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5 Different Types of Lentils

A lentil is an edible seed of a lentil plant. The article discusses the types of lentils such as black lentils, red and yellow lentils, brown lentils, green lentils, and french green lentils. It also discusses a brief history, where to buy it and the FAQ.

A collection of various legumes in bowls including lentils.

In 2020, the lentil market globally reached 11.3 million tons.  Lentils are among the most popular legumes in Europe, the Americas, Asia, and other parts. These legumes resemble a tiny bean and thrive in pods.

Canada, India, and Turkey are among the leading producers of this crop. Continue reading to learn more about this plant.   

Related: Types of Food | Types of Beans and Legumes | Types of Spices | Types of Garnish | Types of Herbs | How to Store Lentils | What to Serve With Lentils | Lentils Substitutes | How to Rinse Lentils | Lentils vs. Beans

What is it?

Lentils (Lens Culinaris) are leguminous plants with a double-convex, lens-like shape.  They’re rich in nutrients such as high-quality protein, fiber, calcium, and more. In addition, since they’re much smaller than beans, they cook fast.

Therefore, they don’t need to be soaked when cooking. They come in varieties such as green, black, brown, and red as explained below. 

The Types of Lentils

Black Lentils 

These are black lentils in a wooden spoon and a wooden bowl.

Black lentils are also called Beluga lentils. They’re small, round, and dark-colored. Whereas the other types don’t stay lentil-shaped after cooking, black lentils hold their shape.

Consequently, they’re ideal for eating in the salad. They have a strong earthy flavor and are the most nutritious variety. In addition, they’re full of anthocyanin. However, they take longer to cook and are more expensive than the other types. 

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When cooking, add one cup of black lentils to 2¼ cups water. In the next 25 to 30 minutes, boil and simmer. You should cook the lentils until they’re tender. 

Brown Lentils

This is a close look at a wooden bowl filled with brown lentils.

The brown lentil legumes are flat-shaped and the most common variety. Their color ranges from khaki-brown to dark brown. These lentils have a little more mild and earthy flavor. They cost the least.

Brown lentils come in varieties such as Indian Brown, German Brown, and Spanish Brown lentils. They hold their shape unless they’re overcooked or boiled rapidly. Therefore, they’re preferred in the preparation of the traditional lentil soup.

Brown lentils are good for heart health because they’ve folate, fiber, and potassium. 

Cook brown lentils by combining 2½ to 3 cups of water with a cup of legumes. The cooking should be 35-45 minutes. Your pot should be large enough because cooked lentils may be two times the amount of dried lentils. 

Red and Yellow Lentils 

This is a wooden spoon filled with red lentils.

The red lentil variety comes in colors such as yellow, orange, or red. However, these mild, sweet lentils turn golden when cooked. The split red lentils are the fastest in cooking.

However, they lose their shape and become mushy, unlike the green and brown lentils. Therefore, the red lentil or the yellow lentil type is the best used to thicken dishes. They’re common in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. 

If you’re cooking red lentils alone, combine 1 cup of dried lentils with 1½ cups of water. Simmer the lentils until tender in about 10-15 minutes. When cooking soup or stew, add the red lentils to the pot and cook for 15-30 mins. 

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Green Lentils 

This is a wooden spoon and green lentils on a cloth.

The green lentil varieties are flat-shaped and pale green. Because of their mild flavor, they’re the best for salad preparation. These lentils don’t lose their shape when cooked. However, they take the longest time to cook compared with the other varieties. They’re rich in magnesium, iron, and antioxidants. 

When cooking, add a cup of dried green lentils to 2½ cups of water. Boil for 35-45 minutes until tender. You can improve the taste of the cooked lentils by adding some aromatics or herbs. 

French Green Lentils (Puy Lentils)

This is a French green lentil with wooden spoon.

The French lentil variety is quite different from the other lentil types. The French green lentils are only about ⅓ the size of the other varieties. When cooked, this lentil type doesn’t disintegrate, making it ideal for soups, side dishes, and salads. They’re packed like Puy lentils. 

Cook the puy lentils using the ratios of 3 parts of water to 1 part of the legume. You can put them in a slow cooker or a pot and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are tender. They’re tasty and very nutritious. 

Brief history

Lentils are regarded as the oldest cultivated legume in the world. Perhaps that’s the reason behind the popularity of these legumes. Lentils originated in Asia and North Africa before spreading to other parts of the world. 

