Learn how to cook lentils, what exactly they are, if they’re good for you, and more for easy, budget-friendly, gluten free meals you’ll love!
Now that we’ve covered what legumes are and how to cook beans, we’re bringing you the 3rd and final installment of our legumes posts mini-series with how to cook lentils! If you enjoyed these posts, please leave a comment below and let us know what you want to see next!
Do you cook with lentils? A budget-friendly super food, they’re one of our favorite ingredients! Not only are they super tasty, but they’re also extremely versatile, naturally gluten free, and so good for you, too! A longtime staple in Middle Eastern and Indian diets, lentils can be served similarly to rice, stirred into soups and stews, used in salad, bakes, and more. However, a common reason we’re told people don’t use lentils is that they aren’t sure how to prepare them, but we’re going to change that today. By the time you’re done reading this post, you’ll learn how to cook lentils like a pro!
Did you know?! Lentils are one of the earliest domesticated crops and were used in ancient Rome and Egypt!
What Are Lentils, Anyway?
Lentils, also sometimes referred to as pulses, are a type of legume, similar to beans. Technically, a starchy vegetable, lentils come in many varieties including flat green and brown lentils, French green lentils, black lentils, and red and yellow lentils.
Although they all look slightly different, they hold very similar tastes and textures. In addition, they can be cooked using the same methods. You’ll just need to adjust the cooking times appropriately. Don’t worry, though! We’ll cover all that in just a few minutes.
Is There a Difference Between the Colors?
Apart from the obvious fact that different colored lentils look differently, they all contain a slightly different texture, flavor, and nutrient profile
Brown Lentils – These are the most common variety and have a mild, earthy flavor. They generally cook in 20-30 minutes and hold their shape well, making them the most versatile of the three varieties.
Green Lentils – Slightly peppery in flavor, green lentils take the longest to cook but also retain their texture best. As a result, they’re most often used in salads and side dishes. However, they’re also great for enchiladas and are very similar in texture to that of split peas.
Red Lentils – Bold and flavorful, these have the sweetest, nuttiest flavor. Requiring around 30 minutes to cook, they tend to lose their shape and become a bit mushy once cooked. This makes them great to use in Indian dals, curry recipes, and soups.
Are Split Peas the Same As Lentils?
Often confused for green lentils, split peas are a type of legume. However, unlike lentils, split peas are a type of field pea which are grown specifically for drying. When hulled, split peas are split in half (hence their name) along their natural seam. As a result, they cook very quickly and do not need to be pre-soaked like beans.
Health Benefits of Lentils
Tiny but mighty, lentils provide a variety of health benefits. For instance, they’re naturally low in sodium and saturated fat.
However, they have high amounts of potassium, fiber, folate, and polyphenols. They also contain a decent amount of resistant starch and prebiotic fiber. As a result, research has shown that the consumption of lentils may:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce blood cholesterol
- Reduce blood glucose levels
- Improve digestion
- And more! (Source)
How to Cook Lentils (3 Ways)
One of the best things about lentils is that they can be cooked in a multitude of ways! Whether you whip them up in the Instant Pot, slow cooker, or on the stovetop, they’re always tasty.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- 1 cup uncooked lentils
- Water to cover
Prep -Tip: No matter which cooking method you choose, you’ll want to start by rinsing your lentils well in a fine mesh sieve. Then, inspect them, and be sure to remove any bad lentils or debris.
Instant Pot Option
- Add the lentils and water to the Instant Pot, making sure the lentils are completely covered.
- Cover the pot, and lock the lid. Then, set the vent to closed, select the MANUAL mode, and cook the lentils on high. See the recipe card below for specific cooking times!
- Allow the Instant Pot to naturally release until the pressure subsides before turning the vent to quick release.
- Stir the lentils, and allow them to sit and soak up any excess liquid, or drain them before serving.
Slow Cooker Option
- Add the rinsed lentils to the slow cooker along with 4 cups of water.
- Cover and cook either on high or low, adjusting the cooking time as needed. (See the recipe card below.)
- Once cooked, drain the lentils, and enjoy.
- Add your lentils to a medium-sized saucepan, and cover them with water.
- Bring them to a boil. Then, cover the pan, and reduce the heat to low.
- Simmer, stirring occasionally until the lentils are fully cooked. (See the recipe card below!)
- Drain excess water, and let the lentils cool before serving.
Tips for How to Cook Lentils Perfectly
Don’t Soak Your Lentils! Unlike beans, they do not need to be soaked in water to before cooking. If they are, they will cook even more quickly and become mushy!
Don’t Over Stir or Shake. You want to avoid moving the lentils around too much. This will cause them to lose their shape and becoming mushy.
Watch the Time. As mentioned, every lentil cooks differently. However, you want to keep a close eye on them, and avoid overcooking or letting the heat get too high. Otherwise, your lentils could become mushy.
Add Kombu. A type of seaweed, kombu contains enzymes that help break down the phytic acid in lentils. This means they’re easier to digest! It also helps infuse them with extra vitamins, nutrients, and trace minerals like iodine.
How to Store Lentils
Learning how to cook lentils is a great skill to add to your meal prepping arsenal. Not only are they cost effective and easy to make, but they also keep well for days! Once cooked and cooled, lentils can be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
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Do you have questions, feedback, or tips about this recipe? Leave a comment below with any questions or feedback you’d like to share!