Everything to Know About Cooking Lentils

There is so much to love about lentils! Lentils are pulses (a part of the legume family), and they are packed with health benefits. They’re an affordable source of protein and an incredibly versatile ingredient. From soups and stews to salad and dips, there are so many delicious things that you can make with the humble lentil!
Learn how to cook lentils on the stovetop, in the pressure cooker, or in a rice cooker (no, really!), plus check out some fun lentil recipes.

Types of Lentils

Before we get into how to cook lentils, we should talk about the different types of lentils. Because types of lentils vary in cooking time and water needs, the directions below break out different times/water amounts when needed.

These six are the most common that you’ll find at the grocery store:

Before we get into how to cook lentils, we should talk about the different types of lentils.

Yellow or Red Lentils

These lentils break down more during cooking than other varieties. Rather than tiny, cooked beans, you end up with something more like porridge in consistency with these types of lentils. Think of a bowl of thick dal.

Green or Brown Lentils

Green and brown lentils soften quite a bit during cooking, but they don’t get as soft as yellow or red lentils do. If a recipe just calls for “lentils,” this is usually what the recipe author means, and you can substitute one for the other in many recipes.

French Lentils (aka Le Puy Lentils)

These smaller lentils hold their shape well when cooked. Recipes will usually specify if you need French lentils.

Black Lentils (aka Beluga Lentils)

Black lentils are even smaller than French lentils, and they cook up more quickly on the stove. Like French lentils, recipes for black or beluga lentils will have them listed by name in the ingredients.

How to Prepare Lentils for Cooking

Let me tell you about the time that I bit into a lentil taco and chipped a tooth on a tiny stone. Don’t be like me! I learned this lesson the hard way, so you don’t have to. Before you toss your lentils into the pot, pick them over for stones and rinse them in a colander.

Lentil Recipes

The directions below are for basic lentils. If you want some recipe ideas, we’ve got you covered! Lentils are incredibly versatile, as you’ll see in the variety of recipes below.


Yields 4 servings

How to Cook Lentils

Learn how to cook lentils on the stovetop, in the pressure cooker, or in a rice cooker (no, really!).

5 minPrep Time

40 minCook Time

45 minTotal Time

Save Recipe


  • 1 cup lentils, picked over for stones and rinsed
  • water (amount varies by method - see below)


  1. On the Stovetop: Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil, then add your lentils. Bring back to a boil and simmer for 20-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the water is absorbed and the lentils soften to your liking. You may need to add up to an extra 1/2 cup of water, so check in occasionally, to make sure your lentils aren't too dry.
  2. In the Pressure Cooker: Combine the lentils with 2 1/4 cups of water. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes with a natural release. Red or yellow lentils only need 6 minutes at high pressure.
  3. In a Rice Cooker: Combine the lentils and 2 1/2 cups of water. Turn on your rice cooker (use the brown rice setting, if you have one). When it pops, your lentils are ready.


Cooking times and water needs can vary by type of lentil. Varieties that need different cooking times are broken out in the directions.



1. Deviled Lentil Salad

This recipe uses French lentils and plenty of zesty spices for a salad that works as a side dish or the main event.

Red Lentil Soup

2. Red Lentil Soup

Red lentils soften considerably, making them the perfect base for a thick, hearty soup. This simple recipe is filling and flavorful.

Lentil Tomato Salad from Veggies Save the Day

3. Lentil and Sun Dried Tomato Salad

This five-ingredient salad calls for cooked lentils. For salads, you want a firmer lentil, so go with brown, French, or beluga lentils for this recipe.

French Lentils with Caramelized Onions from Cadry's Kitchen

4. French Lentils du Puy with Caramelized Onions

Lentils and caramelized onions are a match made in heaven. Earthy, chewy lentils with soft, sweet caramelized onions. It’s such a simple combination, but super delicious!

Lentil Loaf from Dianne's Vegan Kitchen

5. Lentil Loaf

Hearty lentil loaf is a filling supper and even works for special occasions. This lentil loaf with cashew gravy would be great for a holiday meal.

Lentil Bolognese from V Nutrition

6. Lentil Bolognese

Cooked lentils have a meaty texture, and this recipe plays on that, using them as the base for a plant-based bolognese sauce.

Keema Lentils from A Virtual Vegan

7. Keema Lentils

You can make this spicy, Indian lentil dish on the stove or in your slow cooker!

Mango Dal from Fried Dandelions

8. Mango Lentil Dal

This is a sweet twist on a traditional, Indian lentil stew. Serve over rice for a hearty one-bowl meal.

Slow Cooker Lentil Soup from Vegan in the Freezer

9. Slow Cooker Lentil Vegetable Soup

Green lentils team up with mushrooms, veggies, and black beans for a hearty slow cooker soup. Start it in the morning, and it will be ready for supper!

Lentil Chipotle Dip from Spabettie

10. Whipped Lentil Chipotle Dip

Lentils, like other beans, are great for making flavorful dips! This spicy spin on lentil dip uses chilis in adobo sauce for a smoky flavor. Pass the chips!

Breakfast Lentils from Go Dairy Free

11. Apple ‘n’ Spice Breakfast Lentils

Sweet lentils might sound a bit odd, but red lentils actually make a hearty, filling, protein-packed porridge that’s surprisingly delicious.

Lentil Burger from Contentedness Cooking

12. Lentil Burgers

Their meaty texture makes lentils a great base for a hearty veggie burger. This one is topped with creamy curry mustard sauce.

Sprouted Lentils from Allergylicious

13. Sprouted Lentils

Add crunchy, sprouted lentils to salads, sandwiches, wraps, soups, and stews! This guide to sprouting includes directions for sprouting other beans, too!

Lentil Lasagne from Trinity's Kitchen

14. Lentil Lasagne

This is another tasty example of how you can use lentils to make plant-based versions of comfort food recipes that traditionally call for meat.

Lentil Taco from Vegan Heaven

15. Lentil Walnut Taco Meat

What can I say? Vegans love using lentils to replace ground beef! This taco “meat” is super flavorful and lovely on a taco salad or in a standard taco.

Related at Care2


Types of Lentils image via Thinkstock. All other images via recipe authors, used with permission.


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