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How to Cook Lentils (The Ultimate Guide)

Lentils are an amazing food. They’re versatile, healthy, affordable, and easy to cook. Here’s everything you need to know about lentils, and 20 of my favorite recipes. 

A bowl of brown lentils topped with a sprig of rosemary

If you’ve cooked many of my recipes then you’ve probably figured out one of my secrets: I love lentils. Yellow lentils, red lentils, green lentils, it doesn’t matter. I love all of them. 

So it only seemed right to compile 20 of my favorite lentil recipes, from soups and stews to salads and tacos. But first, let’s cover some basic information about lentils, including how to cook them.

Are Lentils Healthy?

Lentils aren’t just healthy … they’re extremely healthy. There are lots of good nutrients and minerals in lentils, including iron, potassium, folate, and fiber. And lentils, which are very low in calories, don’t have any bad health properties. They’re also a very popular ingredient with vegetarians and vegans because they’re one of the best sources of plant-based protein that you can find. 

Why You Should Eat Them

I eat lentils all the time, but a lot of people rarely ever eat them. Here’s why you should make lentils a bigger part of your diet.

  • Easy. Lentils are remarkably easy to cook. You basically just have to boil them! Compared to many other proteins, like eggs and meats, lentils are super simple and easy to make.
  • Affordable. I love a good deal, and lentils are a great deal. They’re such an affordable food to buy. A pack of lentils is almost always affordable, but you can save even more money by purchasing them in bulk. 
  • Versatile. I’m always a fan of ingredients that you can use in lots of different recipes. Lentils are great because you can use them for a wide variety of dishes and cuisines. They can be the star of a recipe or a sidekick. They can be used traditionally or as a replacement for rice, beans, quinoa, or meat. The possibilities are endless!
  • Healthy. We already covered the health benefits of lentils, but it’s worth repeating this again: lentils are really healthy! Incorporating them into your diet is a great thing to do.

What are the Different Colors? 

There are a lot of different lentil colors. Brown, green, orange, and red are the most common colors, but black and yellow lentils are fairly common as well. Different colored lentils have slightly different flavors and slightly different cook times. But they’re all very similar, and you can usually substitute any lentil color for any other in a recipe. 

How to Cook Lentils

Cooking lentils could not be more simple. All you have to do is bring them to a boil in water (or any other liquid), then simmer them until they’re tender. Strain the lentils and you’re ready to eat them! 

Tips for Cooking Them

It’s very easy to cook lentils, but there are still a few things you can do to ensure the best results. Here are some of my go-to tips and tricks when cooking lentils.

  • Wash them. Always wash your lentils in a strainer before cooking them. While you wash them, look for rocks and other pieces of debris that may be in with your lentils. 
  • Use fresh lentils. Lentils have a very long shelf life, but it’s best to use them when they’re fairly fresh. If lentils have been sitting in the cupboard for a few months, then they’ll take longer to cook, and they might shed their outer layer when you cook them.
  • Don’t salt. Avoid salting the lentils when you cook them. If you add salt at the start of the cooking process, it will mess up the texture of the lentils. Instead, wait until the lentils have finished cooking, then salt them immediately while they’re still warm.
  • Avoid over-boiling. When I cook lentils, I bring the water to a boil, then immediately lower it to a mild simmer. This keeps the lentils from getting super mushy, which tends to happen when you cook them at a rolling boil. 

How to Store Leftovers

You can store leftover lentils in an airtight container in your fridge for up to 4 days. You can also store them in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

20 Easy and Healthy Lentil Recipes

Now that we’ve covered the basics of lentils, let’s do some cooking. Here are some of my favorite lentil recipes to get you started cooking with lentils.

One Pot Creamy Spinach Lentils with Quinoa

One-Pot Lentils + Quinoa with Spinach

This is one of the healthiest recipes I know, as it’s packed with not only lentils, but also spinach, quinoa, and carrots. And you only have to dirty one pot, so it’s not just clean eating, but a clean kitchen, too!
Check out this recipe
Detox Moroccan Lentil Soup Recipe

Detox Moroccan Lentil Soup

This is one of my go-to recipes when I’m feeling under the weather. It’s packed with healing seasonings like turmeric, ginger, cumin, and garlic. Plus, it uses two different types of lentils! Add in some spinach and almond milk, and you’re left with a recipe that will leave you feeling wonderful.
Check out this recipe
skillet of sweet potato curry with naan

Creamy Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Curry

One of my favorite ingredients to cook with lentils is sweet potato. The subtle sweetness and heartiness of the two ingredients work really well together. This recipe has a very rich flavor from sautéing onion, ginger, garlic, and curry powder together, and it only takes 35 minutes to make.
Check out this recipe
These ONE POT Moroccan Lentils + Quinoa make for a hearty, delicious and super cozy fall meal!

One-Pot Moroccan Lentils + Quinoa

I love one-pot meals because they’re so easy to make and so easy to clean up after. This recipe has so many ingredients, and they all work together in perfect harmony to create a dish that’s incredibly healthy, super comforting, and bursting with flavor.
Check out this recipe
Overhead view of detox turmeric lentil soup in bowl with spoon

Detox Turmeric Lentil Soup

Turmeric and lentils go so well together. This recipe is loaded with both, along with other comforting winter ingredients like turnips and sweet potatoes. Fresh herbs and lemon juice keep this hearty soup from being too heavy, while chili flakes give it a nice kick.
Check out this recipe
ethiopian lentils recipe with berbere

Ethiopian Lentils (Misir Wat)

If you want to try making Ethiopian food at home (I recommend it!), then you should start with this recipe. These spice lentils are a staple of Ethiopian cuisine, and really easy to make. You won’t make this recipe just once!
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A warm and comforting QUINOA BOWL with hearty French Lentils and flavor packed mushrooms. All topped with a perfect fried egg on top!

