How to Store Lentils

If you are wondering how to store lentils, you'll need some airtight containers, Mylar bags, or canning jars. You can store lentils in a pantry, fridge, or freezer, with dried lentils having the longest shelf-life when stored properly. Learn more about how to store dried lentils and cooked lentils here.

This is a bowl of lentils on a wooden table.

If you are wondering how to store lentils, it is a question that is asked daily all over the world. The most common answer is in an airtight container in a cool place away from light. This is a family of plants that is used widely across the world as a food source. 

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Related: Types of Food | Types of Beans and Legumes | Types of Spices | Types of Garnish | Types of Herbs | Types of Lentils | What to Serve With Lentils | Lentils Substitutes

Global Lentil Consumption

Humans across the world farm and consume lentils every day, and the demand is high. In America, it is a common food source for vegans and vegetarians that look to replace meat with high protein alternatives. It is also used by many cultures in America that used dried lentils in their cooking when creating their traditional dishes.

A common form of lentil use both with dried lentils and canned lentils is in pulse. This is a word that comes from the Latin word puls which means a thick soup. 

Farmers in America this year will plant 893,000 acres of peas and 611,000 acres of lentils, while Canada is expecting 4.48 million acres of lentils, a yield that many Canadian farmers are describing as up by 50 percent. In Bangladesh, lentil imports are rising as their demand for lentils has reached 6.7 tonnes, but production is at 1.75 tonnes.

When learning how to store lentils, know that these are a product that can often be stored indefinitely. Some have even been found in Egyptian tombs from 8,000 B.C. It gives a new perspective to the phrase airtight container! 

What are Lentils?

Lentils are a vegetable in the Leguminosae plant family, they are also referred to as leguminous. The colloquial term used globally is legumes. Other plants in this family are peas and beans.

There are a number of different kinds of lentils. They are sold whole, split and halved, canned, and dried. There are a number of different kinds of lentils, including red lentils, French lentils, yellow lentils, and black lentils.

This is a close look at three bowls of various types of lentils on a wooden table.

The flavor of lentils is distinctive and Earthy, a flavor that is drawn out during the cooking process. Lentils make for a rich and Earthy soup or side dish.

With cooking, you will see that red and yellow lentils will disintegrate, but the flavor does not. These are a sweeter lentil, and a preferred choice for soups or as a thickener in stew. If you want to cook a lentil that will retain its shape, brown lentils are the most common choice.

Lentils can also be consumed raw, whether they have been canned or are dried. However, this is the least common way to consume them. When you are learning how to store lentils, you will need to play with temperatures and storage containers, and whether they are cooked or dried. Each will have its own storage requirements and recommendations.

Dried Lentils

Dried lentils are the longest-lasting lentils, and they are the easiest lentils to store as well. Lentils are like any other bean in that they need to be stored without any air or access to light. Oxygen and light will fade the color of the beans. They will also increase the rancidity of the oils of the legume. 

This is a close look at a wooden cabinet pantry with various dried good in glass jars including lentils.

Canning jars or plastic containers are the most common tools used to store dried lentils. They will do fine in a pantry that has a door or a covering. You can also cover dried lentils in an open pantry. Mylar bags are a common way to store lentils. 

During storage, the color of your lentil may fade with time. This does not impact the flavor of your lentil or its use as a puls in foods. Most experts will say that dried lentils should be used within one year, but many people safely store lentils for years. It is important to keep an eye on your lentils and their storage to ensure they stay safe. 

Watch your storage unit, such as your pantry or shelf, for signs of pests, mold, or mildew. A cool place is preferred when you are learning how to store lentils, but one without humidity is most important.

The greatest advantage to dried lentils is that they have longevity when stored properly. They are also an affordable food source that can easily be stocked up on when building inventory in your pantry storage.

Cooked Lentils

This is a bowl of cooked lentils and the ingredients at the background.

