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Here’s an easy lunch or dinner idea: lentils! This basic recipe makes perfectly seasoned brown lentils to eat as a fast meal, or use in tacos, salads, and more.

Brown lentils
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Looking for an easy lunch or dinner recipe? Here’s one that’s super simple and totally customizable: brown lentils! Lentils are one of the healthiest foods on the planet, so why not incorporate more of them into your everyday? This recipe results in perfectly seasoned, tender lentils. You can eat them as-is, or add them as a component to tacos, salads, and more. They’re a fabulous easy vegan recipe or healthy vegetarian dinner. Ready to get started cooking?

Brown lentils

How to cook brown lentils

Brown lentils are very easy to cook. You know how people say to eat more lentils? Once you get used to cooking up a pot of lentils, it’s easy to eat more of this plant-based protein. They’re also seriously inexpensive, so it’s a great way to make a cheap and easy meal! Here are the basic steps on how to cook brown lentils.

Note: If you have an Instant Pot, go to Instant Pot Lentils instead! Brown lentils are quick and easy to cook in a pressure cooker.

Step 1: Place lentils and liquid in a saucepan.

When you cook brown lentils, you’ll put it together with the liquid in the pan and then bring it to a simmer. (No need to simmer the liquid first.) You can use either water or vegetable broth; we like using broth to add a savory flavor.

The liquid to lentil ratio is 1 cup lentils to 2 2/3 cups water. Here we’ve used 4 cups broth and 1 ½ cups brown lentils. To find the liquid ratio, just multiply the lentils quantity by 2.666666.

Step 2: Add optional spices.

This brown lentils recipe features spices amp the flavor: 1 ½ teaspoons each onion powder and paprika, 1 teaspoon oregano, and ½ teaspoon each garlic powder and black pepper. Throw in ¾ teaspoon kosher salt as well.

Spices to add to brown lentils

Step 3: Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.

Then all you have to do is bring the brown lentils to a simmer! 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. Taste them to assess whether they’re tender: if not, continue cooking. Once they’re done, there will be some leftover broth. The lentils will soak this up as they sit and become perfectly moist.

Brown lentils

What are brown lentils? Can I sub other types?

Brown lentils are the most “standard” varieties when you think of lentils — and the type featured in the recipe below! They cook quickly (in 20 to 30 minutes), and tend to fall apart when cooked instead of hold their shape. They’re brown in color and have a flat, lens-like shape.

Can you substitute other types of lentils in this recipe? You can substitute green lentils for brown lentils. Green lentils have a more peppery flavor than brown lentils.

What types of lentils not to use here? This recipe does not work for red lentils, French lentils, or black lentils, since they cook differently! Red lentils cook quicker and break down easily into a “mush”. Try them in our Masoor Dal or Red Lentil Soup. French lentils and black lentils are smaller and hold their shape when cooked. Try French lentils in our Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Lentils or French Lentil Salad. Sample black lentils in our Seasoned Black Lentils or Lentil Salad with Feta.

Brown lentils

How to serve these brown lentils

Because of the broth and spices, these brown lentils come out perfectly seasoned! We love making this recipe because you can just eat them right away. They’re perfect for a healthy lunch or dinner. Here’s how we served them above:

  • Cut a pita or naan bread into wedges
  • Dollop with Greek yogurt
  • Add some torn cilantro
  • Garnish with some raw or roasted veggies: whatever you have around!

This is the most basic way to serve these brown lentils. Truly, the sky is the limit! Here are a few more ideas to get your wheels turning:

Are lentils healthy?

Yes, lentils are full of nutrition benefits. Here’s a bit of what these brown lentils have to offer:

  • Protein & Fiber: Lentils have a large amount of plant-based protein. 1 cup of cooked lentils has about 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber. (Source)
  • Low in Fat & Calories: Lentils have virtually no saturated fat and are low in calories.
  • Protect Against Heart Disease: Lentils are rich in polyphenols, micronutrients thought to help protect against cardiovascular disease. (Source)

This brown lentils recipe is…

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

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Brown lentils

Seasoned Brown Lentils


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5 from 7 reviews

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

Description

Here’s an easy lunch or dinner idea: lentils! This basic recipe makes perfectly seasoned brown lentils to eat as a fast meal, or use in tacos, salads, and more.


Ingredients

Scale

For the brown lentils

  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or water, or a combination of both)
  • 1 ½ cups brown lentils
  • 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

To serve as shown


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: Basics
  • 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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16 Comments

  1. Kristina says:

    This recipe (minus the salt) was one of my twins first solid foods! I keep coming back to this recipe because I prefer not to use commercially prepared broths, so I cook my lentils in water. The added spices more than compensate for not using broth and result in flavorful basic cooked lentils that can be used in any number of ways. Tonight I combined these lentils with millet, roasted carrots, an orange ginger dressing, and some feta to make a delicious easy dinner. I appreciate that you share these types of basic/foundational recipes/cooking techniques!






  2. Bethann Vasiliow says:

    We love this recipe. Thanks so much for sharing! Making them again for tonight’s supper.

  3. Robin G says:

    Made this tonight and was delighted with it. Flavorful, filling, and very simple. Thank you for posting this.






  4. Aileen McGoldrick says:

    Taste was good but way too much liquid. I put a lid on it while it was cooking….was I not supposed to?

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