All About Lentils, Including How to Cook and Enjoy Them

Our test kitchen loves them in soups, salads, and more.

Rich in protein, fiber, and iron, lentils are a dynamite addition to a plant-based diet—and their earthy flavor and satisfying textures (some have a firm bite, others cook up soft and creamy) make them a trusty test-kitchen staple in soups, salads, and more. Learn their different personalities, and put them to delicious use in our food editors' favorite lentil recipes.

assortment of colorful lentils on slate surface
Photograph by Ren Fuller

How to Cook Lentils

Bring two cups of picked (to remove tiny pebbles) and rinsed lentils, three cups of water, one teaspoon of kosher salt, and a pinch of freshly ground pepper to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until tender (start checking at 20 minutes, as cooking times vary). Drain if necessary; let cool. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to five days, or freeze up to three months.

Yellow and Red Lentils

Often sold split (or halved, with the outer seed removed), these lentils are easy to smash. We love them to add heft to dips like hummus and stews such as kitchari, a savory vegan porridge made with vegetables, rice, and spices.

French Green Lentils

This kind of lentil, also known as lentils du Puy, takes time to cook (start checking at 25 minutes), but its tenderness gives substance to salads. You should also try green lentils tossed with sautéed mushrooms or to add heft to roasted vegetables.

Brown Lentils

These shape-shifters—they hold their structure but are mashable, too—are the most common and versatile variety of lentils. If you prefer more bite, watch them when simmering so they don't get too soft. Add a cup to soup for heartiness, use them in a supporting role in a pilaf, and be sure to try them mixed into veggie burgers.

Black Lentils

If you prefer a firmer, more al dente texture, try this small variety, sometimes known as beluga lentils, in any recipe that calls for green lentils. They're ready to go in about 25 minutes.

Curried Lentil-Salmon Salad
Con Poulos

Lentil Recipes to Try

You'll love lentils in all kinds of recipes from, soups to salads to mains. You can try quick cooking red lentils in Red Lentil Hummus or our Golden Dal with Gingered Tomatoes. We think green lentils really shine in main-dish salads; try them in our Warm Lentil Salad with Poached Eggs or the Curried-Lentil and Salmon Salad that's pictured above.

If you love to prepare hearty soups, green lentils will quickly become your go-to. We like them in dishes like this comforting and healthy Lentil Soup with Crispy Kale. They're also delicious in Kielbasa and Lentil Rice with Spinach. When it's grilling season, green lentils are our choice for preparing veggie burgers. Try them in our Mediterranean Veggie Burgers with Mint Yoghurt or our Lentil-Walnut Burgers.

And if you've whipped up a batch of black lentils, let them star in this superlative Black Lentil Dal. They are versatile in sides and salads, too, such as this unusual but entirely delicious Carrot and Lentil Salad.

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