How to Make Lentils
Perfectly cooked lentils should be tender, without falling apart, and well-seasoned. This How to Cook Lentils tutorial walks you through our two favorite cooking methods for green and brown lentils, along with all the best tips for making them!
How to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot and Stove Top
Lentils are an absolute pantry staple! They are nutritious, inexpensive and easy-to-cook, making them perfect year-round. These hearty legumes are good enough be enjoyed as-is, with a bit of seasoning, and topped with an egg. Or lentils are great to add in to a salad or soup. We set out in search of the best ways to cook brown and green lentils and we’re giving you all the details here. There are a lot of different methods and techniques out there for how to cook lentils perfectly, and we’re sharing all that we learned.
After many trials and many, many batches of lentils, we’ve decided on two different methods: stovetop cooking and in the Instant Pot, as the best ways to cook lentils.
Let’s Talk Lentils
Lentils contain almost 60% of your daily recommended fiber intake! Fiber is so important to provide you will long-term energy, aid in normal bowel movements to keep a healthy and balanced gut, and help lower bad (LDL) cholesterol. Lentils are also one of the richest sources of plant-based protein. If you follow a vegan or plant-forward diet, lentils will help you meet daily protein intake.
Types of Lentils
There are so many different types of lentils out there, ranging from the most commonly found green or brown lentils to speciality lentils known as Puy lentils.
- When you find lentils that are without a specific name, they are likely brown lentils. Brown lentils hold their shape well and are the least expensive.
- Green lentils are the next most commonly found lentils. This post covers the cooking instructions for brown and green lentils only.
- Red or yellow lentils are a bit different in that they tend to fall apart when cooking, and can sometimes be labeled as split. They are ideal for soups or stews. You cannot cook red lentils the same way you can cook green or brown lentils, as they need much less cooking time.
- There are also specialty lentils named Beluga Lentils or Puy lentils. These specialty lentils make great substitutions for meat as a centerpiece in a meal. They hold their shape similarly to green or brown lentils, though sometimes cook slightly quicker.
Do Lentils Need to be Soaked?
Lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking! However, if you do wish to reduce the cooking time, you can soak the lentils as you would beans. It can reduce the cooking time by about half, depending on how old the lentils are. The older the lentils, the longer they take to cook.
Do Lentils Need to be Rinsed?
Yes! Lentils should be picked through to make sure there is no debris present (such as rocks or small sticks) and then they should be thoroughly rinsed before preparing to wash off any dust or dirt.
Our Favorite Ways to Cook Lentils
We ate a lot of lentils for a few weeks while we tested out different cooking methods until we found what worked the best. We found that the best methods for cooking lentils are on the stove or in the Instant Pot.
How to Cook Lentils on the Stove:
Cooking lentils on the stove is probably the most popular method of making them. To do so, you add lentils and water to a pot. Additionally, you can add in herbs and a shallot for infusing extra flavor into the lentils. Then turn on the heat and bring the lentils to a rolling boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Occasionally check lentils to see if the water has evaporated, and add more water as needed. Then, remove from the stove top and discard the herbs and shallot (if using) and strain any water from the lentils. At this point it’s time to season them while they are still hot. Season with salt and pepper. The reason you season them after you cook them, is because adding salt to the lentils while they cook could prevent them from properly softening up.
How to Cook Lentils the Instant Pot:
You know we love our Instant Pot in the LCK test kitchen. So it’s obvious we had to try making this legume in it too.The Instant Pot cooks lentils perfectly. To cook them, you’ll simply add the lentils and water to the Instant Pot liner and set it to cook for 5 minutes with 5 minutes of natural pressure release and we promise you’ll have perfect lentils. Just make sure to take the lentils out of the Instant Pot liner right away so they do not continue to cook!
Keep scrolling for the full directions and ingredients.
How to Use Lentils
Lentils have so many great uses! The easiest way to use them is as a simple side dish!
If serving as a side dish, once cooked and drained you can add a little olive oil or butter, and additional seasonings such as black pepper and fresh herbs, or even a bit of lemon juice or vinegar, as desired.
Or you can use the lentils in all kinds of recipes! Lentils are great:
- in salads
- in soups
- in veggie burgers
- topped with a fried egg
How to Freeze Lentils
Green and brown lentils freeze very well. Making a big batch at the beginning of the month and portioning them out can be very useful for meal prep, as they defrost relatively quickly.
To freeze lentils, make sure they are drained well and cooled off. Place on a sheet pan and place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to help them dry out a bit more and slightly freeze. Then transfer the lentils to a storage bag or container. Freezing them on the tray initially helps them keep their shape once defrosted.
When ready to use, you can either place in the refrigerator to defrost overnight, or if in a rush, place at room temperature for 15-20 minutes until mostly defrosted.
Watch the video here:
If you like this guide on cooking lentils, check out these other guides:
- The Ultimate Guide on How to Make Oatmeal
- How to Cook Quinoa
- How to Make Cauliflower Rice
- How to Cook Spaghetti Squash
How to Cook Lentils
This post is all about How to Cook Lentils! Perfectly cooked lentils should be tender, without falling apart, and well-seasoned. This tutorial walks you through our two favorite cooking methods for green and brown lentils, along with all the best tips for making them!
For Lentils in the Instant Pot:
- 1 cup lentils, picked through and rinsed
- 2 cups water or broth
- 1 bay leaf or 3 sprigs of thyme (optional)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
For Lentils on the Stove:
How to Cook Lentils in the Instant Pot:
- Add lentils, water and herbs (if using) to the liner of an Instant Pot.
- Close the lid and set to sealing. Cook on manual high pressure for 5 minutes with a natural release of 5 minutes. Then release any remaining pressure. Discard herbs.
- Immediately transfer lentils to a strainer, to strain and excess liquid (there might not be any). Place drained lentils in a bowl, and season with salt.
- If serving lentils as is, gently stir in some oil, ground black pepper and additional fresh herbs, if desired.
To Cook Lentils on the Stove:
- Add lentils, water, herbs and shallot (if using) to a medium pot. Turn on heat and bring lentils to a rolling boil.
- Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to let simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until lentils are tender but not mushy. Occasionally check lentils to see if the water has evaporated, adding more water as needed.
- Remove from heat, discard herbs and shallot (if using) and strain lentils. Place lentils in a bowl and add salt.
- If serving as a side dish, add olive oil, and additional seasonings such as black pepper and fresh herbs, as desired.
May 17, 2020
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