Red lentils are a nutritious and delicious way to round out a meal as a side or a main dish. Getting that cooking time just right ensures the texture of red lentils comes out the way you want it to create your best vegetarian recipes every time! If you are wondering how to cook red lentils, you’re in the right place!
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Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Quick & Easy: No matter the texture you prefer for your red lentils – firm, soft, or mushy – it’s only 5 to 15 minutes of cooking time. That means these could be one of your side dishes in a pinch, even on your busiest night!
- Protein Packed: Red lentils and all the varieties of lentils are notoriously full of protein. They’re low in calories while being high in iron, folate, and fiber, too. They are definitely a great way to make your meals more nutritious.
- Simple: Whether you use your Instant Pot or stovetop, cooking red lentils is simple for everyone. You can season them in so many ways – with curry powder, bay leaves, fresh ginger, and more to enhance that earthy flavor for a robust dish everyone will love. If you aren’t sure what to make, try this Roasted Pumpkin Dhal. It’s cozy and brimming with flavor.
About Red Lentils
If you’ve never seen red lentils before, they’re little legumes with a reddish-orange hue. Like other types of lentils, they cook super-fast. This is why they’re such an awesome ingredient when you’re trying to make a quick yet healthy dinner.
Red lentils have an earthy taste and are just a hint sweeter than black lentils or brown lentils. However, red lentils will break down more rapidly than any other type of lentil when you cook them. This renders a soft and creamy texture that you will adore in curries or soups. This is because most of the red lentils you find in the grocery stores are split red lentils, which have the seed coat removed and are packaged split into halves.
Do red lentils need to be soaked before cooking?
There is no need to soak your red lentils before you cook them. Any variety of lentils can be cooked immediately, though you should rinse them off in a small bowl of water or a colander. Rinsed lentils will ensure you get any bits of debris out of the way, so your recipe comes out perfect!
Ingredients + Notes
The ingredients for this red lentil recipe are as simple as can be. You only need two things!
- Lentils: While this recipe is for red lentils, you can use yellow lentils, black lentils, or any of the other varieties of lentils that you find.
- Water: For every cup of lentils, you’ll want to use three cups of water. Filtered water will always be the best choice, but it’s ok if you use tap water too.
Step-by-step Instructions: How To Cook Red Lentils
Cooking red split lentils on the stovetop Is quick and easy. It’s important to pay close attention to cook time, though, so you ensure your ideal consistency is reached.
1. Rinse lentils thoroughly.
2. Add red lentils and water to a small to medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
3. Turn down to a simmer and cover the saucepan with a lid.
4. Cook until desired texture is reached.
- For firmer red lentils, cook for 6-7 minutes.
- For soft, tender red lentils, cook for a total of 8 minutes.
- For very soft, cook red lentils for 9-10 minutes.
- For mushy lentils, cook for 11-15 minutes total.
Full Recipe Video
Adding various spices and herbs while cooking red lentils can enhance their flavor. As this recipe is for the basics of how to cook red lentils, you can cook them with an array of herbs, spices, and additions to bring out the best in your meal.
- Fresh herbs: Adding a fresh component to your red lentils adds more color and a special flavor profile. Try parsley, lemongrass, fresh ginger, or garlic cloves.
- Dried herbs: Along with fresh herbs or even in place of them, dried herbs can also do the trick when making anything from Indian recipes to hearty Italian soups. Bay leaves, mustard seed, oregano, Italian seasoning, and other spice rack staples are always a win!
- Spices: Head to your Indian grocers for something that really brings the spice, like an authentic curry paste. You can also try chili peppers or red chili powder, which make a great addition to red lentils.
- Fresh Vegetables: You can’t go wrong with chopped onion in a pot of lentils. Adding fresh garlic, carrots, celery, and other aromatic veggies for soups will help you create truly flavorful and memorable vegan dishes.
- Plant-Based Milk: A can of coconut milk or your favorite plant-based milk can turn your red lentils into a creamy, dreamy dining experience that fills you up!
- Vegetable Broth or Bouillon: Cooking lentils in vegetable stock or with veggie bouillon can greatly enhance their flavor, even more so than simply using water.
How To Cook Red Lentils In An Instant Pot
Cooking red lentils in a pressure cooker like an Instant Pot is easy. There is less control over how soft they get during the cooking process. You are almost guaranteed to get very soft or mushy lentils. If your goal is firm to soft lentils, then cooking them on the stovetop is your best option.
1. This simple recipe is for you if you prefer making instant pot red lentils.
2. Rinse your lentils thoroughly.
3. Add 1 cup of split red lentils and 2 cups of water to your Instant Pot.
4. Set your Instant Pot to cook on high pressure for 3-5 minutes. (Again, depending on soft or mushy preference.
5. Naturally, let the pressure release for 5 minutes.
6. Finally, immediately release the remaining steam by setting the steam release valve to “venting.”
Batch cooking red lentils at the beginning of the week is perfect for meal prep.
Cooked red lentils can keep in the fridge for 6-7 days.
Pro tip: Store your cooked lentils in an air-tight glass container such as a mason jar or glass Tupperware. Food stored in glass has been shown to stay fresh longer.
Cooked red lentils can be frozen for 4-6 months.
Pro Tip: Divide the cooked lentils into smaller chunks so you can thaw a portion of them at a time.
Tasty Lentil Recipes
The cooking time for red lentils will depend on the texture you like best. If you want them to have a firm texture, you’re ideal stovetop time will be 6 to 7 minutes.
For soft and tender, go for 8 minutes. If you like your red lentils very soft, aim for 9 to 10 minutes. And if you like them mushy, 11 to 15 minutes of total cooking time should do the trick.
No, red lentils don’t need to be soaked like other types of beans and legumes. You should rinse them off first to get any dirt or debris off before adding them to your pot.
The ratio of water to red lentils is 3 to 1. You will need 3 cups of water for every cup of lentils to cook them on the stovetop.
For cooking them in an Instant Pot, the ratio is slightly different at one cup of lentils to two cups of water.
Yes, that’s when they become mushy. Some people enjoy them in a mushy texture though you may want to adjust your cook time so they turn out soft while still retaining their shape.
Yes, rinsed lentils are best for any recipe. By giving them a quick wash, you’ll remove any particles of debris that may have gotten in there first. You don’t want anything like that to detract from your meal!
How To Cook Red Lentils
- 1 cup red lentils
- 3 cups water
Stovetop Red Lentils
- Rinse lentils thoroughly.
- Add red lentils and water to a small to medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Turn down to a simmer and cover the saucepan with a lid.
- Cook until desired texture is reached.– For firmer red lentils, cook for 6-7 minutes.– For soft, tender red lentils, cook for a total of 8 minutes.– For very soft, cook red lentils for 9-10 minutes.– For mushy lentils, cook for 11-15 minutes total.
Instant Pot Red Lentils
- Rinse your lentils thoroughly.
- Add 1 cup of split red lentils and 2 cups of water to your Instant Pot.
- Set your Instant Pot to cook on high pressure for 3-5 minutes. (Again, depending on soft or mushy preference.
- Naturally, let the pressure release for 5 minutes.
- Finally, immediately release the remaining steam by setting the steam release valve to “venting.”
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