How to Cook Lentils

Lentils are nutritious and inexpensive. Here’s an easy guide for how to cook lentils. My method for cooking lentils is ever-so-slightly different than other recipes you may find, but this method results in lentils that are healthier and easier to digest.

Simple and Easy Way to Cook Lentils

Lentils are an amazing food. They’re chock full of nutrition, they’re very inexpensive, and they can be used in a variety of ways. And they’re easy to make.

And they don’t take long to cook (like beans do).

There are many varieties of lentils (such as red, black, yellow, and French lentils). These different varieties all require a slightly different cooking process. Here’s my easy method for cooking brown lentils.

My method for cooking lentils is ever-so-slightly different than other recipes you may find, but this method results in lentils that are healthier, more nutritious, and easier to digest.

How do you cook brown lentils?

Brown lentils are the most common variety of lentils and the kind you typically find in the grocery store. As you may have guessed, these lentils are light brown in color. They have a mild, earthy flavor.

Brown lentils can be cooked on the stove top, in a Crock Pot, or in an Instant Pot. You’ll find easy, step-by-step instructions for each method below as well as printable recipes at the bottom of this post.

Here’s how to cook lentils perfectly every time!

How to cook brown lentils on the stove top

Cooked lentils in a pan with bay leaves

Step 1

Begin heating water.

Place 5 cups of water into a large saucepan. Cover and begin heating water over high heat.

Step 2

Sort through 1 1/4 cups lentils.

Lentils are a natural food. They aren’t produced in a factory, but rather they’re grown in a field. This means that a bag of dry lentils may have an occasionally piece of dirt or a stone in it.

No big deal. Just pour your lentils out onto a clean kitchen countertop. Sort through the lentils looking for any debris. Then transfer the sorted lentils into a mesh strainer.

Rinse lentils under cool, running water until water runs clear.

Drain.

Step 3

Add lentils to hot water.

Add cleaned lentils to the water in saucepan.

Step 4

Cook.

Cover pan with a tight-fitting lid, and bring lentils to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil.

Cook (covered) at a low boil for 35 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Notes:

1. Some recipes will tell you that lentils can be cooked in less time, but longer cooking time makes lentils easier to digest and makes the nutrients in the lentils (like calcium, iron, and zinc) more available to the body. Al dente lentils may look more attractive in a salad, but they aren’t so great for the stomach.

2. If you are using a tight-fitting lid, the lentils will not need any extra attention. However, the first time you cook them, you may want to check to be sure the water has not boiled away. If it has, add just enough water to keep them very moist. Don’t let them dry out.

lentils in a colander ready to rinse

How to cook brown lentils in a Crock Pot

Lentils can also be cooked in a Crock Pot (slow cooker).

Step 1

Sort through lentils.

Place 1 1/4 cups dry lentils on countertop and sort through them, looking for any debris. Place sorted lentils into a mesh strainer and rinse lentils under cool, running water until water runs clear. Drain.

Step 2

Place in slow cooker.

Place lentils and 4 cups water in a 2-quart Crock Pot.

Step 3

Cook.

Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours.

Notes:

1. For deliciously creamy lentils, you can cook your lentils in a Crock Pot on high for up to 10 hours or overnight. (This is my favorite way to cook lentils.) This makes deliciously creamy lentils. Creamy lentils are delicious served over rice!

2. Some slow cookers are much hotter than others, so you may need to adjust the time depending on your slow cooker.

3. Most lentil recipes say that lentils can be cooked in less time, but cooking lentils longer makes them easier to digest and makes the nutrients (like calcium, iron, and zinc) more available to the body.

How to cook brown lentils in an Instant Pot

(This recipe works for a small [3-quart] Instant Pot. Larger Instant Pots will require different times. Please refer to your Instant Pot instructions for how to use your particular Instant Pot.)

Here’s how to cook brown lentils in an Instant Pot:

Step 1

Sort through lentils.

