Learn how to cook red lentils either on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot. Lentils are an inexpensive source of nutrition, and red lentils take only 10 minutes to cook! Use cooked lentils to stretch a ground meat recipe, purée into a soup or sauce, or add to a hearty salad.
Lentils are high in protein, fibre, and complex carbohydrates, but low in fat. They are a great gluten free source of plant protein and contain a number of valuable minerals. Since their flavour is rather neutral, they blend well into a wide range of other dishes.
- Red Lentils - These are dry red lentils. They're called red even though they're actually more of a coral colour.
- Water - You'll need less water if you cook the lentils in an Instant Pot because you don't need to allow for evaporation.
See recipe card for quantities.
How do you cook dried red lentils?
You can cook red lentils either in a saucepan on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot.
Either way, lentils and water need to come to a boil, and then simmer 5 minutes. There are instructions for both methods in the recipe card below.
Rinse the lentils in a sieve to remove dust and debris. Then, add them with water to a pot.
If you're using an Instant Pot, set it for high pressure and 5 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes. Then release the pressure to let off remaining steam before opening the pot.
On the stovetop, bring lentils in water to a boil, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Hint: Don't salt the lentils until after cooking or even when incorporating them into another dish. Salting them before cooking will cause them to become tough.
No, there is no need to soak red lentils before cooking. These are the quick and easy legumes to prepare!
Don't cook red lentils beyond the recommended cooking time. As soon as the lentils have softened, remove them from the heat and drain off any excess water. Then use them as you wish in any number of dishes that call for cooked or canned red lentils.
If you wish to substitute another type of lentils for the red ones, allow 15 - 20 minutes for cooking rather than 5.
I like to use my Instant Pot for cooking lentils, because I can "set it and forget it" for 15 minutes. There's no concern about a pot boiling over and messing up the stovetop.
Dry, uncooked lentils will keep for up to a year at room temperature if they're stored in an airtight package in a dark, dry place.
Keep cooked lentils, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Cooked lentils can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Uses for Cooked Red Lentils
- Purée cooked red lentils in a blender and add them to soup or pasta sauce.
- Use them to replace some of the meat in a meatloaf or meat sauce.
- Include cooked lentils in a hearty salad, perhaps with rice or gluten free pasta, roasted veggies, and a nice Honey Mustard Dressing.
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- 1 saucepan OR
- 1 Instant Pot
- 1 cup dry red lentils
- 3 cups water use only two cups of water if using an Instant Pot
- Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold, running water.
- Add lentils and 3 cups (700 ml) water to a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to boil; reduce heat to a simmer and simmer, mostly covered, for 5 minutes. (You may need to tip the lid a little to the side, to keep the pot from boiling over.)
- When the lentils are soft, drain off excess water and use as desired.
Instant Pot Method
- Add lentils and 2 cups (474 ml) water to bowl of Instant Pot.
- Cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Allow for natural release of pressure for 5 more minutes.
- Then, carefully tap the valve to release any remaining pressure before opening the lid.
- Don't add salt to the lentils until after cooking, or they can become tough.
- You may want to forgo seasoning altogether until you incorporate your cooked lentils into another dish.