Lentils can not withstand cool temperatures, but require it for preservation after they are cooked. When you have cooked lentils, they must be stored in an airtight container and must go into refrigeration or freezing.  

It is best to store lentils in the refrigerator within two hours of their cooking. Most people that cool lentils or use them in cooking or soups regularly will say that cooked lentils can last safely in the fridge for 3-5 days. Some will say they can last longer, but you will have to keep an eye on them. Using salt with cooked lentils may extend their life in the fridge.

The greatest advantage to cooked lentils is that they do have a lifespan in your fridge. They also serve as a versatile food source. One bag of cooked lentils can be used in a dish daily for a number of purposes, from soups to stews or as a side even in a salad.

Their disadvantage is that the longevity is nearly eliminated once cooked, as they will have to be consumed in days. If you don’t want to use lentils regularly, only cook what you need for a single-use.

Where to Buy It

Lentils can be purchased from a number of food sources. Dried lentils can be purchased at health food stores, whole food stores, and in bulk stores. They can also be purchased bagged by distributors in the grocery store or your local market. In North America, they are widely sold online or in a brick-and-mortar store.

This is a look at the shelf filled with dried goods on display at the store.

Canned lentils are lentils that will have the shelf-life of the canned good. These are non-perishable lentils. You can purchase these online or in a brick-and-mortar store in the canned goods section.

FAQs

What are the nutritional facts of lentils?

Lentils are a high source of protein with approximately 22 percent of their makeup as protein. They are also a source of fiber, starch, many vitamins, and a low source of fat.

In 100 grams of cooked lentils you will find:

• 116 calories
• 9.02 grams protein
• 0.38 grams of fat 
• 20.13 grams of carbohydrates which includes 7.9 grams fiber and 1.8 grams of sugar

The nutrient content of lentils is as follows:

• Folate
• Manganese
• Phosphorus
• Iron
• Thiamin
• Potassium
• Vitamin B-6
• Riboflavin
• Pantothenic acid
• Magnesium
• Selenium
• Copper
• Zinc 

How long can you store cooked lentils and dried lentils?

When stored properly in an airtight container in a cool place out of light, dried lentils are said to last at least one year. Many people can store them effectively for longer. 

Dried lentils can not tolerate cool temperatures, but cooked lentils it is a must.

In the freezer, cooked lentils can last for as long as six months, but when stored in airtight conditions they may last longer.

In the fridge, cooked lentils can last for a few days, and in many cases as long as a week. 

If you want lentils to last longer in the fridge or freezer, play with your temperatures in the fridge. As frozen lentils last longer than refrigerated lentils, storage in the fridge at the highest setting for cold may extend their shelf-life.

Do different kinds of lentils have a different shelf life?

A lentil is a lentil regardless of its type. Dried lentils and cooked lentils have different shelf lives.

But if you are putting different types of lentils into your pantry as dried lentils, they will all last as long as you store them right.

You will need to know how to store lentils in a pantry properly, and how to maintain your pantry. Watch for signs of pests, mold, and mildew, or an off-smell. 

If the smell is off, the lentils have gone rancid, and you can not eat them. Exposure to pests, mold, and mildew will also mean you need to dispose of your lentils.

Do you need to soak your dried lentils before cooking?

No, you do not need to soak dried lentils before you cook them. This is a personal preference for many cooks with lentils. That is because this process can soften their outer shell.

The cooking process for foods with lentils will often solve this problem for you. Soaking them before you cook them, or making a soup with them, will accomplish the same effect. It takes approximately 15 minutes to fully cook dried lentils, and you will have the same lentil you would if you pre-soaked them. 

What is the best packaging for food storage?

When you are learning how to store lentils, using your own packaging for storage is best. This will minimize pests and mildew damage, but will also ensure optimum storage.

Airtight containers will keep lentils for years, but store-bought packages may not last one year. That is because store packages do not keep the light and air from the lentils which will cause them to spoil sooner. Mylar bags are also very effective storage containers for lentils, as this will minimize their exposure to oxygen.

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