Pour 1 1/4 cup of lentils out onto a clean kitchen countertop. Sort through the lentils looking for any debris.

Then transfer the sorted lentils into a mesh strainer.

Rinse lentils under cool, running water until water runs clear.

Step 2

Place in a 3-quart Instant Pot.

Place lentils and 4 cups water in a 3-quart Instant Pot.

Step 3

Cook.

Pressure cook on high for 6 minutes. (It takes several minutes for the Instant Pot to pressurize before cooking begins).

Allow pressure to naturally release for 5 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure. Carefully remove lid once steam has fully escaped.

Strain off any excess cooking liquid.

Notes:

Most lentil recipes say that lentils can be cooked in less time, but cooking lentils longer makes them easier to digest and makes the nutrients (like calcium, iron, and zinc) more available to the body.

The various Instant Pot models all cook slightly differently. You may need to adjust your cooking time by a minute or two.

How to season brown lentils

You may like lentils plain or with a little salt. Or you can season them.

Some seasonings that go well with brown lentils include garlic (fresh or granulated), onion (fresh or granulated), bay leaves, basil, oregano, celery salt, and thyme. And, of course, salt.

Bay leaves should be added before cooking. Other seasonings may be added either before you cook the lentils or after.

How much cooked lentils do dry lentils yield?

One cup of dried lentils will make nearly 3 cups of cooked lentils.

Uncooked brown lentils in a white bowl with bay leaves and a wooden spoon.

How to store cooked lentils

To store cooked lentils, transfer to a (preferably glass) container with a tight-fitting lid and place in the refrigerator. Lentils will keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.

For longer storage, place in a freezer-safe container and keep lentils in the freezer for up to 4 months.

To defrost lentils, place them in the refrigerator overnight.

If you’re in a hurry, you can heat frozen lentils in a saucepan on the stove top, but they will be slightly mushier if you go straight from frozen to heating.

Healthy and Delicious Lentil Recipes

Cooked lentils can be used in so many delicious dishes.

How to Cook Lentils FAQ

Do I have to soak lentils before cooking them?

Nope. Lentils are a quick-cooking legume. You do not need to soak lentils before cooking.

How long does it take to cook brown lentils?

To make lentils that are easy to digest and highly nutritious, cook them on the stovetop for 35 minutes, in a slow cooker or Crock Pot for 3 hours (on high), or in an Instant Pot for 7 minutes at high pressure. (Add an additional 15 minutes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure and 8 minutes for natural pressure release.)

Can I use broth or stock to cook lentils?

Yes, using broth or stock instead of water can add extra flavor to lentils.

Can I add salt before cooking lentils?

You don’t have to wait to the end of cooking lentils to add salt. They cook just fine with salt added at the beginning.

That said, you can always add salt; it’s difficult to remove the salt once added. Because of this, you may want to add half the salt at the beginning (because it does make them taste better) and then adjust seasonings once they are cooked.

How much cooked lentils do dry lentils yield?

One cup of dried lentils will make approximately 2 3/4 cups of cooked lentils.

I added too much water to my lentils. What should I do?

No problem!

You have two options.
1. Continue cooking your lentils with lid removed to cook off the excess water. Lentils will become very soft with additional cooking.
2. Or if you don’t want your lentils so soft, transfer lentils to a fine-mesh strainer to drain off excess liquid.

How to Cook Lentils Recipes

Here are the recipes for cooking lentils on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, and in an Instant Pot.

Simple and Easy Lentils

How to Cook Lentils on the Stovetop

How to easily cook delicious, brown lentils in a pan on the stove.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course
YIELD 3 cups
All recipes on jenniferskitchen.com are property of jennifer’s kitchen and cannot be republished without written permission.

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Spread lentils out on a clean countertop and sort through lentils to remove any stones or other debris.
    Transfer lentils to a colander or mesh strainer and rinse under running water. Drain.
  • Place rinsed lentils and water in large sauce pan.
    Cover and bring to boil over high heat.
  • Reduce heat and cook at a very low boil for 35 minutes or until very soft.
    (Most lentil recipes tell you to simmer for about 20 minutes, but lentils that are cooked longer are more easily digested and more nourishing.)

