Learn how to cook dried green lentils in this step-by-step tutorial. You can cook a whole bag at once and freeze for future use!
This is a post that has been several years coming! Pretty much ever since I posted my recipe for Lentil Banana Muffins back in 2011, I’ve been getting questions about how to cook lentils. I finally got my act together to write out the process for you so that anyone can learn!
How To Cook Green Lentils
This post is specifically about how to cook green (or brown) lentils. This is the kind I use most often and always have in my pantry. They are high in fiber and potassium and they’re full of antioxidants. They hold their shape when cooked and can easily be combined with ground meat in things like tacos, sloppy joes and pasta sauce.
Need more ideas? Here are 20+ Healthy Green Lentil Recipes.
How To Cook Red Lentils
Red lentils are another great option. I use them in my Apple Cinnamon Red Lentil Muffins and my Vegan Red Lentil Curry. However, they cook differently than green and brown lentils. Red lentils cook in only 5 minutes and tend to lose their shape. They’re best used for baking and in soups and stews where they can help thicken the broth. Or try them in my Red Lentil Pancakes!
Here are 15+ Red Lentil Recipes for you to try!
How Long Do Lentils Take To Cook
The great thing about lentils is that they cook super quickly. Once the water is boiling they just need to simmer for 12-15 minutes! This means if you don’t have any on hand in the freezer, you can easily cook some up while preparing other meal components and add them to a 20-minute meal.
Learn How To Cook Lentils on the Stove
How To Cook Lentils Perfectly Every Time
- Add lentils to a pot.
- Add water. Lentils tend to triple in size once cooked so I recommend about 4 cups water per 1 cup dried lentils.
- Cover the pot and bring water to a boil. Once it boils, reduce to a simmer and let cook for 12-15 minutes. Exact cooking time will depend on your desired degree of doneness. I prefer mine on the firm side so 12 minutes works well for me but you can continue to simmer them until they’re as soft as you want.
- Drain the excess water. There will be water left. Lentils do not absorb all the water you put in like when cooking rice. Rinse lentils with cold water to stop the cooking process.
- Let cool completely before freezing (if desired).
How To Freeze Lentils // How Do You Freeze Lentils?
When I cook lentils, I tend to cook a whole bag at once and freeze most of them. Since I most often use them for baking and most of my recipes call for 1 cup, I freeze in once cup portions but if you plan to use for meals you could freeze in 2-3 cup portions.
Simply let the lentils cool completely, then scoop into storage bags, remove excess air and freeze flat.
When you’re ready to use them, transfer a bag to the fridge overnight, or put frozen lentils in a bowl and microwave to defrost.
How To Cook LentilsPrint
How To Cook Lentils
Learn how to cook dried green lentils on the stove top in this step-by-step tutorial. You can cook a whole bag at once and freeze the extras for later.
1 bag dried green or brown lentils
8 cups water (approximately 4 cups per 1 cup dried lentis)
- Place lentils in a large pot.
- Add water.
- Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
- Simmer for 12-15 minutes or until lentils reach desired tenderness.
- Drain excess water and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
- If freezing, let cool completely and portion into storage bags to freeze.
See how easy it is?! I can’t wait for you to make some because they’re such a versatile plant protein option.
How To Cook Lentils FAQs
Is it important to soak lentils before cooking? How long do you soak lentils for cooking?
In my opinion, lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking, but it certainly won’t hurt and could possibly aid in digestion. Since they are smaller than other beans and legumes they don’t require hours and hours of soaking. If you’re going to soak them first I would aim for 1-2 hours.
Red lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking.
Should all the water be absorbed when cooking lentils?
No. You want to fill a large pot with plenty of water before cooking so that the lentils have room to expand, but there will still be water left in the pot to drain away when the lentils are done cooking.
How do you know when lentils are done?
To me this is a matter of preference. The easiest way to tell is to taste a few. Are they soft enough to chew? Some people prefer them a bit firm and others like them very soft.
How do you cook lentils so they don’t fall apart?
Green/brown lentils hold their shape fairly well unlike red lentils. If you’re worried about them falling apart, start checking on them way before the cooking time indicated on the bag. In my experience, the cooking time on the bag of lentils is way too long and leads to mushy lentils.
Should you stir lentils while cooking?
No, you do not need to stir the lentils while they are cooking.
Do you cook lentils covered or uncovered?
Lentils should be cooked with the cover on.
How long will lentils last in the fridge?
Lentils can be stored in the fridge for 5-7 days. Alternatively, you can sort them into 1 or 2 cup portions and freeze them until they are needed.
Different Kinds of Lentils (and varying cook times)
Different colors and types of lentils require different cooking times.
- Red/orange/yellow split lentils – cook in just 5 minutes or so and tend to lose their shape. They’re best in soups, stews etc.
- Black lentils – cook similarly to green/brown lentils. They may take just a bit longer, closer to 20 minutes. Here’s how to cook black lentils.
- French lentils – also cook similarly to green/brown lentils in about 15 minutes. Here’s an Easy French Lentils tutorial.
Can you cook lentils in the oven?
Yes you can cook lentils in the oven. They should take 45-60 minutes and are basically being braised. Here’s a recipe for Oven Braised Lentils.
How to cook lentils in the pressure cooker?
The Instant pot is a great option for cooking lentils as well, especially if you want to cook a large quantity at once. Here’s a great tutorial for How To Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot.
How To Cook Lentil Soup
Lentils are also a great option for soup because they can cook right in the broth. Simply add a cup to your favorite soup and let them simmer. Need a recipe? Try these:
- Lentil Soup from Recipe Tin Eats
- Best Lentil Soup from Cookie + Kate
- Lentil Soup Recipe from Alton Brown
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