Lentils are a very nutritious legume that takes a while to soften and cook all the way through. The long cooking time means that a lot of people don’t bother to cook with them, but you can add them to soups, rice, pasta and a variety of other dishes to make a more filling, fiber-rich meal.
If you would like to learn how to cook lentils, I have put together a short guide for you that will get you started.
There’s nothing complicated about trying to cook lentils. It just takes a while to cook them, and since they can be pretty bland, so you’ll want to season them well. Once you learn a few methods of seasoning, though, you will be able to incorporate them into your meals effortlessly.
This is the kind of food that can cook on the side for a while as you are making the rest of your meal, so the little effort that’s required to get them ready for seasoning means you won’t have to think to much about how they are cooking and whether they are turning out okay while you prepare other items for the meal.
How to Cook Dried Lentils
Start by rinsing your lentils off, making sure to filter out any small rocks or dirt that are in the mix. You can run them under cold water and place them in a colander. That will get rid of all the small stuff and wash off the dirt, but then you should also pick out any small rocks by hand.
You might not think that you would have to pick rocks out of your food, but that’s a more common problem than you might realize when you are working with a bag of lentils.
Small rocks are about the same size and shape as the tiny legumes, so they are easy to mistake for one another. You don’t want to bite into one, though, so take the time to pick through the lentils carefully.
If you see any shriveled lentils, those should be discarded as well. This will help maintain the quality of your finished dish.
The lentils will need to simmer for a while. You don’t have to use a specific ratio of water to lentils. You just need enough water in the pot to cover the lentils as they cook.
Keep cooking the lentils until they become tender, and then you can drain out the water through a colander and season your lentils. How long it takes to cook with will be dependent on the kind of lentils you are using.
How Long to Cook Lentils
The lentils you should use will depend on what recipe you are making. They all have their own specific attributes, and how long they take to cook will depend on which one you are using.
How to cook green lentils? These take 35-45 minutes of simmering before they become soft.
You will notice that they retain the same shape, even as they cook and become tender. They work really well in pasta, lentil salad, and as a side dish for plain rice. They are the type of lentils used in traditional lentil soup as well, so there are tons of uses for these commonly used lentils.
How to cook red lentils? These lentils cook pretty fast, taking only about 15 to 20 minutes when simmering on medium heat.
As they cook, they soften into a mushy puree. That means they’re great for using in soups and other watery, liquid dishes. You can use them to thicken up various dishes as well, as the thick puree is excellent for making soup, stew, and sauce thicker.
How to Cook Lentils on the Stove
You’ll need a medium saucepan, plenty of water, and a few seasonings to cook lentils on the stove. For seasonings, you can use olive oil, black pepper, salt, lemon juice, and mustard.
The lentils can go straight into your medium saucepan and be covered with water before you start to boil the water. This gives them time to soak, and the water can soften the lentils as they are cooking.
Heat the lentils on high until they start to boil, then cover the pot, lower the heat, and allow to simmer. You want to stir every so often and cook for about 20-35 minutes, until the lentils become soft.
The lentils should be soft but not mushy, if you cook them properly. Drain off the extra water, mix in the seasonings, and allow the lentils to cool. You can use this pot of cook lentils in any recipe that calls for them.
How to Cook Lentils in Instant Pot
The Instant Pot makes for an easy way to cook your lentils. Here’s how you do it. (I’m giving you cook time and directions for brown, green, and black lentils. You’ll need to adjust for red and yellow lentils.)
This method for the Instant Pot starts by adding lentils and water to the Instant Pot’s inner pot. You can add in your black pepper, salt, and whatever other seasonings you like and stir together.
Then, close the lid and set the Instant Pot to pressure cook. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes for lentils that are al dente, and then 10 minutes if you want them very soft.
When the lentils are done cooking, use the natural pressure release for a total of 10 minutes. The rest of the steam can be vented with a manual pressure release. If you used bay leaves in your lentils, when you open the pot, you can discard them.
Can You Cook Lentils in a Rice Cooker
Yes, you can use the rice cooker to make lentils, and they come out perfectly cooked without much trouble. You can use two cups of rinsed lentils (brow, black, or green) and four cups of vegetable stock or water. Use seasonings as necessary, and add all your ingredients to the rice cooker.
The rice cooker should be set to Grain mode if that is available. If not, set it to high and then cover with the lid. Cook your lentils for 40 minutes and then check on them.
If they are not done cooking, leave them in for another 10 minutes and check again. Keep doing that until they’re done cooking.