How to Cook Lentils (Ultimate Guide)

Lentils are easy to cook, tasty and nutritious. A pantry hero! Learn how to cook lentils, as well as the different varieties that are most commonly sold in stores. Skip to the basic recipe for lentils or read on to see all of our tips.


For more basic cooking lessons, check out our articles on how to cook dried chickpeas or try these creamy black beans (cooked from scratch).

How to cook lentils

Lentils are very easy to cook. Here’s our easy method that you can use for any type of lens. All lentils cook quickly, but some varieties take longer than others. See the next section for exact cooking times, or go straight to our recipe.

  1. Rinse the dried lentils and remove any small stones, beans, or grains that may have gotten into the batch.
  2. Place the rinsed lentils in a saucepan and cover with a few inches of water.
  3. (Optional) Season the water with a generous pinch of salt.
  4. Simmer the lentils until soft. The cooking time depends on the type of slow cooking.
  5. Drain and serve or use in your favorite lentil recipes.
Rinse and sort the lentils before cooking. Sometimes you’ll find a rogue grain or bean sneaking out of the aisle in bulk.

add flavor

Lentils cooked in lightly salted water are perfectly tasty, but you can add even more flavor by boiling lentils. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use broth or broth instead of water. Here are our vegetable broth recipes and our homemade chicken broth.
  • Before adding the cooking liquid to the saucepan, sauté the lentils in a little oil with chopped veggies like onion, carrot, and celery.
  • Add fresh or dried herbs to the cooking liquid. I love bay leaves (use 1 or 2), rosemary and thyme.
  • Add crushed garlic cloves or a quartered onion, as in our black bean recipe.
  • After you’ve cooked and drained the lentils, toss them with olive oil, fresh herbs and fresh lemon juice or use one of our favorite vinaigrette dressings. Check out our honey mustard dressing, the dressing for this couscous salad, and this red wine vinegar dressing for our bean salad.

Different types of lentils and their cooking times

Lentils come in a variety of colors and sizes, here is a breakdown of the most commonly commercially available varieties:

Brown and green lentils

Brown lentils are what you’ve probably seen the most. These are larger than the other varieties listed below and have a flatter shape. They’re versatile, delicious, and take 20-30 minutes to cook. We use them for our lemon and lentil soup. Brown lentils get quite mushy and if cooked long enough, they’ll fall apart a bit. They are perfect for hearty soups, stews, purees, sauces and any recipe that calls for their smooth, almost mushy texture.

  • Time to cook: 20 to 30 minutes
  • Cooked Texture: Mild, almost mushy, perfect for soups, sauces and spreads.

Green / French Lentils (Le Puy Lentils)

Unlike brown lentils, French lentils stay intact after cooking thanks to their thick skin. These are perfect for salads and dishes where you want the lentils to hold their shape. French lentils take a little longer to cook than the other varieties. We use green lentils to make our vegan meatballs recipe!

  • Time to cook: 25 to 35 minutes
  • Cooked Texture: Firm and intact, perfect for salads and side dishes.

Red lenses

Red lentils are my favorite. I love how quickly they cook, and while not all red lentils look red (most turn bright orange), they have a light, almost fragrant flavor. Red lentils are most commonly used in Indian dishes like daal, but you can use them as a substitute for brown and green lentils. Like the brown and green varieties, they quickly break down and become mushy (which is why they’re perfect for soups, sauces, and daal). Depending on how soft you want them, red lentils will take 15-20 minutes to cook.

  • Time to cook: 15 to 20 minutes
  • Cooked Texture: Mild, almost mushy, perfect for soups, sauces, daals and spreads.

Beluga Black Lentils

Black beluga lentils are smaller than the other varieties and very tasty. They have a thick skin, so if cooked for about 30 minutes, they should be used in recipes calling for French lentils. Cook them a little longer (about 45 minutes) and that tough skin will start to break down, making them better suited to soups, sauces and spreads.

  • Time to cook: 30 minutes for firm, more than 45 minutes for soft
  • Cooked Texture: It depends on the cooking time.

Cooking lentils in the pressure cooker (Instant Pot)

As with cooking lentils on the stovetop, cooking time will vary depending on the type of lentil used. In general, combine 1 cup of rinsed lentils and 2 cups of liquid (water or broth). Secure the lid and cook for 6-10 minutes (I stick closer to 6 minutes) then let the pot naturally release for 10 minutes before manually releasing the pressure. If the lentils take a little longer to cook when you open the lid, use the roast function and simmer until the lentils are tender.

Cook lentils in a slow cooker

As with cooking lentils on the stovetop, cooking time will vary depending on the type of lentil used. Generally add 1 cup of rinsed lentils and cover 2-3 inches with liquid (water or broth). Close the lid and cook 2 hours on HIGH or 4 hours on LOW. Check the lentils from time to time to see how they are developing. You may need a little more or less time than indicated.

How to store lenses

  • Store dried lentils in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
  • Cooked lentils should be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated or frozen. Refrigerate up to five days and freeze up to three months.

How to Cook Lentils (Ultimate Guide)

  • A COOK

Lentils are a supply hero. They are quick and easy to prepare and versatile. The cooking time for lentils depends on the type of lentils you have on hand, so check the recipe for the exact cooking time.

Makes about 2 ½ cups

will need

1 cup lentils

water or broth



    Rinse the lentils under cold water, then quickly sort them to remove any stubborn kernels or beans that may have snuck into the bag from the chute.

    Place the lentils in a medium-sized saucepan, then add enough liquid (water or broth) to cover the lentils by 2 inches.

    Season the water with 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (optional).

    Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat so the water is slightly bubbling (on low).

    Cook uncovered until lentils are tender. Check the texture of the lentils from time to time, as lentils can quickly go from tender to mushy (unless you’re looking for very soft lentils to use in sauces and spreads). Recommended cooking times: 20 to 30 minutes for brown or green lentils, 25 to 35 minutes for French lentils, 15 to 20 minutes for red lentils, and 30 to 45 minutes for beluga black lentils.

Advice from Adam and Joanne

  • See the article for tips on cooking lentils in a pressure cooker (such as an Instant Pot) or slow cooker.
  • Nutritional Information: The nutritional information below is an estimate. We used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.

If you make this recipe, take a picture and tag it with the hashtag #inspiredtaste. We love seeing your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

Nutritional value per serving: serving size 1/2 cup / calories 135 / total fat 0.4g / Saturated Fatty Acids 0.1g / cholesterol 0 mg / sodium 234.9mg / carbohydrate 24.3g / fiber 4.1g / total sugar 0.8g / protein 9.5g

AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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