Food Trend Spotlight: Crumbles, Fillings, and Toppings and Lentils in Plant/Meat Blends

For an ingredient that can increase the nutritional content of menu offerings across dayparts while making your operation more cost-effective, look no further than lentils. As a plant-forward, protein-rich substitute for ground meat, lentils are ideal in blended applications like burgers or tacos, as a substitute that can replace meat entirely in those same applications, or as a crumble, filling, or topping.

Lentils soak up the flavors that surround them and help your customers feel fuller for longer with their high protein and fiber content, making them an attractive ingredient for familiar yet plant-forward dishes that can also help lower your bottom line.

Use Lentils to Increase Plant-Based Protein and Amplify Flavor

“Think pulled pork, shredded chicken, crumbled beef taco meat, ragu, and bolognese sauces. Wherever you find animal proteins used for texture, protein, and flavor, is where you can easily adopt blended or plant-based options featuring lentils,” says Corporate Chef James Bickmore-Hutt.

Using lentils in blends with animal protein capitalizes on a popular trend that satisfies customers who want plant-forward options that provide satiety and flavor. This approach also improves the sustainability of the food and can be a great way to manage production costs. Consider using lentils in savory protein components — the opportunities are endless.

Chef James recommends using lentils in the following forms, either blended with meat or as a substitute:

  • Crumbles – Ideal for use in savory appetizers and entrees such as nachos, wraps, and chili. Pizza, piadini, and flatbread toppings are another great application.
  • Fillings – A long-time staple in global cuisines, it’s no surprise lentils deliciously fit well into portable, handheld menu items such as dumplings, pierogi, samosas, dolmades, and hand pies.
  • Toppings – Lentils add texture and flavor to a dish and can be used both in crispy (fried) or crunchy (oven-roasted) applications such as seasoning blends, salad garnishes, and bar snacks.
  • Blends – Consumers are demanding more plant-forward cuisine, and lentils blend beautifully with ground meat to create crave-worthy customer favorites such as burgers, meatballs, and tacos.

Using these blending and replacement strategies helps simplify your kitchen prep, too. You only need one lentil SKU that can be used across menu offerings. Fully cooked lentils can be prepared for crumbles, fillings, and blends, then cooked further for a crispy topping.

Because of their versatility, lentils can be a boon to your business, says Chef James: “With their incredible ability to carry flavor, hold texture, and provide nutrition, lentils are a great meat substitute or blended option. Their plant-based nutrition and lower ingredient cost give you greater business tolerance during tough times.”

Building a Better Menu with Blended Products

If your operation is new to offering plant-forward proteins, custom blends using lentils can be a stepping stone to help you introduce the concept.

A 2020 study, funded by Pulse Canada and, found that substituting one-third of a lean 100% U.S. beef patty with cooked lentils results in a blended burger that improves nutrition (with a moderate reduction in calories, fat, and cholesterol, and increased fiber) and environmental impact (reducing carbon, water, and land-use footprint by 33%) while also offering a more cost-effective alternative.

Blended products appeal to consumer demand for healthier and more sustainable menu items that don’t skimp on flavor. Chef James says, “Blending with lentils creates a burger that not only has a lower cost per ounce, but also provides a more filling meal for the end consumer. And in some cases, blending lentils with leaner proteins like turkey can actually provide an end result with more desirable moisture retention.”

Want to learn more about innovating with lentil-centric substitutes and blends? Consult with our corporate chef by contacting us at

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