Want to cook green or brown lentils without a recipe? All you need is this lentil to water ratio, which works every time.

Lentil to water ratio

Wondering how to make lentils without a recipe? All you need is that lentil to water ratio, which works every time. This ratio is for brown and green lentils only (since red and yellow lentils cook differently — they become mushier when cooked and are used for stews). Here is is:

Lentil to water ratio (brown & green): 
1 part lentils to 3 parts water

That means if you’re planning to cook 1 cup of lentils, you’ll combine it with 3 cups of water in a pot. Simple as that! Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Do you have to boil the water first? No! Place the lentils and water in a pot together and bring to a high simmer, then simmer.
  • How long do you cook brown and green lentils? 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape. You can drain any excess liquid.
  • Can I make lentils with broth instead of water? Yes! Cooking with broth brings in extra flavor.

Want a recipe? Scroll down to our full recipe below!

Lentil to water ratio
Seasoned Brown Lentils

Types of lentils and lentil recipes

This lentil to water ratio works for cooking brown and green lentils, but the cook time for yellow and red lentils is a bit different. Here’s a primer on the different types of lentils and a few examples of recipes to use with each:

Need more motivation to eat lentils? Here are all the Benefits of Lentils.

Lentil serving sizes

But how much lentil to cook? It’s all in the math. Here are a few handy formulas to remember:

  • How much does 1 cup of dry lentils make? 1 cup dry lentils = about 2 ½ cups cooked lentils. Lentils increase in volume about 2 ½ times when cooked.
  • How much is 1 serving of lentils? Plan for about 1 to 1 ½ cups of cooked lentils per serving.
  • How much dry lentils do I need for about 4 cups cooked? Since lentils increase 2 ½ times when cooked, divide the cooked volume by 2 1/2. 1 ½ cups dry lentils = About 4 cups cooked lentils

Got a pressure cooker or Instant Pot?

You can make lentils in an Instant Pot too! That’s got a different lentil to water ratio; here’s our recipe! Instant Pot Lentils

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Lentils nutrition

Lentil to Water Ratio (Works Every Time!)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: About 4 cups 1x


Want to cook green or brown lentils without a recipe? All you need is this lentil to water ratio, which works every time.




  1. Place the lentils and water in a large saucepan.
  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. Drain any excess liquid. Add the salt (starting with ½ teaspoon if using broth) and serve warm. Storage info: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator; reheat on the stovetop.
  • Category: Base Recipe
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Vegetarian

Keywords: Lentil to Water Ratio

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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      1. Near the top of the page it says:
        “Do you have to boil the water first? No! Place the lentils and water in a pot together and bring to a high simmer, then cover and simmer.”

        So we do or do not cover while cooking?

    1. Thank you for the ratio brown lentils to broth. I want to develop a veggie-meatloaf recipe using main ingredients: lentils, mushrooms, and parsley.
      Probably also eggs, garlic, onion, arrowroot, spices. Beautiful days.

  1. I just discovered lentils. Thank you for NOT having 14 pages of your life to get to the facts. I got everything I needed to understand how to make my Gypsy lentil dish a winner. Lentils go so well with smoked sausage. Did not want a stew or soup. While writing this I looked looked over your site and you guys are now bookmarked. Thank you.

  2. Hi there, I really don’t like draining lentils if I don’t have to.

    I really just want to cook brown/green lentils on the stove for
    a reasonable amount of time (say 10-20 min) until all the water is soaked up.

    My main aim would be to create a moist (but not too moist) neutral filling to mostly use for taco/burrito filling and season as appropriate. I don’t want something like that to take forever at the end of a workday.

    What do you think? 2 or maybe 2.5 cups of water per cup of green lentils?

    1. We would follow the recipe! It takes only 20 to 25 minutes to get tender lentils. Use 1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils and 4 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth. Then drain any excess liquid. Good luck!

  3. Hi!
    Your tips are very useful but what I need to know for converting a recipe from adding cooked lentils to using dry lentils that I will cook, is how many ounces of cooked lentils are in one cup of dry lentils. If I need 18-19 oz of cooked lentils in this recipe, how many cups of dry lentils do I need to cook?

  4. Thanks. It is important that salt should be added to pulses like lentils after they’re cooked to prevent the skin from becoming hard. Cooking in broth is ok if it contains no salt. Btw I cook lentils with added bay leaves and / or (dried) juniper berries adding a wonderful taste

  5. I’m confused about the salt. In the first instruction (which is labeled #4), you say to add all ingredients (water, lentils and salt) to the pan. Next instruction seems to suggest that the salt isn’t added until after the lentils are done. Please clarify? Thanks!

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