How to Cook Lentils

Learn how to cook lentils perfectly every time! Tasty, nutritious, and easy to make, they're a fantastic way to add protein to salads, side dishes, and more.

Lentils in a pot

If you’re interested in adding more plant-based meals to your diet, lentils are one of the first things you should turn to. These tiny legumes are protein and fiber powerhouses, they’re easy to cook, and they have a delicious earthy flavor that adds to all sorts of dishes. Read on to find my go-to method for how to cook lentils, along with information about different varieties and my favorite lentil recipes.

How to Cook Lentils

My method for how to cook lentils is easy! It comes down to 2 basic steps:

  1. Rinse. On occasion, you’ll find small rocks or debris mixed in with dried lentils. To avoid eating them, rinse the lentils in a fine mesh sieve and pick them over before you cook them. Discard any shriveled lentils in addition to debris.
  2. Then, simmer! Unlike when you’re cooking couscous or quinoa, you don’t need to use a specific lentil:cups of water ratio. Just fill a large pot halfway with water, bring it to a boil, and add the lentils. Simmer until they’re tender. The specific cook time will depend on what type of lentils you’re cooking.

Types of lentils

Types of Lentils and How to Use Them

Not all varieties of lentils are interchangeable, and each works particularly well in different types of recipes. Here are the varieties you’ll most often see in stores, along with suggestions for how to use them:

Le Puy or French Green Lentils

My favorite type of lentils! These guys hold their shape as they cook, and they have a yummy firm texture. I like to use them in lentil salad and pasta sauce, and their hearty texture is also delicious in my curried lentil soup.

French green lentils

Beluga Lentils

These black lentils are very similar to the French green variety. In fact, you could use them interchangeably in most lentil recipes! They cook in about 20 minutes, and they have a nice bite. I turn to them when I want to add lentils to a salad or serve them on their own as hearty side dish.

Black lentils

Regular Green or Brown Lentils

If you’re making a homey soup or stew, either regular green or brown lentils would be an excellent choice. Instead of holding their shape, they soften and become mushy as they cook. I like to add the dried lentils to a big pot of soup and let it simmer until they become tender, about 30 minutes.

Green lentils

Red Lentils

Red (or yellow) lentils cook much more quickly than any other variety. They become soft and tender after simmering for just 15 minutes! As they cook, they melt and dissolve, creating a delicious creamy texture. Consequently, they’re a great choice for adding to thick curries, stews, or an Indian dal. I even blend them into a luscious, hummus-like dip!

Red lentils

Favorite Lentil Recipes

Below, you’ll find my go-to method for seasoning cooked French lentils. I toss them with lemon juice, Dijon mustard, fresh herbs, and red pepper flakes to make a nutritious side dish or base for plant-based bowls. They keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, so they’re one of my favorite proteins to meal prep and keep on hand in the fridge.

Beyond this simple preparation, there are endless ways to use them. Aside from the lentil recipes I mentioned above, these are a few of my favorites:

  • Sauté cooked French green lentils with garlic, cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt, and black pepper to use as a hearty filling for vegetarian tacos. You could also add a handful of chopped walnuts for crunch!
  • Swap them for the chickpeas in my many-veggie soup, adding them to the pot at the same time as the broth.
  • Toss them with a simple vegetable pasta for extra protein.
  • Use them in a Morrocan-spiced salad, like the Roasted and Raw Carrot Salad on page 121 of Love and Lemons Every Day.
  • Stuff them into veggies to make a protein-packed vegetarian main dish, like the Mediterranean Stuffed Eggplant on page 179 of Love and Lemons Every Day. Alternatively, pile them into a cozy baked sweet potato!
  • Use them in homemade falafel! Find my red lentil falafel recipe on page 137 of Love and Lemons Every Day.

Do you have any favorite lentil recipes? Let me know in the comments!

Lentil recipe

More Plant-Based Cooking Basics

If you love this recipe, try one of these plant-based cooking components next:

How to Cook Lentils

rate this recipe:
5 from 57 votes
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 25 mins
Serves 4 to 6
This is my go-to method for cooking lentils. Once your lentils are cooked, try the tangy marinade that makes the lentils delicious and ready to be tossed into salads or bowls.


Cooked Lentils

  • 1 cup uncooked French green or black lentils
  • pot of water

Lemon-Herb Dressing, optional


  • Cook the lentils: In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils and water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 17 to 20 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Drain any excess water, let cool. Use in any recipe that calls for cooked lentils.
  • Make the Lemon-Herb Dressing: Transfer the cooked lentils to a medium bowl. Stir in the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, mustard, and pepper. Stir in the parsley and red pepper flakes, if using. Serve as a side dish or store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Yields 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils.


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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Rebecca

    So I should bring the water to a boil and then add the lentils, or add them to cold water and then bring to a boil? I added mine to cold water and then boiled and they were super mushy. Thanks for any tips!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Rebecca, I combine them with the water and bring to a boil. If they were mushy, start checking them earlier – they just cooked too long. The time may vary depending on each batch of lentils.

  2. Meredith

    I am planning to cook lentils for the very first time this week (!!!) and would love to use this recipe! Just not too crazy about parsley, though. Is there another herb that might work well in its place?

    Thank you so much!☺️

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Meredith, cilantro would work, or a tablespoon or two of fresh dill instead.

    • Erich

      I frequently use carrot greens as a replacement for parsley. It is similar, but it does have a different taste to it. Maybe you’ll like those better, although you may not.

