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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
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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 cooking 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!)

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4.4 from 5 reviews

  • 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

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Can we use water that the lentils cooked in for soup?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      It tends to be pretty bland and gritty.

  2. Lior says:

    Thank you so much for all the information and for this wonderful website beyond this page.
    One question: for French or black lentils, will it be the same water to dry lentils ratio as it is for the brown and green lentils?
    Thanks in advance!

  3. Lucas says:

    I really like the recipe, but quite confused on what you refer to a “simmer” is this covered? Uncovered? I am new to cooking. Thanks.

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Simmer uncovered.

  4. Trinity says:

    Thanks for this. I appreciate the updates and improvements from reader comments. It would be helpful to have accurate, weight-based measurements too, in grams and millilitres, rather than volume measurements like cups. It’s far easier and quicker (and more accurate) to measure ingredients on a kitchen scale than getting out cups and scooping.

  5. Joy says:

    Hello, can you explain what a rapid simmer means? Thanks

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Bubbling, but not boiling.

  6. Marcy Axness says:

    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!

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      Great question! Salt can come after. We’ve updated the recipe accordingly!

  7. john says:

    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

  8. Anonymous says:


  9. Cristina Gabriella Sturm says:

    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?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Roughly 8 ounces should do it!

  10. Dwayne Schister says:

    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. Sonja Overhiser says:

      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!

  11. anthony k stangert says:

    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.

  12. Trevor H. says:

    I would like to clear up the abiguity in the section headed “How much is one serving of lentils?” Do you mean dry or cooked lentils?

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      Cooked lentils — thank you! Updated.

    2. Valeree Hansen says:

      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.

  13. A says:

    Hi! Do you cover the lentils while cooking?

    1. Alex Overhiser says:


      1. B says:

        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. Sonja Overhiser says:

          Cover was a copy paste error: you don’t need to cover! Fixed, thank you!

  14. Lois Friedman says:

    Love your site, Love your recipes!!!!
    Thanks and keep them coming.


    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      Thank you! We will :)

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