How to Cook Lentils – The Simplest Method

Lentils are an inexpensive source of protein that are fast and easy to cook. Learn step by step How to Cook Lentils including tips and serving suggestions.

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a spoon of cooked lentils.

Lentils are a pantry staple and one of my favorite vegetarian protein sources. These legumes have such a meaty texture and earthy flavor. Like beans, they lend a nice chew to meatless meals as well as fiber. This Lentil Chili recipe and this Lentil Marinara recipe are tasty examples.

Ingredients for this Recipe:

It’s so simple! All you need to prepare dried lentils are:

To start with how to cook with lentils let’s begin with the varieties. There are generally four types of lentils: green, as we are making today, red lentils (or yellow lentils), brown lentils, and specialty lentils like puy lentils, beluga lentils, or black lentils which resemble caviar. Fancy!

My favorite type is the green variety because they hold their shape the best and don’t have any mushiness. They are ideal for adding to salads, soups, stews and enjoying as side dishes. So let’s learn how to cook green lentils.

a bag of green legumes.

How to Cook Lentils

Let’s get to cooking dried lentils.

Firstly, place a cup of dry lentils in a fine mesh sieve. Then pick over the dried lentils for anything that isn’t a lentil, like little pieces of debris or even tiny rocks then rinse the lentils.

legumes in a sieve.

Next, cover with fresh water. What is the lentil to water ratio? Enough to keep the lentils covered – about 2 cups.

As long as your lentils have a nice pool to simmer in, you are good. It’s not like pasta where you need a lot of water. They don’t require any soaking time which is nice.

green lentils in water in a pot.

Next, bring the pot to a quick boil then reduce the heat to a simmer.

To answer the question “how long do lentils take to cook“: it varies. Taste test them after 20 minutes of simmering.

Different things like the age of the lentils or how hot your water is will affect how long to cook lentils. Once they have reached your desired level of tenderness, they’re done. Time to drain the pot.

Another lentil cooking tip! Do NOT add the salt to your water before cooking like you would with pasta or rice. The acidic salt will cause your lentils to remain crunchy even once they are cooked. You want texture and bite but you don’t want crunch.

So season the lentils post cooking.

a pot of cooked lentils sprinkled with salt.

Serving Suggestions and Substitutions

There are so many ways to enjoy the goodness of cooked lentils!

  • Make into veggie burgers.
  • Add to vegetable soups and stews along with carrots, onions, sweet potato, and celery.
  • Add to salads.
  • Use in wraps, tacos, or fajitas.
  • Add to sauces in place of meat.
  • Substitute broth instead of water for added flavor.
  • Add a bay leaf or some crushed garlic while cooking.
  • Season with dried herbs.
a spoonful of cooked lentils.

More Healthy Lentil Recipes:

**This recipe was originally posted on June 28, 2020, and updated on December 14, 2021 with recipe notes, writing, and photos.**

If you tried my recipe for green lentils, please rate the recipe and let me know how it turned out by leaving me a comment below. I’m always interested in feedback!

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How to Cook Lentils – The Simplest Method to Tender Lentils

Sharon Rhodes
Lentils are an inexpensive source of protein that are fast and easy to cook. Learn step by step How to Cook Lentils including tips and serving suggestions.
5 from 14 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 209 kcal

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Pick over lentils and remove any black pieces, pebbles or debris. Rinse the lentils well with water and pour them into a small saucepan.
  • Cover the lentils with filtered water and bring to a quick boil. Don't let them boil for long or they will over cook. Just a quick boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer for 15 minutes. A slight bubbling is all you need. Watch the water levels and add more if needed to keep the lentils covered.
  • Taste test a lentil at 15 minutes for your preferred tenderness. Check every 60-90 seconds after that until they are how you like them. Older lentils may take longer. Don't over cook though! You don't want mushy lentils.
  • Drain lentils and return to the warm pot. Sprinkle with sea salt and toss.
  • Enjoy right away or cool and store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Notes

Serving Suggestions and Substitutions

  • Make into veggie burgers.
  • Add to vegetable soups and stews along with carrots, onions, sweet potato, and celery.
  • Add to salads.
  • Use in wraps, tacos, or fajitas.
  • Add to sauces in place of meat.
  • Substitute broth instead of water for added flavor.
  • Add a bay leaf or some crushed garlic while cooking.
  • Season with dried herbs.

Nutrition

Serving: 4Calories: 209kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 15gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 300mgPotassium: 565mgFiber: 18gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 23IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 37mgIron: 4mg
Keyword how to cook lentils, how to cook tender lentils
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21 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I love lentils, they’ve been a staple of my diet ever since I can remember. I rarely cook green lentils though, so it’s great to see this and be reminded just how good they are.

  2. 5 stars
    This is a very helpful article/recipe. We are trying to eat more lentils and I always struggle on how to cook them. Thanks!

  3. 5 stars
    I love lentils, but don’t cook or eat them nearly enough. I love how simple this is! Definitely going to give it a try.

  4. 5 stars
    I’m cooking lentils today 😀 Thanks for tips about adding salt. I didn’t know that. I always add salt while lentils are cooking. Now I know better.

  5. 5 stars
    Thanks for sharing this. There are so many recipes that call for cooked lentils and so much variation in how they should be cooked. It’s great to have a streamline process and recipe.

  6. 5 stars
    Great tip about not adding salt to the water like pasta! I ought to try cooking more lentils. Lentils have always intimidated me. Thank you for your helpful guide.

  7. 5 stars
    This is such a great reference! I only started trying to cook lentils last winter and have only used red. Now I can branch out!

  8. 5 stars
    What a great idea to have cooked lentils on hand! Thanks for the inspiration and all the great cooking tips, too.

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