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How to Cook Lentils

Learn how to cook lentils perfectly, so they don’t end up mushy. Lentils are nutrition powerhouses, flavorful, inexpensive and a staple in vegan and vegetarian recipes as they’re loaded with plant-based protein.

Lentils come in a rainbow of colors and be used in a variety of recipes. Some of my favorites include easy side dishes, tasty salads and hearty main meals.

How to cook lentils perfectly. Lentils are small legumes loaded with plant-based protein and nutrients and they're delicious in a variety of healthy recipes.

What Are Lentils?

Lentils are a small round legume and staple ingredient in many recipes throughout South Asia, West Asia and the Mediterranean. They’re inexpensive, versatile and can be stored for up to a year, which makes them a great pantry staple.

Lentils are also common in vegan and vegetarian cuisine because they’re high in fiber, carbohydrates and protein. In fact, they’re so high in protein (9g per 1/2 cup) that when readers ask me for a meatless alternative for my recipes I frequently recommend lentils (hint: they’d be great in my Stuffed Sweet Potatoes recipe). Lentils will keep you full, healthy and energized.

How to cook lentils perfectly. Lentils are small legumes loaded with plant-based protein and nutrients and they're delicious in a variety of healthy recipes.

How to Cook Lentils

When it comes to cooking lentils on the stove (for use in other recipes) opt for green lentils, Lentils de Puy, brown lentils or black lentils. Red lentils are best reserved for soups, dals and curries as they’ll easily become mushy. Watch the video below and learn how to cook lentils in 4 steps:

  • Rinse the lentils in a fine mesh sieve under the faucet. While rinsing, make sure to pick out any bad lentils, debris or small stones which can sometimes sneak in.
  • Add four cups of water and one cup of lentils to a pot. I also recommend adding a bay leaf and piece of kombu (see note below).
  • Bring the pot to a boil. Then reduce to a very low simmer, cover and set your timer for 20-30 minutes. The cook time will vary slightly based on the variety:
    • Green Lentils: 18-20 minutes
    • Lentils de Puy: 25-30 minutes
    • Brown Lentils: 20-25 minutes
    • Black Lentils: 25-30 minutes
  • Drain the water from the lentils and discard the bay leaf and kombu, before using the cooked lentils in your favorite recipe.

Varieties of Lentils

There are a dozen or so varieties of lentils, but these are the ones I use most frequently and the more common ones you’ll find in your local market:

  • Green Lentils: green lentils have a slight peppery flavor and maintain a medium to firm texture making them perfect for salads and side dishes.
  • Lentils de Puy (French Green Lentils): Lentils de Puy are similar to green lentils but with a slightly firmer texture, more speckled appearance and they’re grown exclusively in France.
  • Brown Lentils: brown lentils are the most common and easy to find, have a mild earthy flavor and hold their shape well, making them versatile for many recipes.
  • Red Lentils: red lentils are often sold split, cook fast, have a sweeter flavor and soften up to the point of a puree, making them perfect for soups.
  • Black Lentils (Beluga Lentils): black lentils have a rich earthy flavor, hold their shape and are so tiny and shiny they look amazingly similar to caviar.

How to cook lentils perfectly. Lentils are small legumes loaded with plant-based protein and nutrients and they're delicious in a variety of healthy recipes.

How to cook lentils perfectly. Lentils are small legumes loaded with plant-based protein and nutrients and they're delicious in a variety of healthy recipes.

How to cook lentils perfectly. Lentils are small legumes loaded with plant-based protein and nutrients and they're delicious in a variety of healthy recipes.

Tips for Cooking Lentils

You Don’t Need to Soak Lentils: When you cook other dried legumes and beans you typically need to soak them first. Because lentils are so small and cook quickly, you do not need to soak them first.

Be Gentle and Watch the Time: Once you’ve brought the lentils to a boil, turn the heat as low as it’ll go. Sometimes this means switching to a smaller burner on your stove, so that you don’t over simmer the lentils. Simmering at too high a heat (and having them bounce around in the pot) is usually what leads to mushy lentils. They can overcook quickly, so keep an eye on the time.