Warm Lentil + Mushroom Quinoa Bowls

Mushrooms and lentils are a natural fit. They’re both hearty and earthy, so they go together very well. This meal will give you so much energy for the day, as the mushrooms and lentils are paired with quinoa, baby kale, and fried eggs.
Check out this recipe
overhead of lentil salad with carrots served in a clear glass bowl with wooden spoon

Curried Lentil Salad

It’s very common for lentils to be paired with curry powder, but this salad is a fresh spin on that combination. The salad is packed with not just veggies, but also pumpkin seeds, dates, and mint. The curry powder is in the salad dressing, which also has harissa, maple syrup, and lemon. All of these amazing flavors end up working perfectly together.
Check out this recipe
Overhead view of red lentil dal in two bowls, one with white rice and flatbread

Easy Vegan Red Lentil Dal

This recipe is probably what a lot of people have in mind when you mention lentils. It’s so simple, as it’s just lentils, coconut milk, water, and some basic spices. But the flavor is both complex and comforting, and it only takes 15 minutes to make.
Check out this recipe
Warm Lentil Salad with spinach, quinoa, roasted fennel + toasted pine nuts - this is seriously the most addicting salad ever!

Warm Lentil Salad with Spinach and Quinoa

I’m a sucker for a warm salad, and this is one of my favorites. This salad has so much going on, with green lentils, roasted fennel, and a dressing made with miso paste, maple syrup, and brown rice vinegar. It’s the perfect fall salad.
Check out this recipe

Quinoa + Lentil Bolognese with Spaghetti Squash

One of my favorite ways to use lentils is as a meat substitute. In this recipe, lentils replace ground meat in a traditional Italian pasta sauce. And I think it’s even better this way!
Check out this recipe

Green Coconut Curry Lentil Soup

Lentil soup is one of my go-to recipes in the winter. A good lentil soup is hearty, comforting, and cozy, while also being jam-packed with flavor and nutrition. This recipe has so many healthy veggies and greens, like spinach, eggplant, and sweet potatoes, and explodes with flavor from coconut milk, curry paste, and lots of spices.
High Protein Quinoa Salad with Lentils

Creamy Superfood Kale and Lentil Quinoa Salad

Kale, lentils, quinoa, and avocado? It’s hard to imagine a salad being healthier than that. But the star of this recipe is the cilantro lime dressing with tahini. It makes this one of the most flavorful 20-minute recipes I’ve ever made.
Check out this recipe
The Best Lentil Chili Recipe

Instant Pot Lentil Chili

Don’t tell the beef lovers, but I think chili with lentils is better than with meat. This recipe has all your favorite chili ingredients, from chili powder and smoked paprika to bell peppers and fire-roasted tomatoes. But instead of ground beef, it has green and red lentils, and the result is incredible.
Check out this recipe
These MINI Sweet Potato Pizza Bites are topped with an amazing lentil bolognese sauce and shredded cheese!

Sweet Potato Pizza Bites with Lentil Bolognese

Who doesn’t love pizza bites? And sure, you probably weren’t expecting to see pizza bites in a roundup of recipes with lentils, but that’s exactly why I love this ingredient. It’s so versatile that it can be the sauce for a sweet potato pizza bite, and it works brilliantly.
Check out this recipe
bowl of red lentil soup with cream and herbs

Easy Red Lentil Soup

This recipe is as soothing and delicious as it is easy to make. It only takes 40 minutes, and I promise you that your house will smell amazing by the time it’s done. I make this soup anytime I want a cozy and healthy warm dinner at home.
Check out this recipe
two bowls of vegetarian lentil soup with sweet potatoes

Sweet Potato Lentil Soup

Soups don’t get much heartier than this one. Not only does it have sweet potatoes and two types of lentils, but also mushrooms, carrots, celery, spinach, and tomato paste. This soup is sweater weather in a bowl.
Check out this recipe
Overhead view of lentil patties served on a platter.

Butternut Squash and Lentil Patties

If you’ve ever wanted to try making vegan burgers, then this is the recipe for you. These plant-based burgers are super healthy, with lentils, spinach, and quinoa flakes. But they also have an amazing meaty flavor thanks to the squash, seasonings, and nutritional yeast. This is an awesome recipe that you’ve got to try.
Check out this recipe
Overhead view of quinoa and lentil taco meat in skillet

Quinoa and Lentil Vegan Taco Meat

I dare you to find someone who thinks ground beef is more delicious than this vegan lentil taco meat. It has so many seasonings in it, with added richness from quinoa and nutritional yeast. I make this recipe anytime I want to impress someone with tacos.
Check out this recipe
Root Veggie & Lentil Quinoa Stew made in just ONE POT with healthy, wholesome ingredients!

One-Pot Root Vegetable + Lentil Quinoa Stew

I love to eat root vegetables with lentils. And the root vegetables are the star of this dish, with lentils, spinach, and tomatoes adding extra heartiness. This is one of my favorite freezer meals because it’s so perfect to keep a cozy and comforting stew in the freezer for a cold day!
Check out this recipe

Need More Lentil Recipes?

If you're still looking for more lentil recipes after this roundup, then don't worry, I've got you covered. Head over to my recipe searcher, where you can find all my healthy recipes with lentils.

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