creamy, with a deep umami taste rising out of the properly pan-seared ‘shrooms plus a latent nuttiness from the Parmesan rinds. I added ~1/2 cup white wine with the lentils and let it cook a few moments before adding the stock. Gonna have it tomorrow topped with roasted root vegetables and a drizzle of aged balsamic. This recipe is ideal for my grain-free lifestyle, and for once an alternative dish does not feel like an inadequate substitute. White lentil risotto, my new cold-weather fave! Thanks and best wishes.

  14. Caroline

    Sarah B, you’ve done it again! I am so excited to try this…. I love mushrooms and risotto, but I’ve realised over the past year that my gut not only isn’t friends with gluten, but most rice as well…. this is such a good idea. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

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  16. Ana

    Hi Sarah,

    I live and work in New York City, as a vendor to the restaurant industry. As you might imagine, that entails going out to eat and check in on accounts…a lot. Sadly, the situation that happened to you is all too common, I find- overpriced, poorly prepared or poorly presented food in an environment that should be welcoming and appreciative its paying customers. I’m sorry on your short visit that you experienced this.

    While I respect your decision not to name the restaurant, I wonder what might happen if you did. Too often, the “emperor’s new clothes” phenomenon alluded to above leads many unsuspecting diners into popular restaurants, and if we don’t hold them accountable- if not for the unacceptable quality of the food, then for that bizarrely arrogant service style- people will continue to have unsatisfying experiences eating out. You hold a strong, and well-deserved, position in the food world, and I do think it could help bring about some needed change to this industry.

    Not that fixing the New York restaurant industry is your responsibility, of course! It just struck me when reading this post, and I felt compelled to comment.

    And I know you’ve heard it before, but thanks for all the inspirational recipes and hard work you put into this blog, for everyone to enjoy and benefit from.

    • Anna

      A quick Google has led me to believe that she’s referring to Cafe Clover (http://www.cafeclovernyc.com/). Sounds like it fits the bill and lists ivory lentil risotto on the menu. I have had a couple of bitterly disappointing “fine dining” experiences too and it makes me angry that restaurants can get away with this!

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  18. Mandy Dugas

    Hey Sarah!!

    FINALLY!! A blogger who’s recipes I don’t have to continuously modify to become healthier! I got your cookbook and made the blood orange chocolate cake for my mother in-laws birthday this weekend. IT WAS AMAZING! I was called The Best Baker Ever! So thank you! The chocolate orange date frosting is pure genius. My step daughter and I bonded while we ate the leftovers by the spoonful! Thank you for making beautiful, absolutely delicious recipes! We eat super healthy in our home and I am sooo appreciative of anyone else who is willing to nourish their body (and family) through organic whole foods & share their creations! Your ‘One Change’ video on yourtube is excellent! You are honestly an inspirational woman. You have already brought so much awareness to the world and I know you will keep going to make our planet a healthier/better place. You are a leader! Thanks again for totally rocking!

    Mandy Dugas from Mandy’s Healthy Life

  19. Jennifer

    This sounds amazing! I’m sorry about your NY restaurant experience. I found when I lived in NY that there were sooooo many restaurants that it was so hit and miss and if it was in Manhattan it was often overpriced. I loved restaurants more in NY when I moved to Astoria (Queens).

    Always look forward to your posts!

  20. Ingrid

    Holy Moly! This dish is absolutely delicious. Added to my favorite receipes. Thank you Sarah for bringing such a delicate plate to our homes.

  21. Bridget

    Delicious! Finished the dish with a small drizzle of white truffle oil. Thank you Sarah for another beautiful recipe.

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  23. Hélène

    Bonjour Sarah ,existe t ‘il une version française de “my new roots” (le livre) ? Merci de partager vos recettes …

  24. Nelibelly

    I’ve never seen white lentils before, but I found some on Amazon, and made this tonight. I forgot to soak the lentils, so I just soaked them while I got all the other ingredients prepped. I added some white wine w/the broth. The flavors were great, but I think the lentils were overcooked a bit as they got a pretty mushy. I thought they’d need more than 30 mins, but I don’t think they did. Next time I’ll try a shorter cooking time. The mushrooms were delicious! I’m excited to experiment w/these lentils!!

  25. Britni Leah

    From a nutritionist standpoint, what is the serving size on lentils for one serving of protein and one serving of carbs. I always struggle with the dry and cooked measurements of lentils, their just so damn good I could eat the whole pot. What is one serving of protein and one serving of carbs look like from dry lentils? What are some side dishes or things you like to add with lentils to make it a more filling meal?!
    Thank you, Have a good day!