  3. Pat

    5 stars
    This recipe proves that oftentimes, the simplest approach is the best! I added just a hint of fresh garlic to help deepen the flavors while still retaining the bright notes. Lovely, clean recipe. I will be making this often!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the lentils!

  4. Rowena

    5 stars
    Quick, easy & delicious! Thanks for sharing.

    • Frankie

      5 stars
      delicious i LOVE this recipe!

  5. Christine

    So…. I ate my first lentil by mistake. I absolutely hate the texture of beans, unless they’re smushed into hummus. I was at Carrabba’s and had a taste of that delicious-smelling spicy sausage & lentil soup and was hooked. These lentils weren’t mushy!
    So I’m now on the hunt for lentil recipes. I’m glad you clarified the difference between them, because I would hate to get a red or yellow mush-lentil and blow my new-found discovery. Thank you for taking the time to post this info!

    • Christy Travis

      What if all these lentils were accidentally mixed together by my “ helpful” teenage daughter, before I was able to properly store them?

  6. ST

    I love cooking red and green lentils with rice and seasoning it with tumeric and salt. It makes a great base for bowls.

  7. Gay

    5 stars
    I made this with the black lentils, delicious. A definite keeper!

  8. Brooke Ashley

    5 stars
    Delicious! I made the lentils in advance and quickly threw together the lemon herb dressing. This will become part of our regular rotation of dishes. Thank you Love&Lemons for a wonderful recipe.

  9. Linda Ellerbrock

    5 stars
    I made this recipe today and was very surprised at how much I like it. I’ve only made lentils as a soup and had grown very tired of the flavors so I tried lentils as a side/main course and it’s perfect.

  10. E. Davis

    I’ve been eating lentil soup most of my life.
    We made it with a bag of lentils (green) in a 6 qt pot with one bay leaf and about three tbs of barley. Add one bay leaf and let soak in about three quarts of water overnight. In the morning turn on the heat, slice up a hunk of kielbasa or smoked sausage and simmer for about 4 hours stirring occassionally throughout the day. when it starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, mix well and turn it off. Reheat before serving and enjoy. Simple, filling and delicious

  11. Elise

    Like your recipes..🙂

  12. Lori Chapman

    I was thinking of using Greek dressing with the lentils, for a variation of Greek salad. Do you think that would work?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Lori, yep, I think that would be great!

  13. Alana

    5 stars
    Thank you so much for this information! My bag of lentils didn’t have anything on it to tell me how to just cool a cup of them, I’m so glad I was able to quickly google and find this reference 🙂 Will definitely be bookmarking for future!

  14. Jo

    5 stars
    I’ve never cooked lentils before, much less ate them. Thank you for showing me how!

  15. Michael

    I’ve always started lentils in a pot with water. The first part of this post has you adding them to boiling water, then the recipe is what I’m used to. Is there a benefit to one over the other?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Michael – either way works, the only difference is that I start checking them a few minutes earlier if I start them in a pot of cold water.

      • Michael

        I went with adding to plenty of boiling water and draining, almost like pasta but not as much water. I think I like it better and may change my lentil ways. Thanks!

  16. its so nice to know you can turn boring lentils into tasty dishes. thanks for sharing

  17. Kristie May

    What is a good source for your favorite black lentils?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Kristie, I find them in the bulk bin section at Whole Foods. In a pinch, they’re always on amazon, I’m not sure if one brand is better than another. I get Bob’s French Green Lentils, but I don’t see that they make black lentils.

    • Frank from
      07.23.2020, organic and straight from the source in Montana!

  18. Sabrina from

    thank you, lentils are one of my approved legumes for slow carb, much appreciated!

  19. Bridget

    Do you have any tips for how to reduce the classic affect that legumes play on the gut? We’ve been trying to use lentils and beans to get more plant based proteins but are finding we are getting upset tummies! (gas, bloating, all the fun things) Perhaps a good soak before the cook, or rinsing off the extra fiber once they’re ready? Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Bridget, you can soak them, I’d probably check them a little earlier while cooking so that they don’t turn out mushy. Based on my personal experience – I’d try sticking to the foods that make you feel good, first. Legumes, whole grains, and raw veggies (especially if you’re increasing them all) can be rough on digestion, sometimes it’s best to bring these foods in little by little and in smaller quantities to begin with. Hope that helps!

    • Frank from

      I agree, work legumes into your diet slowly, and vary your protein sources for best digestive happiness. For example, alternate among tofu, tempeh, legumes, quinoa, and the like, avoiding getting “stuck” on one in particular. You can also try soaking legumes in pure water with a little lemon juice first and then rinsing prior to cooking, particularly good with black beans. I also prefer to de-husk chickpeas after cooking, it’s tedious, but makes for smoother hummus and better digestion, too. Alton Brown specifies using 1/8 t of baking soda when cooking chickpeas, I rinse afterwards, not sure why he includes that, but little tricks like these may help! And then there’s Beano enzyme, available at most markets, I haven’t used it, but it’s supposedly helpful for easier legume digestion, too.

      • Phil

        The baking soda helps to break down the outer skin of chickpeas a little more.

      • Judy Morgan

        I add one teaspoon of baking soda to the pot to help with gas and bloating. Baking soda won’t affect the taste.

    • Tanya

      Add an inch of a ginger into the beans or legumes that will help with gases and bloating.

    • Jessica R

      Try taking probiotics when you eat them. Saccharomyces Boulardii is the one I recommend and seems to work the best.

      • K

        Add a pinch of Indian asafoetida powder to beans or lentils to reduce gassy digestive effect. The traditional remedy. (:

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Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.