Notes

1. Some recipes say that lentils may be cooked in less time, but longer cooking time makes lentils easier to digest and makes the nutrients in the lentils (like calcium, iron, and zinc) more available to the body.
Al dente lentils may look more attractive in a salad, but they aren’t so great for the stomach.
2. Add more water if you like your lentils to be soupy.

>> One quick request: if you like this recipe, please leave a rating and a comment. Ratings help more people find these healthy recipes!

Print Recipe

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Keywords: gluten-free, healthy, how-to, legumes, lentils, plant-based, vegan
Did you make this recipe?Mention @JennifersKitchn or tag #JennifersKitchn!
Simple and Easy Lentils

How to Cook Lentils in a Slow Cooker

How to easily cook delicious, brown lentils in a Crock Pot.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Course Main Course
YIELD 3 cups
All recipes on jenniferskitchen.com are property of jennifer’s kitchen and cannot be republished without written permission.

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Place dry lentils on countertop and sort through them, looking for any debris.
    Place sorted lentils into a mesh strainer and rinse lentils under cool, running water until water runs clear. Drain.
  • Place lentils and water or broth in a small (2-quart) Crock Pot.
  • Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours.

Notes

1. For deliciously creamy lentils, you can cook your lentils in a Crock Pot on high for up to 10 hours or overnight. (This is my favorite way to cook lentils.) This makes deliciously creamy lentils. Creamy lentils are delicious served over rice!
2. Some slow cookers are much hotter than others, so you may need to adjust the time depending on your slow cooker.

>> One quick request: if you like this recipe, please leave a rating and a comment. Ratings help more people find these healthy recipes!

Print Recipe

Want More?

For more healthy and delicious recipes like this one that will simplify your journey to a healthier and thinner you, check out my

Healthy Weight Loss Program!
Keywords: gluten-free, healthy, how-to, legumes, lentils, plant-based, vegan
Did you make this recipe?Mention @JennifersKitchn or tag #JennifersKitchn!
Simple and Easy Lentils

How to Cook Lentils in an Instant Pot

How to easily cook delicious, brown lentils in an Instant Pot
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Time to build & release pressure 25 minutes
Total Time 36 minutes
Course Main Course
YIELD 3 cups
All recipes on jenniferskitchen.com are property of jennifer’s kitchen and cannot be republished without written permission.

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Place dry lentils on countertop and sort through them, looking for any debris.
    Place sorted lentils into a mesh strainer and rinse lentils under cool, running water until water runs clear. Drain
  • Place lentils and water or broth in an Instant Pot.
  • Pressure cook on high for 6 minutes. (It takes several minutes for the Instant Pot to pressurize before cooking begins).
    Allow pressure to naturally release for 5 minutes, then manually release any remaining pressure. Carefully remove lid once steam has fully escaped and strain off any excess cooking liquid.

Notes

Some recipes will tell you that lentils can be cooked in less time, but longer cooking time makes lentils easier to digest and makes the nutrients in the lentils (like calcium, iron, and zinc) more available to the body. Al dente lentils may look more attractive in a salad, but they aren’t so great for the stomach.

>> One quick request: if you like this recipe, please leave a rating and a comment. Ratings help more people find these healthy recipes!

Print Recipe

Want More?

For more healthy and delicious recipes like this one that will simplify your journey to a healthier and thinner you, check out my

Healthy Weight Loss Program!
Keywords: gluten-free, healthy, how-to, legumes, lentils, plant-based, vegan
Did you make this recipe?Mention @JennifersKitchn or tag #JennifersKitchn!

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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for all the ways to cook these. I love lentils and did not know how to cook them without being mushy. Millet, also, is one I can never get right and I love it. I will keep trying. Have a happy day always.

5 from 1 vote

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