How to Buy & Cook Lentils

by Sommer Leigh

A spoonful of cooked lentils and a pot of boiling water on the stove.

AnnaElizabethPhotography/iStock/Getty Images

Purchasing a quality lentil product ensures the legumes have the best flavor and stay fresh during storage longer. Unlike beans, lentils don't require soaking and they cook quickly, but overcooking them may cause them to become mushy. Cooked lentils have a nutty flavor and are a healthy addition to your diet since they are a protein source containing vitamins and minerals including thiamin, riboflavin, calcium and iron.

Buy lentils in clear packages so you can identify the quality. The lentils should have a bright uniform color; a dull color indicates lack of freshness. Look for lentils that are uniform in size since varied sizes result in uneven cooking times. Inspect the lentils for cracks or holes and avoid buying the package if you discover any damage.

Pour the lentils into a strainer and rinse them under cool running water until any sediment is washed away.

Place the lentils into a heavy pan.

Pour 1 1/2 cups of water for every 1 cup of lentils into the pan.

Set the pan on a stove-top burner set to medium heat.

Boil the water and reduce the heat to low.

Cover the pan with its lid.

Cook the lentils for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.


  • Add 1 tsp. of salt for each cup of dry beans for more flavor. Salt the lentils after they are cooked, since adding salt during the cooking process can toughen them.

    Taste the lentils for tenderness during the last 10 minutes of cooking to avoid overcooking.

    Store dry lentils in an airtight, covered container in a cool, dry place that stays between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Photo Credits

  • AnnaElizabethPhotography/iStock/Getty Images

About the Author

Sommer Leigh has produced home, garden, family and health content since 1997 for such nationally known publications as "Better Homes and Gardens," "Ladies' Home Journal," "Midwest Living," "Healthy Kids" and "American Baby." Leigh also owns a Web-consulting business and writes for several Internet publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in information technology and Web management from the University of Phoenix.