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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

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

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


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.



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


  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

Keywords: Brown Lentils

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. Thank you. Your information helped me to make some lentils when the instructions on the bag was illegible.
    My husband enjoyed them.

  2. Just made this for the umpteenth time. It’s so incredibly easy and delicious! I added spinach just because I haven’t had greens in a while and it was amazing! Thank you Sonja and Alex!

  3. I really love this and make it weekly. That said, I have found that if I add carrots and celery, that the spices need to be increased by a good amount; otherwise the spicy flavor is not as strong.

  4. I keep coming back to this page to remember the lentils to water ratio 😀 Great recipe btw! We made it twice a week ever since we found it. Goes great with rice and potatoes

  5. first . time i used oregano, i was using thyme. i also liked adding cilantro They were great!!! thank you

  6. Second time trying ‼️ last time i made them completely plainly, due to bad history; they came out Perfect. Today i tried with all the spices: Even Better than perfect.
    Would you have a simple Lentil Soup using these cooked lentils? Thanks, I couldn’t find anything here…

  7. This was the first time I’ve not only cooked lentils but eaten them as well and they were so yummy !

    I didn’t have any vegetables broth so I substituted a pack of onion soup mix and the 4 cups of water. I cooked them in my Insta Pot using the bean/chilli button and half an hour later I had one of those foods that just make you feel good inside !

    It tasted almost like chilli so I added a little sharp cheddar and fresh onion on top, paired it with a sandwich and enjoyed thoroughly.

    I’m not really a bean fan so I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed them.

    Thank you for the great recipe and I’ve no doubt I’ll be trying some of your other ones as well !