How to Cook Lentils

Once reserved for vegetarians, folks with all types of eating habits will enjoy lentils. You’ve likely tasted them in soups, stews, and salads. You may have also seen them at the supermarket, both canned and dried. If you’re curious like me, you may have been wondering how to cook lentils. If so, you’ve stumbled across the perfect guide. 

lentils in a white bowl

An excellent source of protein, lentils are a must in any plant-based diet. But, again, you’ll love them even if you do eat meat! It’s a wonderful way to make a salad more filling, and they do a great job of rounding out some of my favorite soups. For all of my fellow lentil-curious readers, here’s what I’ll be sharing:

  • A variety of methods for cooking lentils
  • Ways to use lentils
  • Some lentil recipes to inspire you

I’ll also be answering some of the most frequently asked questions that may come up when you make lentils at home!

Different Types of Lentils

There are lots of different types of lentils! They each have a slightly different color, texture, and flavor. They also require different cooking times! The most common (with their stovetop cook times) are:

  • Red: 15 minutes
  • French (Lentils de Puy): 15-20 minutes
  • Green: 18-20 minutes
  • Brown: 20-25 minutes
  • Black (Beluga Lentils): 25-30 minutes

Keep in mind that these simmering times are for stovetop cooking only. I’ll share the cook times for the other types of methods below!

lemon zest in bowl with green lentils
Marinated Green Lentils

How To Cook Lentils

Like several other types of legumes, lentils come in two forms: dried and canned. Dried varieties are typically less expensive as it does require a bit more work to cook them. That’s not to say that canned lentils are super pricey! But, it’s just something to think about as you do your shopping.

There are lots of different methods for cooking lentils that I’ll get into in depth below. You’ll be able to make them yourself at home with very minimal equipment. If you have a stovetop, Instant Pot, Crockpot, or rice cooker, you’re good to go!

Different Methods For Cooking Lentils

Lentils are so versatile — and so are their cooking methods! Let’s take a closer look at some of the different ways you can cook lentils.

ingredients in small bowls for red lentil soup recipe
Red Lentils

How to Cook Dried Lentils in Two Steps — Stovetop Method

Unlike other legumes, you don’t have to worry about soaking your lentils for hours on end. They are small enough to cook up quickly — no soaking required! All of the methods below are also for dried lentils, but this one is specifically to help those wondering how to cook lentils on the stove.

Step 1: Rinse the dried lentils and make sure to remove any debris.

Step 2: Place 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of lentils into a large pot. You can also add a bay leaf to the mix, but it’s not required.

Step 3: Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat so that it comes to a simmer. Consult the guide on different types of lentils above to determine how long to cook on your stovetop.

Step 4: Drain, rinse, and serve!

How to Cook Lentils in an Instant Pot

Boy, oh boy, do I love my Instant Pot! I use it for so many different recipes, including lentils! Not only is it a bit faster than the stovetop, but cleanup is also just so easy. 

Step 1: Rinse the dried lentils and make sure to remove any debris.

Step 2: Add 3 cups of water to every 1 cup of lentils into the Instant Pot and stir a bit to prevent sticking. Pressure cook on High for 8-10 minutes, depending on the texture you’re after. 8 minutes for a firmer lentil, 10 minutes for tender.

Step 3: Allow the IP to naturally release for 15 minutes, then release any excess pressure.

Step 4: Remove the lid, drain any excess water, and serve!

Please note that 8-10 minute cook time is for green or brown lentils. Red and French will require less time, and black will require more time.

lentils, rice and vegetables in bowls
Dal Makhani (Creamy Black Lentils)

How to Cook Lentils in a Crockpot (Slow Cooker)

Another one of my favorite kitchen appliances, you can also make your lentils in a crockpot! This is the ultimate solution for busy chefs. Simply throw the lentils in the slow cooker, set the timer while you’re at work (or sleeping!), and let it do its magic. 

Step 1: Rinse the dried lentils and make sure to remove any debris.

Step 2: Place 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of lentils in your crockpot. Cover and cook on High for 3-4 hours or on Low for 6-8 hours.

Step 3: Remove the lid, drain any excess water, and serve!

Please note that these cooking times are for green or brown lentils. Red and French will require less time, and black will require more time.

How to Cook Lentils in a Rice Cooker

You read that right: you can even use a rice cooker to make lentils! You gotta love a versatile appliance! 

Step 1: Rinse the dried lentils and make sure to remove any debris.

Step 2: Place 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of lentils into your rice cooker and close the lid. If yours has a “grain” mode, you can use that. Otherwise, use High. 

Step 3: Cook for 40 minutes, or until the lentils are done. If they aren’t, continue to cook at 10-minute intervals until they reach your desired consistency.

Please note that these cooking times are for green, brown, black, or French lentils. Red will require less time.

How Long to Cook Lentils?

Remember: it depends on the type of lentil! As a general rule, red lentils will take the least amount of time, while black lentils will take the most. Consult my short guide above to determine how long your lentil of choice will take!

cooked basmati rice, brown lentils, and macaroni covered in tomato sauce and crispy fried onions
Koshari (Egypt’s National Dish)

Ways To Use Lentils — Serving Suggestions

Now that you know how to cook lentils, it’s time to incorporate them into some of your favorite dishes! Here are some ideas to inspire you:

  • In Salads: Bulk up your favorite salad with some lentils! I personally love using a mixture of lentils and chickpeas for a hearty lunch. I recommend that you toss them in a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other seasoning of your choice. Pair with your favorite veggies and voila!
  • In Soups & Stews: Lentils are most commonly seen in soups and stews. Again, they are full of protein, so they will make your meal even more filling and satisfying. You can get really creative here. I personally love to include red lentils in dal, an Indian lentil curry.
  • In Fillings: Vegetarians and vegans rejoice! You can enjoy meals like burritos, dumplings, and the like. Simply replace the meat with lentils and you’ll have yourself a plant-based friendly meal that even omnivores can enjoy.

6 Great Lentils Recipes

I’ve shared all of the different ways you can cook lentils as well as some serving suggestions. Now, let’s move on to the really good stuff — some of my favorite lentils recipes:

greek lentil salad in bowl
Greek Lentil Salad


How Should Lentils be Cooked?

You can choose any of the cooking methods above: on the stovetop, in your Instant Pot, in a slow cooker like a Crockpot, or in a rice cooker. I personally like the stovetop and my IP the best, but you should try out several methods to determine the one that works for you.

Do You Soak Lentils Before Cooking?

One of the biggest misconceptions about how to cook lentils is that many people assume that they need to be soaked. I’ve got great news for you: you don’t have to! Lentils are small enough to cook straight from dried. That said, if you do soak them, you’ll cut the cooking time in half!

How do You Cook Lentils So They Don’t Get Mushy?

Be careful not to overcook them! Overcooked lentils will get very mushy. Keep an eye on the cooking time no matter what method you use.

overhead: bowl of thick yellow soup garnished with scallion and lemon slices
Lebanese Lentil Soup


I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

Free Bonus
Kevin's Guide to Amazing International Cooking
My secrets to authentic & delicious international recipes

Explore More

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Even in a crisis, if there is one person who would manage to deliver impeccable results each and every time, it would have to be you. Thanks for your hard work and dedication while being someone that everyone in the office can depend on.

    1. Sorry for the late reply as I have been over in Egypt researching new recipes to share here. Thanks for the high praise Andrew!