Kathy Maister's Start Cooking

Lentils

posted in Vegetables and Beans by Kathy Maister

You might not consider lentils a basic food (not everyone grows up familiar with them), but they are a great food to get to know and add to your repertoire.

Lentils cook in about 15-25 minutes, are high in fiber, are an inexpensive source of protein, and taste really good! They have a hearty, rich, nutty flavor that holds up to lots of seasoning. Lentils are not only great in soups, but can also be eaten hot or cold, as a hearty main or side dish. They are very popular in French, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine.

Buying & Storing Lentils

Lentils fall into the category of food called “Pulses”, which includes peas and beans as well. As with the peas and beans, there are many types of lentils. Except for the color variations they all look pretty much the same, although some are a bit smaller than others.

The brown ones (pictured above) are the most common and the least expensive. You can also buy green, red, orange, black, and white lentils. French green lentils, sometimes called Puy, can cost about 3 times more than the brown lentils.

Lentils should be kept in a cool, dark place, (not the refrigerator) and can be stored for up to 12 months. If you have different types of lentils store them separately. They all require slightly different cooking times so you don’t want to jumble everything together.

Once cooked, lentils should be stored in the refrigerator, covered, and should be eaten within 3 days.

Cooking Lentils — The Basic Approach

Lentils do not need to be soaked for any length of time before cooking them.

You can cook lentils by themselves in just water or stock and then eat them as is. Here’s how:

Measure out about 8 ounces (by weight) of lentils, or 1 ¼ cups. We are going to combine that with about 1 ¾ cups of liquid.

But first, sort through the lentils to make sure there are no small stones or bits that should not be there. If need be, you can spread the lentils out on a clean kitchen towel to do the sorting.

Then rinse the lentils under cool water.

Bring 1 ¾ cup of stock or water to a boil. (I’m using vegetable stock.)

Add the lentils to the pot.

Give them a stir

Then bring the lentils back to a boil

Cover the pot and turn the temperature down to simmer and cook for about 20 more minutes or until the lentils are tender.

If you’ve added too much liquid and over cook them, they will get mushy! After 20 minutes most of the liquid will have been absorbed.

There may still be a bit of liquid on the bottom, which is fine.

Taste them. You may want them to be a bit more tender, in which case continue cooking until all the liquid is absorbed. (About 5 more minutes)

These are general cooking directions. Be sure to check the directions on the back of the package of lentils you have bought. Cooking times and amounts of liquid may vary slightly.

Different types of lentils require different cooking times. If you are eating them as a side dish or in a salad be sure not to over-cook them. If they are going in a soup, you may want to cook them a bit longer.

If you need to season the lentils with salt, do not add it until after the lentils are cooked and removed from the heat as it can toughen the lentils if added during the cooking process.

If you choose to add anything acidic (such as tomatoes, lemon juice, or vinegar,) do so after the cooking is completed as well.

Digesting Lentils

Yes, like beans, lentils can cause gas! The more you eat, the more your system gets accustomed to them. But in the mean time, there are a few tips to try. Some say boiling lentils for 1-3 minutes after adding the liquid helps. Others insist that if you boil the liquid and then add the lentils to the boiling stock/water that should solve the problem. I would strongly suggest avoiding serving lentils on a first date!!!

Cheers!

Lentils

Ingredients:

6 Servings

  • 1 ¼ cups (8 ounces) brown lentils
  • 1 3/4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock or water

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17 Comments

will said:

For problems with pulses (beans) and gas, I have the following suggestions (and this goes for all beans, not just lentils)

  1. If the beans are to be soaked (lentils do not need to soak, but most other beans do), throw out the soaking water. This water is great for house plants, but is full of the starchy-proteins that cause gas.
  2. While cooking beans, often a greyish foam will accumulate over the cooking water. Skim this off regularly while cooking until there is nothing left to skim. This helps alot.
  3. There are some spices which can really help. Add a bit of ginger root, roasted cumin seed, and fennel seeds. These spices have a caminative (anti-gas) effect, but it will give your lentils more of a Indian flavor, which may or may not be desireable

These tips can help, but they will not completely stop the gas, but they will help!

Kathy Maister said:

Thanks Will! This is all great information. I always learn something from your terrific comments!

Vincent Mc Kenna said:

I like your candid comment about gas.

