This vegan-friendly Beluga Lentil Caviar recipe features black beluga lentil salad served on top of crackers with cream cheese, and is the perfect cold weather appetizer for your dinner party!
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Each year, as the air gets cooler and the leaves change color, the food in my pantry also shifts. The lighter, summery meals switch over to heartier ones, and with that comes lentils. My lentil obsession is probably obvious at this point– if you open my pantry you’ll find red lentils, french green lentils, brown lentils, split peas, (which are almost lentils) and of course, the black Beluga lentil. Beluga lentils get their name from their resemblance to– you guessed it–
the Beluga whale Beluga caviar! (You guessed the whale first too, right?!)
Normally, I make Beluga Lentil Salad with these flavorful little gems, but they can also be turned into a deliciously tricky faux-caviar appetizer. Pile some lentils onto a cracker and cream cheese (or vegan cream cheese), top it with dill, and you’ll be fancy enough to go to a party at the Ritz. (Imagine how impressed everyone would be if you served these on Ritz crackers AT the Ritz? … And I wrote that joke for free, boys and girls! This post is not sponsored by Ritz– cracker or Hotel). These Beluga Lentil Caviar bites are vegan-friendly, simple to prepare, and make a perfect hors d’oeuvre.
To make these fabulous little appetizers, you’ll need to find some black beluga lentils. There’s a remote chance that your regular grocery store will carry these. If they aren’t there, try looking for them anywhere that stocks bulk beans– such as your local health food store or Whole Foods. (I got mine at Jungle Jim’s). If you don’t feel like scouring your town for lentils, you can simply click a button and buy them on Amazon.
Making Beluga Lentil caviar
Next, make your lentils delicious by turning them into a lentil salad. In a large sauté pan, cook leeks, carrots, and celery over medium heat until they soften. Add a little garlic, and sauté it for a minute or two, then crank the heat up to medium high and add white wine. Once the wine has begun to cook off, add the tomatoes. Cook those for a few minutes, and then add your lentils, a couple of bay leaves, and water. Bring it all to a boil, and then simmer it until the liquid is mostly gone. Remove the bay leaves, and let the lentils cool down.
Meanwhile, prepare your crackers. Smear them with cream cheese and set them on a serving tray. Cut small pieces of dill for a garnish. When your guests are ready to start eating, scoop some lentils onto each cracker and top it with the dill. Go right ahead and pretend it’s really caviar– they’re sure to notice it’s not, but everyone will be too busy eating these little lentil masterpieces to complain!
- These hors d’oeuvres WILL GET SOGGY if left to sit. Don’t top the crackers with lentils until it’s time to serve. Alternatively, arrange the crackers with cream cheese on a tray, and allow guests to scoop their own lentil salad on top.
- For even an even more flavorful salad, add the rind from a wedge of Parmesan cheese into the lentils when you add the tomatoes. By the time the lentils finish cooking, it will have melted into the lentil dish. (Keep in mind– If Parmesan is added, this dish is no longer vegan-friendly).
- Your ‘faux caviar’ will look a lot less like real caviar if your veggies are showing. Make sure to finely dice your carrots and celery.
Beluga Lentil Caviar
Makes about 3 cups of lentils, and approximately 48 lentil-topped crackers (1 TB of lentils per cracker)
Beluga Lentil Salad:
- 1 TB olive oil
- 1 leek, sliced
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 2 celery sticks, finely diced
- 1 TB minced garlic
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 15oz can fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 cup black beluga lentils, rinsed and sorted
- 2 bay leaves
- 2-3 tsp salt, to taste
- 1 package buttery crackers (or sub vegan crackers)
- cream cheese, to serve (or sub vegan cream cheese)
- fresh dill, to serve (optional)
In a large saucepan or wok, heat oil on medium until it begins to shimmer.
Add leek, carrots, and celery, and sauté 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes. Increase heat to medium high, and add wine. Allow wine to cook down for 1-2 minutes, then lower heat to medium. Add tomatoes, and sauté 1-2 minutes.
Add lentils, bay leaves, 2 tsp salt, and 2 cups water. Bring mixture to a boil, and simmer about 40 minutes until most of the water has cooked down.
When lentils are finished cooking, remove bay leaves.
To serve: Smear crackers with cream cheese, and top with lentils and dill (optional) right before serving.
*Calorie Information was calculated per serving using My Fitness Pal. Calories listed are for 1 lentil-topped cracker, made with 1 TB of lentils per cracker. Calories for cream cheese are an estimate, and will vary based on the actual amount used.