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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

How To Cook Red Lentils

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Learn how to cook red lentils with these simple steps that result in perfectly cooked lentils every single time – using the stove top or instant pot method.

Red lentils in a bowl with a spoon on a wooden table

Red lentils, also called “masoor dal”, are a staple in vegan and vegetarian recipes! They are a healthy legume that are high in dietary fiber, plant-based protein, vitamins and nutrients.

Red lentils are quick cooking legumes. They have a mild flavor, and break down when they are cooked. Unlike brown lentils or green lentils, they do not hold their shape when cooked. They are excellent to use in soups, dahl, curries, dips, and so much more!

They are easily found in grocery stores, and will most likely be in the same aisle as dried beans.

If you’re wondering how to cook red lentils, it’s a simple process! The easiest way to cook red lentils is on the stovetop. Since these are a quick cooking legume, it isn’t necessary to use the instant pot, slow cooker, or other type of cooking method, but you always could if you needed to.

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👩🏽‍🍳 Why This Recipe Works

  • Quick and Easy
  • Healthy Protein Rich Legume
  • High in Fiber
  • Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
  • Perfect for meal prep!
  • Numerous ways to season and serve!

🥘 Ingredients

You only need 3 simple ingredients for cooking dry red lentils! You need lentils, water and salt. See below for different variations and additions, as well as tips on the ratio of water to lentils during the cooking process.

ingredients for how to cook red lentils

💧How Much Water Do I Need For 1 Cup Of Red Lentils?

Typically, your ratio of red lentils to water is 1 cup lentils to 3 cups water (1:3). So for 1 cup of red lentils, you’ll need 3 cups of water, and a dash of salt (optional). Alternatively, you could use vegetable broth in place of the water. Make sure to use a large stock pot as the lentils will double or triple in size as they cook.

📖 Variations

Once you have cooked your lentils, you might be wondering how to prepare red lentils or how to season red lentils. The good news is, red lentils have such a mild flavor that they will basically take on the flavors of anything you pair them with! Some of my favorite ways to add flavor to lentils include:

  • Adding Warm Spices: Many Indian recipes that use red lentils will add spices like mustard seed, bay leaves, garam masala, turmeric, curry powder or curry paste, cumin, coriander, cumin seeds, and chili powder. You can experiment with different combinations of spices and add them during cooking for maximum flavor. Don’t forget salt & pepper as well!
  • Adding Aromatics: In a little bit of olive oil, you can saute minced garlic, fresh ginger, chopped onion, diced tomatoes and chili peppers and add them to your cooked lentils before serving.
  • Using A Different Broth: Instead of water, you can cook your lentils in vegetable stock or even add a can of coconut milk for a creamier red lentil stew
  • Garnish With Fresh Herbs: Typically, an Indian red lentil dahl recipe will be garnished with fresh cilantro and a little lemon juice, but different herbs will give it a totally different feel. For example, if you garnish with fresh parsley, lemon zest, fresh basil, and feta cheese – you’ll end up with a dish that has more of a Mediterranean feel!

🔪 Instructions

Stove Top Red Lentils

Follow these instructions to learn how to cook red lentils on the stove top! Below is the Instant Pot method.

Step 1: Rinse lentils under cold water until water drains clear.

lentils being rinsed in a sink

Step 2: Place the rinsed lentils and water in a large saucepan. Cover with water, and sprinkle with salt. Bring to a boil uncovered over medium heat.

lentils cooking in a stock pot on the stove

Step 3: Reduce heat, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lentils are soft. Note: for a firm texture, cook for only 5-7 minutes. For mushy lentils, cook the full amount of time.

masoor dal cooking in a large pot on the stove

Step 4: Drain any excess water before serving.

how to cook red lentils - cooked red lentils in a white bowl

Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker) Method

Step 1: Rinse lentils under cool water until water drains clear.

lentils being rinsed in a sink

Step 2: Place lentils in the instant pot, add 3 cups water and salt. Stir to combine.

lentils cooking in instant pot

Step 3: Secure the lid, set the valve to sealing. Set to high pressure, and cook time to 4 minutes.

Step 4: Allow to naturally release pressure for 15 minutes, then turn the valve to quick release to release the remaining pressure. Remove the lid once all the steam has escaped.

how to cook red lentils - cooked red lentils in a white bowl

❓FAQs

Do you need to soak red lentils before cooking?

No, you don’t need to soak red lentils before cooking like you do with other types of legumes. However, be sure to rinse them throughly, and pick out any stones before cooking.

How long do red lentils take to cook?

Typically, red lentils will take about 15-20 minutes to cook. However, keep in mind that if you add salt or any acidic ingredients (tomatoes, lemon juice, etc.) during the cooking process, your lentils will take slightly longer to fully cook.

Different Options for Red Lentil Cooking Times
If you’re cooking your lentils on the stovetop, you can cook them for as little as 7 minutes for firm lentils, 8-9 minutes for soft lentils, and 15 minutes for mushy lentils.

If you’re cooking them in the Instant Pot, you only need to cook them at high pressure for 3-5 minutes until they are mushy. If you are looking for firmer lentils, I recommend the stovetop method since you can see what they look like as you cook them, and can control the cooking time.

What other types of lentils are there?

There are many other different varieties of lentils including black lentils (beluga), french green lentils, yellow split peas, brown lentils, and puy. All have their own slightly different flavor, and texture.

How are red lentils different from yellow lentils and other types of lentil varieties?

Red lentils have a characteristic lovely salmon pink color, cook more quickly than other types of lentils, and have a softer texture. They have a mild, sweet, and slightly nutty flavor. When cooked they tend to be mushy, and not hold their shape, which is why they work best in recipes that don’t require them to have a lot of texture. They are similar in texture and flavor to yellow lentils.

What are the health benefits of red lentils?

Lentils are high in fiber. This helps with digestive issues, and helps to create healthy gut bacteria. They are also an excellent source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. This heart healthy legume is high in protein, while being low in calories and fat.

🧊 How To Store

Refrigerator: Allow the lentils to cool completely and come to room temperature. Transfer them to an airtight container. Store them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Freeze: After the lentils have cooled transfer them to a freezer safe container. