How to cook lentils
Unlike most of the legume family, lentils do not need to be soaked and have a relatively quick cooking time: less than 30 minutes. The time will only vary depending on the variety of lentil you’re using, as I follow these cooking instructions for all, except red.
How to buy lentils
Buy beans out of bulk bins you know have quick turnover or from companies that go through inventory at a quick pace. Two of my favorites: Bob’s Red Mill and Rancho Gordo.
How to store lentils
Store dried beans in an airtight container, away from light. I prefer to keep my beans in glass jars, kept in my pantry cupboard. While beans can last for some time, I try to make sure I don’t have any beans older than a year in my pantry. Cooked lentils will last up to a week in the refrigerator.
Le Puy (French Green)
Red Lentils (may be called yellow/orange): When it comes to cooking, red lentils become softer and don’t hold up well in dishes where the lentil is suppose to be the main star. They are best for using in in curries, soups, and stews. They add protein without overpowering other ingredients. Interestingly, red lentils are a type of brown lentil that has been hulled and split, which is why they don’t hold their shape as well!
Green/Brown Lentils: These lentils are a workhorse in my kitchen. They hold their shape better than their red counterpart so they have an al dente texture, which makes them perfect for my favorite lentil bites. Green lentils are not to be confused with the French lentils. While they can be used interchangeably, I prefer to use the regular green/brown lentils in every day dishes.
French Lentils: These lentils are smaller than the lentils mentioned above, which means they take a bit less time to cook, but still hold their shape. I use French lentils in salads, soups, and stews - all meals I want the lentil to really shine. I don’t always keep these lentils on hand, but can be nice for special occasion meals.
Black (Beluga) Lentils: These smaller lentils are one of my favorites, and have a slightly stronger, earthier flavor compared to other lentils. They hold their shape well, and result in a beautiful presentation.
Also, when the hull is removed from these lentils, the lentil is white. White lentils are milder than black, and cook more like red lentils. You might also find white lentils labeled as urad or urad dal.