A step by step on how to cook lentils perfectly. Learn the differences and how to cook the different types of one of the most nutritious legumes!
Lentils are a powerhouse when it comes to nutrition!
Not only are they incredibly good for you, but they also have amazing flavors and textures that vary between each type. Lentils have become a staple in our whole food, plant-based diet and I love incorporating them into side dishes, easy salads, and comforting soups. They are easy to make, inexpensive, and definitely an underrated superfood.
If you told me three years ago that I’d be sitting here typing about my love for lentils I would have laughed, but here we are! As anyone who has made a shift in diet will tell you, it takes time to really hit your stride. Since we shifted to a whole food, plant-based diet over a year ago, lentils slowly but surely have become a staple in our pantry. I hope this post can help in finding your favorite types and different ways to use lentils!
What Are Lentils?
Lentils are a small nutrition packed seed from the legume family. They are full of B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and potassium. Lentils are common in vegetarian and vegan diets due to their high fiber, protein, and iron. They are made up of over 25% protein which makes them an excellent alternative to meat. They contain many beneficial plant compounds that help to protect against chronic diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In other words, these little legumes pack a major punch!
How To Cook Lentils
Cooking lentils is actually super easy! Just follow these easy steps:
- Rinse the lentils – Sometimes small pieces of debris can get mixed in with your dried lentils so you always want to rinse and look them over well before cooking. A fine strainer or mesh sieve is ideal for this.
- Cook the lentils – Fill a medium to large pot about halfway with water and bring it to a boil. Add the lentils, lower heat to a simmer, and cover. See each different type of lentil below for their specific cook times as they vary.
- Drain – Drain the water from the lentils using the same fine strainer or mesh sieve before eating or using in your favorite recipe.
Different Types of Lentils and How To Use Them
Each type of lentil is unique and requires slightly different cook times. Below you will find specific cook times as well as ways that each type works best.
French Green Lentils, AKA Le Puy
Simmer: 20 minutes
These are one of my favorite types of lentils because they have a firmer, bean like texture and hold their shape while cooking. They taste like a peppery black bean and are the go to when making lentil salad or being used as a topping.
Beluga Lentils, AKA Black Lentils
Simmer: 25 minutes
Black lentils get their name from their resemblance to beluga caviar and are very similar in texture to the above French Green. They hold their shape while cooking and taste similar to a black bean. They are perfect as a side dish or in a salad.
Regular Green or Brown Lentils
Simmer: 20 minutes
What we think of as regular lentils soften and become mushy in texture as they cook. This makes them a great addition to a soup or chili recipe because they soak up the flavors around them nicely while adding that great superfood nutrition to the dish!
Simmer: 15 minutes
This lentil variety has a nutty sweet taste and is the quickest to cook. They tend to dissolve when they cook which makes them the perfect choice for thicker soups, chilis, or dips!
Tips For Cooking Lentils
- There is no need to soak lentils. Unlike beans, lentils do not require soaking before they cook due to their smaller size.
- Watch your heat. Once the water comes to a boil, bring the heat down to low quickly. Simmering lentils at too high of a heat is what will lead to mushy overcooked lentils. If you keep having trouble with mushy lentils, reduce your simmer time by 5 minutes.
- Season after cooking. There is no need to add salt or seasoning to the water while your lentils cook. The best way to add flavor to your lentils is by seasoning after draining. I love tossing them in lemon juice, sea salt, and pepper before adding them to a salad!
Favorite Ways to Incorporate Lentils
There are endless ways to use lentils! Some of my favorites include:
- As a side dish
- As a topping on a veggie salad
- In a vegetarian chili
- In veggie bowls or tacos
- Mixing them into rice
- In stuffed squash or peppers
- In a creamy dip
More Plant-Based Recipes You’ll Love!
- Autumn Vegetable Minestrone
- Easy Vegetarian Chili
- Roasted Vegetable Salad
- Oven Roasted Vegetables
- Sweet Potato & Black Bean Bowls
- Savory Herb Carrots
- French Green Lentils AKA Le Puy - Simmer 20 minutes
- Beluga AKA Black Lentils - Simmer 25 minutes
- Regular Green or Brown Lentils - Simmer 20 minutes
- Red Lentils - Simmer 15 minutes
- Rinse the lentils - Sometimes small pieces of debris can get mixed in with your dried lentils so you always want to rinse and look them over well before cooking. A fine strainer or mesh sieve is ideal for this.
- Cook the lentils - Fill a medium to large pot about halfway with water and bring it to a boil. Add the lentils, lower heat to a simmer, and cover. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until they are tender. See each different type of lentil below for each of their specific cook times as they vary.
- Drain - Drain the water from the lentils using the same fine strainer or mesh sieve before eating or using in your favorite recipe.
Read full post for more cooking tips!
Did you find this post helpful?
I can’t wait to hear what you make with lentils! When you make them, be sure to leave an amazing review in the comments below or tag #goingforgrace on social!