The Washington Post

Lentils: Common varieties and how to cook and use them

Red, orange and yellow split lentils are ideal for mashes, soups and stews. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

Go to a well-stocked Indian market, and you’ll find an overwhelming variety of dried lentils: different colors, some with skins on, some with skins off. But in most mainstream groceries, the varieties are limited to three or four.

Because the cooking time can vary by age and variety, follow the directions on the package for basic cooking. A good rule of thumb is to rinse the lentils under cold running water, then combine 1 cup lentils with 3 cups water and a pinch of salt, bring to a boil, reduce to a very gentle simmer, cover, and cook for the recommended amount of time.

Here’s what the most common varieties are best used for, and how long they typically take to cook.

— J.Y.

Red, orange or yellow split lentils. Commonly used for Indian dal, these break up during cooking. Best for mashes, soups and stews. Cooking time: 15 to 25 minutes or more, depending on how soft and disintegrated you want them.

Black beluga lentils. Small, shiny and black, they resemble caviar and maintain their shape and firm texture when cooked. Best for salads or appetizers, such as on blini. Cooking time: 20 to 25 minutes.

French du Puy lentils. These small, blue-green-spotted lentils keep their shape when cooked and have a particularly creamy texture. Best for cold or warm salads. Cooking time: 25 to 30 minutes.

Brown or green lentils. Larger varieties, these can get mushy when overcooked but otherwise keep their shape. Good for sauces or for playing the part of meat in taco fillings, sloppy Joes and more. Cooking time: 30 to 40 minutes.

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.