I have been making soups in late autumn,winter for about 7 years and people couldnt get enough — my ggrandfather was a Master of a Workouse in Ireland way back in the 1860s and rough recipes were suggested by the Poor Law Unions of the UK. — I just added a bone for real flavour.

However, I started to add red lentils to my Barley, Leeks, potato, celery, carrot, onion, small amount of peas,and this made the soup ever more tasty — I was congratulated for a couple of days. But then people only wanted a small bowl, or reduced quantity from 2 bowls to one bowl —– so a friend advised me to drop the lentils and go easy on the peas ! I now know why. Thanks

My soups are simmered for a couple of hours to bring out the flavour — a Workhouse practice it seems.

I there some way of reducing the gas in lentils (and peas) , does soaking overnight with the soda supplied really help ?

Kind Regards,

Vincent Mc Kenna

Kathy Maister said:

Hi Vincent, your soups sound wonderful! Soaking the beans before cooking will definitely help!

Cheers!

Sarah said:

Can you reduce the amount of lentils and water proportionally and still get the desired results in 20-25 minutes?

Kathy Maister said:

Good question Sarah. You should be OK but do remember that lentils cook more slowly if they’re combined with salt or acidic ingredients, so add these last.

Ahmed said:

Hi Vincent,

Greet suggestions. I often cook lentils and barley for dinner, but I also consume them for breakfast and lunch. Ever tried lentils mixed with soy milk for breakfast? It is never too late!

I love red beans but cannot stand when it takes hours if not a whole day – soaking and so forth – to cook them. This is bad for my 20-minute role for dinner. So I rely on the kindness of my great friend for a container of beans and barley once in a while. Any suggestions? Gas never bothered me!

Kathy Maister said:

Please do keep in mind that lentils do not require soaking before cooking them. This obviously cuts preparation time down considerably.

I always have an array of canned beans in my cupboard that are all cooked and only need to be rinsed before eating. Adding beans to rice, lentils or salad makes for a hearty and complete meal which takes very little time to prepare.

Elsie said:

Ahmed-
Try soaking them before you go to bed in warm water. Wash them in warm water before you soak them though at least 4 times so you know they are clean. I don’t have a whole lot of problem soaking them this way.
With lentils, i tried making them into smoothie as my protein drink. I cook them first put them in the fridge so its ready in the morning. I put a little honey and a dash of powdered ginger. So far, it’s giving me tons of energy and I eat less during the day.

jan said:

Try sprouting them. Thats where the lifeforce is. Its the enzymes in the sprouted seed that gives you lifeforce. Like the sprout of a new plant with the growth potential in it. Brown lentils can be mixed with veges and home made tomato sauce with onions and cummin and organic wholemeal flour to make a loaf. Lots of homemade tomato sauce on top and cheese. Lentils dont combine with potatoes .. bad for digestion.

Kathy Maister said:

How do you sprout lentils? I have never done. Does it take very long for them to sprout?

Sally said:

I find I have pains and churning sensations in the tum even after eating the canned green lentils – I love the taste but it always has this effect. It says on the can to microwave them (or cook on the hob) in the liquid from the can….. it’s a problem. I like them but they don’t seem to like me! Has anyone else found this with canned green lentils?

mike said:

please indicate printer friendly mode for printing out cooking instructions for lentils

thanks mike

Eric said:

Hi Mike,

An easy way to print the content is to:

1. select the section of the post you are interested in

2. choose print from the browser menu (under File)

3. and select “print selection” in the print range field.

Cheers.

Anonymous said:

The gas is not a problem if the lentils are mixed in a 3:1 ratio with a grain such as rice as the starch in the carbohydrate absorbs the carbon dioxide.

Lynda

Sue said:

Hi!

I found your site today because I have been getting pains from eating my delicious lentil stew. I put onions, garlic, celery, carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach in my lentil stew.

When I cook pinto beans, I add a peeled white potato, which I throw out when they are done, to take the “gas” out of them and it works great. I was wondering if this trick would work for the lentils, too. I noticed that someone said to add white rice for basically the same reason…the carbohydrates counteract the gas produced by these beans.

What does everyone think? Thanks!

startcooking said:

Hi Sue,
Being neither a dietitian nor a food scientist I am at a loss as what to suggest.
Good Luck!
Kathy