Add a Bay Leaf and Piece of Kombu: While lentils have a natural earthy flavor, a bay leaf and piece of kombu seaweed adds more flavor to the tiny legume. Additionally, the enzymes in kombu break down the phytic acid in lentils making them more easily digestible (and you’ll end up less gassy). Kombu adds vitamins, nutrients and trace minerals as well, including iodine.

How to cook lentils perfectly. Lentils are small legumes loaded with plant-based protein and nutrients and they're delicious in a variety of healthy recipes.

More Lentil Recipes and Ideas

How to cook lentils perfectly. Lentils are small legumes loaded with plant-based protein and nutrients and they're delicious in a variety of healthy recipes.
4.96 from 21 votes

How to Cook Lentils Perfectly (Not Mushy)

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Servings: 5 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Learn how to cook lentils perfectly - it's easy! Watch my quick video above to see how I make them. Then use them in a variety of healthy, delicious recipes.


  • 1 cup lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small piece kombu, (approx 3-4 inches)


  • Rinse the lentils in a fine mesh sieve under the faucet. Inspect the lentils and remove any bad lentils or small stones.
  • Add the lentils, water, bay leaf and kombu to a pot. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce heat to a very low simmer, cover the pot with a lid and cook for 20-30 minutes or until tender but not mushy. 
  • Drain the lentils, remove the bay leaf and kombu and serve. 

Lisa's Tips

  • You can store cooked lentils for 4-5 days in a sealed storage container in the fridge. You can also freeze them up to 4 months. 


Serving: 0.5cup, Calories: 135kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 9g, Sodium: 13mg, Potassium: 366mg, Fiber: 11g, Vitamin A: 15IU, Vitamin C: 1.7mg, Calcium: 28mg, Iron: 2.9mg
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Asian, Mediterranean
Keyword: how to cook lentils, lentils
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65 comments on “How to Cook Lentils”

  1. Are those brown or green lentils you are using? Mine look like that.

  2. Thank you

  3. I never cooked lentil with bay leave. I will try this yummy vegetrain dish as soon as possible and will add aBEY LEAVE to it.

  4. love lentils and your recipe, I sometime combine it with quinoa, is delicious, thanks for your recipes.

  5. I needed some green lentils for a vegan goulash recipe but, I had never cooked lentils before on their own. I had red lentils in a chili once but wasn’t crazy about it so I’ve stirred clear of lentils since. I found your recipe and followed it but, id not add anything to the water since I was adding them to the goulash. Man! I didn’t realize how good green lentils are. I can totally see eating them as a soup on all their own. Thanks!

  6. I love lentils but I can never find brown ones in a can… my question is though… if I’m going to use them in a Pumpkin-Lentil Lasagna… do I need to cook them for less time so they don’t go mushy? And if I freeze them, do I just thaw and then throw into my favourite recipe? Thanks!! 

  7. Turned out perfect! Thank you for sharing!

  8. I found information on this sight useful and easily understood a band a great attribute for the health of my family, cheers

  9. You mention red lentil but didn’t give a cooking time. Based on looking at the recipe of the other lentils, I checked in on my pot at the 25 min mark, which worked out perfectly. I also made sure I chose a heat that didn’t cause them to “bounce” around and that descriptor made a lot of sense to me.

  10. I made as directed with beef stock and I sauteed onion,carrots, sausage and a bit of tomato paste also a dash of r. Delicious, thanks.

  11. thank you. I succeeded.

  12. I loved the addition of kombu. If we don’t have access to that are there other things that can be added to breakdown Phytic acid

  13. Like the idea of using spaghetti squash to substitute for pasta.

  14. Hi Lisa! I love all your recipes…Thank you! Can you soak lentils overnight for better digestion without them becoming mushy?

    • Hi Rhonda – you can soak them overnight, but I do find the longer you soak the more mushy they’ll become. If you decide to soak, they really only need 2-4 hours.

  15. Can I use yaki nori instead of kombu 

  16. hi lisa
    can I use the yellow lentils instead of those you mentioned?
    I thought I had the green ones but I only have yellow kinds.

