How to Cook Lentils

Wondering how to cook lentils? Here’s our tried and true stovetop method, whether you want them straight up or seasoned for a fast dinner!

How to cook lentils

Looking to eat more lentils? Lentils are a total powerhouse: they’re full of plant-based protein, low in calories, have a host of health benefits, and are super affordable. And, they’re seriously tasty when prepared correctly! When Alex and I started eating a mostly plant based diet over 10 years ago, we kept hearing, “Eat more lentils!” It took a while to figure out the best ways to eat them, but now we’re pros ant incorporating them in meals. This recipe is a basic lentil recipe that can be served many different ways: as part of a bowl meal, in a taco, and more! Even better: our two-year-old Larson adores them. Keep reading for how to cook lentils: of the brown or green variety!

Related: Instant Pot Lentils & Rice

How to cook lentils

How to cook lentils

Ready to get started? This recipe for how to cook lentils uses green or brown lentils. This is the most basic type of lentils and is easy to find at the grocery store. There are quite a few other types of lentils — see the Types of lentils section below for more info!

Now, this method for how to cook dried lentils is designed to work either as a component in another recipe, or seasoned to eat as a quick lunch or dinner recipe! If you want to make the lentils to go in another recipe, you can skip all the seasonings and just cook them in either vegetable broth or water. Cooking lentils in vegetable broth adds a ton of flavor, but if you don’t have it you can absolutely use water.

Here are the ingredients you need for how to make lentils on the stovetop:

  • Brown or green lentils (either will work)
  • Vegetable broth (you can sub water in a pinch, but veggie broth adds great flavor)
  • Onion powder
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Oregano
  • Salt & pepper

Simply place all the ingredients into a pan, bring to a brisk simmer, and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape. This recipe is seriously simple: and if you want an even simpler version, try our Instant Pot Lentils! It’s the same recipe but takes about 15 minutes total using a pressure cooker.

How to cook lentils
Serve ’em up with Greek yogurt, cilantro, & tomato wedges for a quick lunch

How to serve these lentils

If you’re using these lentils as a quick lunch or easy dinner recipe, here are some great ideas for how to use them:

  • As a bowl meal (pictured): Throw them in a bowl with pita bread, a dollop of Greek yogurt, tomato wedges, and chopped cilantro
  • In a taco: Throw them into a tortilla with salsa and sour cream: or try them in place of the filling in one of our taco recipes
  • With eggs: This morning Alex and Larson ate a delicious brunch of scrambled eggs and lentils! Here’s our Best Scrambled Eggs recipe.

Types of lentils

Before we start with How to cook lentils, a quick primer on lentil types. All lentils are not created equal! Here are a few of the most popular types of lentils:

Lentils nutrition facts

Lentils are protein packed and a healthy vegetable choice for any meal. Here are a few of lentils nutrition facts: 1/2 cup cooked (1/4 cup dry) lentils has:

  • 12 grams protein
  • 169 calories
  • 5 grams fiber
  • 0.5 grams fat
  • 30 grams carbohydrates

Harvard shows that legumes have lots of additional health benefits. Scientific studies have linked a diet high in legumes with a lower risk of developing diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, and strokes.

Legumes are a plant based protein

Lentil Q&A

And before we get to how to cook lentils: all your lentil questions answered! If you have a question that’s not included, let us know in the comments below and we’ll add it.

How to cook dried lentils?

See the recipe below!

Are lentils beans?

Lentils and beans are both legumes. Bean can be used as a synonym for legume, so lentils are technically part of the bean family. But in common usage, beans are larger and rounder, whereas lentils are lens shaped.

What are some lentils benefits? Are lentils good for you?

According to Harvard, scientific studies have linked a diet high in legumes with a lower risk of developing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, or strokes. So yes, lentils are a great choice for a healthy diet.

Are lentils gluten free?

Yes, lentils contain no gluten.

How long to cook lentils?

It depends on the type of lentil and what you’ll be using them for. For brown and green lentils, cook them 20 to 30 minutes until tender. The recipe below cooks them until they just hold their shape: other recipes like soups or curries cook them longer.

Are lentils legumes?

Yes, lentils are legumes! Legumes include lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas, and peanuts.

Are lentils keto?

Lentils have a high amount of carbs, so they are not included in a keto diet.

Can dogs eat lentils?

Yes, dogs can eat lentils. Start with a small amount and if your dog reacts adversely, do not continue to feed them lentils.

What do lentils taste like?

It depends on the type of lentil and how you’re serving them! But in general, brown lentils taste earthy, green lentils taste peppery, and red lentils taste sweet.

How much protein in lentils?

Lentils are protein packed! A 1/4 cup dry (1/2 cup cooked) brown or green lentils has 12 grams protein.

How to season lentils?

You can season lentils any way you’d like! In the recipe below we’ve used onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Or, try them in our Quick Lentil Curry, Masoor Dal or Verde Lentil Tacos.

Are lentils vegetables?

Lentils are vegetables! They are a fantastic plant based protein for vegetarian and vegan diets.

How long to soak lentils?

This depends on the recipe! Most of the lentil recipes on this website do not require soaking.

Do lentils go bad?

Dry lentils last for 2 to 3 years at room temperature, stored in a sealed container. Cooked lentils last in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Vegan taco recipe
Throw these lentils into a taco with salsa & your favorite fillings

Lentil recipes

Outside of this recipe for how to cook lentils, here are some more lentil recipes using all types of lentils: green, brown, red, French and black! The method for cooking each type is different.

This recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

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Lentils nutrition

How to Cook Lentils


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (48 votes, average: 4.21 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4 (about 4 cups) 1x

Description

Wondering how to cook lentils? Here’s our tried and true stovetop method, whether you want them straight up or seasoned for a fast dinner!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or water, or a combination of both)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. (If you’re planning to cook them without seasoning to use in a separate recipe, omit the spices, salt, and pepper.)
  2. Bring to a rapid simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape. There will be some leftover broth but the lentils will soak it up as they sit and become perfectly moist. Taste and add another pinch of salt if you’d like. Serve warm. (Storage info: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator; reheat on the stovetop.)

  • Category: Base Recipe
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: How to cook lentils, how to make lentils, how to cook dried lentils, Cooking lentils, Brown lentils, Green lentils

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

9 Comments

  • Reply
    Nikki Macarthur
    February 21, 2020 at 11:45 am

    New to lentils but want to try as part of Mediterranean Diet. I see you recommend cooking in veggie broth. If cooking a meatloaf and subbing lentils for ground beef, would it make sense to cook the lentils in beef broth? Not trying for vegan, just eating less red meat. Thanks.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      February 21, 2020 at 12:09 pm

      Yes! This would add a lot of flavor.

  • Reply
    kelley
    March 4, 2020 at 3:32 pm

    Hi! I see that this recipe is no longer using the same lentil-to-water ratio you have written about separately. Which is better?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 4, 2020 at 6:02 pm

      Both work! For this recipe we don’t drain the excess liquid, so it’s just a little less water.

      • Reply
        Fran
        March 17, 2020 at 5:00 pm

        Do u cover the pot?

        • Reply
          Alex Overhiser
          March 17, 2020 at 7:53 pm

          No!

  • Reply
    Kathy
    April 7, 2020 at 9:42 pm

    Is there a specific reason they have to be heated on the stove? Or can they be heated in the microwave too?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      April 7, 2020 at 9:48 pm

      This recipe is for stovetop only!

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    July 29, 2020 at 9:10 am

    Absolutely loved this recipe! I made a slight change to your original one (I didn’t have chicken broth) so I used cashew carrot ginger broth. They came out so delicious!

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