Lentils are packed with nutrients and protein making them a plant-based powerhouse. Learn how to cook lentils perfectly every time.
Lentils are one of the best plant based sources of protein; however, if you have never used them in your kitchen before you may be wondering how to cook lentils.
They are quick and easy, store well and take on flavors similarly to tofu which makes them amazing for a variety of dishes.
What are Lentils?
Lentils are part of the legume family. They are circular in shape like a lens, hence the name, and come in a variety of types that you can purchase at most grocery stores.
Lentils are a staple in Indian cuisine, especially split lentils (no shell) that are cooked into curries and dals to make them thicken.
Lentils are high in nutrients. Some of the main benefits are:
- Low in Fat and Sodium
- Zero Cholesterol
- High in Protein, Fiber and Potassium
- A great source of iron, folate, phosphorus, vitamin B6, magnesium, and manganese
- And more!
Never miss another post! Sign up for our weekly newsletter and get them all delivered easily! Plus, 15 easy recipes delivered immediately!
Sign Up For My Newsletter Today!
Why You’ll Love Lentils
Lentils are one of the cheapest forms of protein that you can purchase. You can find them for under $0.10 an ounce or under $1.50 for a pound of lentils.
Lentils, if store properly, can last in a pantry for up to a year. When you combine that they are inexpensive and last a long time, it’s easy to see why lentils are a must in your pantry!
Lentils have a wide range of uses. They can be used to make lentil burgers or vegan loafs, added into tacos or burritos, placed on top of salads, and added to make lentil soup.
Additionally, certain lentils are great for acting as a thickening agent for stews, curries or dals, but also as a puree for dips, smoothies, and muffins.
Once you become familiar with the types of lentils and applications, you will love getting even more creative with them in the kitchen.
What are the Types of Lentils and How Long to Cook?
While there are many different varieties of lentils, you’ll be able to find 4 main types in the USA. While you may think lentils are somewhat interchangeable like beans, the truth is that each one has a specific application and uses.
Brown/Green Lentils – are one of the most popular and inexpensive lentil varieties, brown and green lentils are great in soups, stews, burger making and more. They become very soft and easily become mushy if overcooked. They only need 12-15 minutes to cook.
Black Lentils (Beluga Lentils) – are a firm type of lentil that are great in salads and soups. They do take longer than orange or brown lentils and will need about 20-25 minutes to cook.
Yellow/Orange Split Lentils – are the fastest cooking lentil variety. They become super soft and tender after just 7-10 minutes. They are perfect for thickening recipes like curries or dals. Split lentils are often perfect for adding to smoothies or pureeing and making into dips or adding into things like muffins and quick breads.
French Lentils (Le Puy Lentils) – are the firmest of all the lentil types. They will hold their shape well are are great in salads and soups. They do take the longest to cook and will need about 25-30 minutes.
Step by Step Instructions for How to Cook Lentils:
Sort. The first thing that you want to do is sort through your lentils and check for any rocks or debris. Discard any that you find.
Rinse. Then, thoroughly rinse your lentils under cold water and give them a once over to again check for anything you may have missed.
Simmer. Once drained, add your water and lentils to a medium stockpot. We love to add a bay leaf here as well for more flavor. Bring to a rapid simmer (not boiling but bubbles coming up from the bottom).
Tip: We do one cup of lentils to 3 cups of water. If using in savory applications you can replace all or half of your water with low sodium vegetable stock for more flavor. You want a pot big enough for your lentils to double or triple in size, but not large enough that they will be bouncing all around.
Note: Avoid adding any salt or acid during the cooking process as it can hinder lentils from cooking properly.
Cook. Let your lentils cook until softened (time dependent on type of lentils used [see timing above]). Then drain excess water.
Season. Once drained, season with salt and other spices or sauces as desired depending on what you are doing with them.
Store. Once cooled, cooked lentils can be stored in an air tight container for 4-7 days in the fridge. You can also store them in 1 cup portions in a freezer safe container or bag for up to 3 months.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Yes! Lentils are completely plant based and are a great allergen friendly protein source. It is important to note that lentils are part of the legume family, so if you have a pea or peanut allergy, you may want to ask your health care professional if lentils are safe for you to consume.
Yes. After cooking and cooling, lentils can be stored in the fridge for 4-7 days or frozen for up to 3 months. You should store your cooked lentils in an air tight container.
No! Unlike beans and other legumes, you do not need to soak lentils prior to cooking.
What vegan lentil recipes could I make?
If you are wondering how you can turn lentils into actual meals, here’s a few delicious vegan lentil meal ideas:
- Vegan Lentil Soup
- Vegan Lentil Tacos with Spinach and Feta
- Mushroom Free Vegan Lentil Wellington
- Vegan Lentil Burgers
- Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
- Slow Cooker Vegan Sloppy Joes (or faster Vegan Lentil Sloppy Joes)
Pin how to cook lentils for later!
Did you make and love this recipe?
Click the 5 stars in the recipe card above or below in the comment section! This is a great way to support us so we can continue to bring great recipes!
How to Cook Lentils
- 1 cup lentils, uncooked
- 3 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
- Sort through lentils and remove any rocks or debris. Rinse lentils throughly and pour lentils and water into a medium stock pot. Add in bay leaf and cover pot with lid.
- Turn heat on to medium and allow to come to a rapid simmer. Reduce heat to a low simmer and allow to cook until soften (see cooking times in notes). Check and add more water if needed throughout cooking time.
- Remove from heat, drain excess water, and remove bay leaf. Sprinkle in salt and stir together. Serve as desired.
- Brown/Green Lentils – 12-15 minutes
- Black Lentils (Beluga Lentils) – 20-25 minutes
- Yellow/Orange Split Lentils – 7-10 minutes
- French Lentils (Le Puy Lentils) – 25-30 minutes