  26. elo

    sarah hello, I saw on another post that you make your own flour. It interests me a lot because I am very sensitive to gluten and I could save money … Are you a Vitamix blender? if so what model you have? You think it takes a special mixer for solids or I can use one for liquid …? And if that is what “there is the possibility that your book in French so? Thank you very much

  27. Tower Deli & Diner

    Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe. These really look so delicious! I am definitely trying out this one of these days! I am pretty sure my family and friends will love it! Please keep on sharing!

  28. Kathleen

    Awesome! Also this post is pretty funny too. Great humor in food. Sorry about your experience in NYC… but also glad for it because now we all have a better recipe!

  29. Josephine Malene

    Yay – I’ve got tickets for your Pumpkin Orgy – God can’t wait to taste your amazing food and hopefully meet you 🙂 Recipe looks fab – just bought 2 kilos of the lentils and I am now ready to dig in 🙂

  30. Lynne

    when cooking mushrooms I heat a pan till hot and put in the mushrooms with salt and pepper – they will almost ‘squeak’ as you move them around in the pan -reduce the heat to low and add a little olive oil or butter and a little chopped garlic and parsley -lovely as risotto topping, in omelette or on a piece of toasted wholemeal bread- buttered or no.t

  31. Debbie

    I would also love to vote for a recording of the workshops you are doing – any chance you are able to record some of them?

  32. Vanessa

    Hey Sarah!
    Any chance any of your lectures will make a YouTube appearance? Would love to hear what you have to say but a visit to Copenhagen isnt’ in the budget yet! 😉

  33. Amaryllis

    Hi Sarah! This recipe, the story behind it and your photos are just lovely! I love that you’re describing eating out as a ‘grand seduction’ (I absolutely agree) and I’m so glad you turned your somewhat non-seductive experience into the beautiful dish you’re sharing.

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  35. Sophia

    What a brilliant idea! I have been making a risotto of sorts using chickpeas instead of rice for a few years (delicious topped with grilled fennel) but until I saw your post it never occurred to me to swap out the chickpeas for white lentils. And as luck would have it, my favourite organic supermarket even sells white lentils. Thanks for the great idea!

  36. Siu

    This recipe looks luscious! Can’t wait to try it. Your experience with the unnamed restaurant reminds me of “The Emporer’s New Clothes”. You are awesome for turning this negative into a positive! Thank you for your wonderful site and book!

  37. kate

    I work in the west village and know exactly what restaurant you’re not naming. being a vegan-leaning vegetarian, it has been on my “to try” list for awhile but is now removed. life is short and that place is not cheap so thanks for the heads up! I love your site and have made tons of your recipes. thanks for the beautiful, thoughtful, witty, and educational posts. keep them coming!

  38. Jilee

    Sarah, you’re amazing! And this dish sounds incredible! Thank you for being so inspired by someone else’s dish flop. I just ordered white lentils online and can’t wait to make this! Xoxo

  39. Sarmishta | Handful

    This is amazing! As an Indian, urad dal is so commonplace in my cooking, but I’ve never tried it this way. Only fried for chutneys, soaked for one of the few salads in India or fermented for dosas and vadas, and in small quantities. Can’t wait to try this fresh new way ! 🙂

  40. traci | vanilla and bean

    What a letdown at the restaurant. : ( . But I love what you turned it into here. Those mushrooms! A most beautiful and magical fungus. Absolutely love how you’ve prepared them here… and yes, I’d be the one to ask if I could use a different lentil (got it, red!). Thank you for a most delectable preparation and meal.

  41. Sydney

    I love that you revived an awesome idea to it’s full potential. I’m so excited to try lentil risotto and caramelized mushrooms! I think I’ve been steaming my mushrooms all these years, and now I can’t wait to give it another go. I just love your innovation and knowledge because it’s so entertaining to see what you come out with next!
    xx Sydney | Modern Granola

  42. Natalie

    Hi Sarah, this recipe looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it! I looked online for white lentils and found both split and whole. Does it matter which kind for this dish, and will soak/cook time be affected?

  43. Julia

    Hi Sahra,
    When comes the German edition of this book? I would also like to have the book, just waiting for the German edition.
    Greeting Julia from Germany

  44. Susannah (Lemon and Coconut)

    Beautiful recipe, I always wondered what urad dal was, now I know and will be rooting it out! What an ****hole waiter and chef, my God, I would have been so upset too. I was always like that; it’s so easy to feel so let down, few places really deliver. Now I can’t eat out because of my intolerances, but I don’t mind, there’s so much beautiful food to cook at home 🙂

  45. Tori

    This looks and sounds wonderful! I’ve never tried white lentils but I really enjoy using red lentils in my dishes so I know I’d love them! This meal is gorgeousness!!!

