How to Cook Lentils (Ultimate Guide)

Lentils are small, disc-shaped legumes that are packed with nutrients and are a great source of plant-based protein. They are versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes, making them a staple in many cuisines around the world. Cooking lentils is relatively easy, and this ultimate guide will provide you with all the information you need to prepare them perfectly every time.

Step 1: Choose the Right Variety

Before you start cooking lentils, it’s important to choose the right variety for your recipe. There are different types of lentils available, including green lentils, brown lentils, red lentils, and black lentils. Each variety has its own unique taste, texture, and cooking time, so make sure to read the recipe and select the appropriate lentil based on your desired outcome.

Step 2: Rinse and Sort

Once you have chosen the lentils, it’s essential to rinse them thoroughly before cooking. Lentils can sometimes be dusty or contain small stones, so rinsing and sorting them will help remove any impurities. To do this, simply place the lentils in a colander and rinse them under cold running water until the water runs clear.

Step 3: Cooking Methods

There are several cooking methods you can use to cook lentils, including boiling, simmering, and pressure cooking. Boiling is the most common method and is suitable for most lentil varieties. To boil lentils, place them in a pot, add enough water to cover them completely, and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the lentils simmer until they are tender, usually between 20 to 30 minutes depending on the variety.

Step 4: Seasoning and Storing

After the lentils are cooked, you can season them with your desired spices, herbs, and vegetables to enhance their flavor. Lentils are great in soups, salads, stews, and curries, and can also be used as a side dish or a main protein source. Leftover lentils can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days or frozen for later use.

By following these simple steps, you can easily cook lentils to perfection and enjoy their delicious and nutritious benefits in your meals. Experiment with different recipes and cooking methods to discover your favorite way to incorporate lentils into your diet.

Choosing the Right Lentils



Lentils come in a range of colors, including green, brown, black, and red. Each color has its own unique flavor and texture, so it’s important to choose the right one for your dish. Green and brown lentils are the most common and have a slightly peppery flavor. They hold their shape well when cooked, making them perfect for salads and side dishes. Black lentils have a rich, earthy flavor and hold their shape even after cooking, making them great for soups and stews. Red lentils, on the other hand, have a mild, sweet flavor and tend to break down when cooked, making them ideal for purees and soups.

Cooking Time

The cooking time of lentils varies depending on the variety. Generally, green and brown lentils take about 20-30 minutes to cook, while red lentils cook much faster, usually in about 10-15 minutes. Black lentils take the longest to cook, usually around 30-45 minutes. Keep this in mind when planning your meal and make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Split vs Whole

Split vs Whole

Lentils are available in both split and whole forms. Split lentils are quick-cooking and do not need to be soaked before cooking. They are great for dishes that require a shorter cooking time, such as soups and curries. Whole lentils, on the other hand, take longer to cook but retain their shape and texture better. They are perfect for salads and side dishes where you want the lentils to hold their shape.


  • Choose the lentil color based on the flavor and texture you want in your dish.
  • Consider the cooking time of the lentils and adjust your recipe accordingly.
  • Decide between split and whole lentils based on the cooking time and desired texture of your dish.

By considering these factors, you can choose the right lentils for your recipe and create a delicious and satisfying dish every time.

Preparing and Soaking Lentils

  1. Sort and Rinse: Start by sorting through the lentils to remove any debris or stones. Rinse them thoroughly under cold water in a colander to remove any dust or dirt.
  2. Soaking: Soaking lentils is not always necessary, but it can help reduce cooking time and make them easier to digest. To soak lentils, place them in a bowl and cover them with water. Use a ratio of 1 cup of lentils to 3 cups of water. Let them soak for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight.

Below is a table that shows the approximate soaking and cooking times for different types of lentils:

Type of Lentils Soaking Time Cooking Time
Brown or Green Lentils 1 hour 20-30 minutes
Red or Yellow Lentils 30 minutes 10-15 minutes
Puy Lentils 2 hours 25-30 minutes

After soaking, drain the lentils and they are ready to be cooked. Remember to adjust the cooking time depending on how long you soaked the lentils. Now you are ready to proceed with your lentil recipe.

Cooking Lentils

Types of Lentils: There are several different types of lentils available, including green, red, brown, and black lentils. Each type has its own unique flavor and texture, so it’s important to choose the right one for your recipe. Green lentils hold their shape well when cooked and have a slightly peppery flavor, making them a great choice for salads or as a side dish. Red and yellow lentils cook quickly and have a smooth texture, making them perfect for soups and stews. Brown and black lentils are slightly larger and have a nuttier flavor, making them a delicious addition to a variety of dishes.

Cooking Methods: Lentils can be cooked on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, or in an Instant Pot, depending on your preference and the time you have available. To cook lentils on the stovetop, simply rinse them well and combine them with water or broth in a saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20-30 minutes. If using a slow cooker, combine the lentils and liquid in the crockpot and cook on low for 4-6 hours or on high for 2-3 hours. The Instant Pot method is similar to stovetop cooking, but it allows for faster cooking times and less hands-on attention.

Cooking Times for Lentils:

Type of Lentil Cooking Time (Stovetop) Cooking Time (Slow Cooker) Cooking Time (Instant Pot)
Green Lentils 20-30 minutes 4-6 hours on low or 2-3 hours on high 6 minutes on high pressure
Red/Yellow Lentils 10-15 minutes 2-3 hours on low or 1-2 hours on high 4 minutes on high pressure
Brown/Black Lentils 25-40 minutes 4-6 hours on low or 2-3 hours on high 7 minutes on high pressure

Tips for Perfectly Cooked Lentils:

  • Rinse the lentils well before cooking to remove any dirt or debris.
  • Use a ratio of 3 cups of liquid for every 1 cup of lentils.
  • Season the cooking liquid with salt, herbs, and spices to add flavor.
  • Check the lentils for doneness by tasting them. They should be tender but still hold their shape.
  • Do not overcook the lentils, as they can become mushy.

With these tips and techniques, you’ll be able to cook lentils to perfection and enjoy their delicious and nutritious benefits in a variety of dishes.

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