  17. I put my LENTILS in a CROCK POT
    If you guys are vegetarian or vegan you can omit the meat
    I sometimes use LENTILS as SLOPPY JOES with GROUND CHICKEN
    I want my RECIPE in big LETTERS so people who can’t see well can see it
    I am one of those people who can’t see well
    Doing the small letters I had to rewrite a lot of words over

  18. It’s funny to me to see people discover lentils because I’m Indian so I’m probably 95% dal at this point lol. Saw an interesting recipe in the NYT cooking for Red curry lentils with sweet potatoes and spinach, seems like something you might find interesting!

  19. I have them more like a soup. My mother is French and that is how we always had them, with a dab of butter and salt. No other herbs. 

  20. After cooking as the recipe says, I do not drain, and I add butter. Very good. 

  21. Can I use any ordinary seaweed in place of kombu specifically?

  22. Hi Lisa,
    I received a box of lentils from a neighbour lady who was travelling on.
    About 2 or so cups, Cooked ,not mushy with pieces of cucumber (very few) but
    with small sticks of Rosemary. ( I got the bottle also)
    It was in her fridge. Not throwing good food out.
    Even if I never had lentals.
    Any suggestion as to what do I do now with them. I have kitchen and spices,( no kombu sorry)
    Will look for it here in Merida, Mexico, Thanks John.

    • Hi John – if the lentils are cooked you can easily turn them into a salad recipe. I have a lentil salad recipe on my website, just search for lentils in the top search bar. :)

  23. Hi, Lisa:

    I discovered your site some time ago and on your recommendation bought the Kitchenaid mini so I could make the zucchini sheets!  Still haven’t done that yet but it’s on my list!

    Anyway, I am making  a vegetarian version of your Shepherd’s pie and here is my question.  I have a lot of French teeny green lentils that have been sitting around for a while and wonder if those are best to use.  I am having a guest and want this to come out well.  Do you think the French ones will work fine or should I get some regular lentils for best success?  Thanks for your reply!

    • Hi Barbara – How exciting! Can’t wait for you to make the zucchini lasagna :) As for the Shepherd’s pie, French lentils work just fine! Enjoy the recipe.

  24. My first time making lentils! I did not have kombu and don’t like bay leaves but I added just a bit of salt to the water and served with roasted veggies. Great directions to achieve the perfect non-mushy lentils. I’m so exited to use more plant-based protein in my diet. Thanks, Lisa!

    • Hi Stephanie – Happy to hear my instructions helped you create your first batch of lentils! Definitely a great way to add more protein into your diet :)

  25. Ok Miss Lisa, I made these last night for dinner and they were perfect. I actually did not have kombu, but imo they still came out perfect. I turned the burner off right at 17 minutes, drained and stirred them into a mushroom and broccolini stir fry that I served with wild rice. I had never cooked wild rice so I got that recipe from your site and that came out perfect as well. Thanks for the recipe. My kids really liked this. My 2 year old was licking the bowl when he was finished.

  26. Hi! I’m wondering if cooking them in a broth would give them added flavor, have you ever tried that? 

  27. What is kombu

  28. I usually cook a large quantity of lentils and freeze them. I would like to try this recipe but I’m wondering if I’d need to double the kombu if I double the lentils and water?


  29. What can be used instead of kombu? 

  30. I wanted to learn how to cook lentils and came across your web-site. Just so happened to have bay leaves and kombu on hand, so I gave it a shot. Wow! Cannot believe how much flavor they imparted. I’ll be coming back to this recipe again and again. Thanks for sharing!

  31. I haven’t tried the recipe yet, but it’s because I’ve made lentils in the past and had an INTENSE GASSY experience after.  So much so that I’ve avoided them.  But I was interested to hear that Kombu might help that. Thanks for this.  I’m new to your page but am enjoying it.   

    • Yes, you’ll have to give them a try with the kombu next time. And I’d recommend starting with a small quantity of lentils to see how your gut handles them. :) Glad you’re enjoying my site!

  32. Simple things if unknown make life better for some. This information will surely help quite a few to make a healthy meal for them. Thank You.

  33. I love lentils! It’s my favorite legume – such a great guide!

  34. THANK YOU! I’ve always cooked mushy lentils. Every single time. Your instructions finally broke me of it – thank you so much!

  35. Thanks for sharing these tips, cooking lentils can definitely be a scary thing especially if you’re new to them!

  36. I didn’t realize that lentils varied so much in their consistency. Good to know. This is such a great resource to keep on hand. Thank you!