  46. Inês

    Hi Sarah! What an amazing recipe, I’m going to try it, and thank you for the tips on how to cook mushrooms.
    Totally relate to your restaurant story, special the first paragraph you wrote about the ritual, the anticipation, the willingness to be surprised… so it’s always a shame when our exceptions fall short. oh well some new and wonderful experiences await in the future for sure 🙂
    I would absolute love to go to one of your events. Are you planning to come to Portugal any time soon?
    thank you so much for all the inspiration you share!!

  47. Rebeca

    I MUST find white lentils! I’ve never seen them in stores around here, so I’ll see if Internet can help me out because this looks too good not to try it.
    I cringe at the idea of eating raw lentils. I was once served way undercooked sweet potatoes at a very hip place. I was also told that there was nothing wrong with the dish, but at least they offered to prepare something else.

  48. Sophie

    I am SO keen to try this, like, RIGHT NOW. I’ve never heard of a lentil risotto, let alone a white lentil risotto, but sounds right up my alley. I’m sorry that you had to pay $30 for terrible crunchy non-deliciousness to bring up this though! 😛

  49. Kristina

    The behaviour of the staff in that restaurant sounds awful. And I can imagine how disappointed you are, when you order something that sounds delicious on paper, only to have your expectations crushed. But this “lentisotto” looks delicious, I will so make this one. I love all the ingredients in it.

  50. shelly

    Hi sarah, I understand why you didn’t share the name of the restaurant in the post, but would you mind sharing it in a comment? It would be very nice of you to save me and other people from bad experience. Beside, I like the idea of using urad daal. I only used so far to make eedley (Indian breakfast dish). Thank you! Shelly

    • julia

      I don’t think Sarah ever said she subscribed to any particular “category” except that she embraces whole foods and a plant-based diet. There are many recipes on this blog that are not vegan, but vegetarian. Wherever her recipes aren’t vegan, she always provides information on how to adjust it towards completely non-animal ingredients.

  51. nettelie

    o. my. god.
    Sarah B., you’ve outdone yourself. Running to the Indian grocer ASAP!
    (And although the raw lentil story is heartbreaking, I laughed out loud. Sorry. Such a great anecdote :’))

  52. Anita

    I have been blessed with your virtual presence. If it means anything to you, I would much rather be attending one of your Nutrition Fundamentals lecture series or The Grand Pumpkin Orgy instead of doing my homework, which has very little relation to holistic living. Sigh.

  53. Ally

    Wow! I’ve never seen white lentils before, but I’ll be on the lookout now 😉 This looks absolutely delicious and I must say risotto is won of my favorite foods. So are mushrooms… How awful about that restaurant though. How could such an inventive chef have such bad judgement?

  54. Sarah | Well and Full

    What an awful experience at that restaurant!! I can’t believe they told you it was “meant” to be cooked that way (read: not at all). I would have spoken to the manager and told them I wasn’t paying for uncooked food. That must have been so frustrating!! It seems like you rose above with this recipe, though. Way to take a bad experience and to turn it into something amazing!! 🙂

  55. Kathryn

    I can COMPLETELY relate to your restaurant story. I have the same ritualistic experience when eating out. I love food and I am so eager to see what someone else is creating. What a complete let down with your undercooked legumes! I find at some of those “hip” restaurants the chefs can become so adherent to their vision that they forget what they are really there for, to nourish. I can’t believe they gave it back to you COLD and didn’t offer to prepare something else for you. I’m glad you made right out of the situation by creating this beautiful dish. I LOVE RISOTTO! And I can’t wait to try this variation with loads and loads of cheese!

  56. Alena

    LOVE this!!! First of all, lentils and mushrooms are probably two of my most favorite foods. I think of myself as a lentil know-it-all, but I’ve never heard of white lentils! Can’t wait to get my legume loving hands on them and try this deliciousness! Lovely as always, Sarah!

  57. Sarah Noelle

    Oh man, this looks delicious!
    I hear you about restaurants being a grand seduction — I typically eat out more than I probably should, and so I’m actually doing a challenge this month where I’m not buying *any* restaurant food or takeout. The motivation for this was to try to save money on food, but it’s also turning out to be a lot of fun finding new recipes that I can cook and enjoy at home. I will definitely be trying this one soon. Thanks for the post! 🙂

  58. Anita

    My day has been blessed with your virtual presence. I’d much rather be preparing to attend your Nutrition Fundamentals Lectures or The Grand Pumpkin Orgy instead of doing the intense amount of homework that has no relation to food. Sigh.

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