The different types of lentils are sold, either canned or dried. The dried ones have to be cooked. They’re mainly used for lentil soup and stew, salads, and sides. Canned lentils are mainly for a quick salad, side dish, and other ready-to-eat uses. 

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Storage 

Dried lentils can last for years. However, it’s advisable to consume them within a year after purchase. Upon opening the bag for the first time, you should store the remainder in an airtight container. You should also consider the expiry date indicated by the manufacturer. 

Preparation 

Although the different types of lentils differ in texture and flavor, they have a similar preparation process. First, remove stones and other debris and rinse with clean water. Although you don’t have to soak them, soaking reduces the cooking time by half. Rinsing is also recommended to ensure they’re clean. 

Lentils are liked because they’re easy to cook as they take less than one hour. Your lentil dish should be ready in 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the type you’ve selected and the cuisine. The lentil should be ready when they become tender. 

When cooking lentils, you don’t have to let them absorb all the cooking liquid like rice. However, it would be best if you didn’t flood them either. You should watch the amount you cook because a cup of uncooked lentils gives two to two-and-a-half cups of cooked lentils. 

Uses 

Lentils are used to prepare a variety of dishes because they’re delicate and have an earthy flavor. The availability of various varieties also makes it easy for people to select their favorite lentil type. Flavoring should be done during the cooking. You can flavor lentils with onions, garlic, herbs, and more. 

Lentils vs. Beans

Lentils and beans are rich sources of protein, fiber, and other nutrients. Some of the legumes with almost similar nutritional properties include black beans, chickpea, and kidney beans. The other legumes in the same category are pigeon pea, black-eyed pea, and bay leaf.

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Unlike dried beans which take a long time to cook, lentils cook within a few minutes. Split peas should not be confused with lentils because the former are split seeds of a pea. 

Where to buy it

A bunch of green, red and brown  lentils on a wooden table.

The various lentil varieties are available in many online and physical stores. You can also get both canned and dried lentils from the grocery near you. Buying lentils online should not be difficult because their prices are indicated most of the time.

Depending on where you buy the lentils, you should only deal with trusted suppliers. Here are some of the online stores that we recommend.

  • Amazon
  • Walmart 
  • Alibaba 

FAQs 

How do I store lentils?

Dry lentils can last at least one year when stored airtight under cool and dry conditions. 

Can lentils cause diarrhea?

Lentils can cause diarrhea when taken raw because they have a protein called lectin. The protein remains attached to the digestive system, leading to reactions that may cause diarrhea and vomiting. 

What are some of the health benefits of taking lentils?

Lentils are packed with nutrients such as iron that enhance oxygen transportation, leading to increased energy and metabolism. They’re recommended for weight loss because of their low-calorie count. 

Can you live off lentils?

Although lentils are rich in different nutrients, you cannot survive on them alone. Consumption of large amounts of this leguminous plant is associated with constipation and flatulence. If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may experience digestive symptoms because these legumes have fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs). 

Are lentils good for dogs?

A: You can feed your dog lentils as they’re rich in fiber, iron, and plant-based protein. The lentils also make the dogs fuller due to the high fiber content. 

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What types of recipes are lentils suited for?

These nutrient-rich legumes are suited to lentil salad and soup. However, since the green lentils taste peppery and maintain their shape after cooking, they are best suited for stews. 

What are the health benefits associated with brown and green lentils?

Brown and green lentils are rich in vitamins and minerals hence food for your health. They’re good for the heart because they have fiber and folate. In addition, they have low levels of calories and sodium, thus beneficial to the body. 

Can I cook lentils and rice together?

Rice and lentils make a healthy and nutrient-packed dish when taken together. Since brown or green lentils and the short grain brown rice cook simultaneously, you can prepare the two together. 

How can I benefit from taking red lentils?

Red lentils are associated with various health benefits, such as the promotion of weight loss and digestion. They’re good for the skin as they protect it from acne, rapid aging, and other issues. These protein-rich legumes also have anticancer properties that reduce the risk of breast, lung, and other cancers. 

Do lentils have more health benefits than beans?

Although lentils and beans have several similar benefits because they’re legumes, the former has more advantages. Since lentils have lower levels of phytates than beans, the absorption of micronutrients isn’t hampered. In addition, they’re easier to cook than beans. 

Where do lentils grow?

Lentils thrive in semi-arid climates. 

Can I use vinegar when cooking lentils?

When preparing lentils, you should avoid anything acidic like vinegar. 

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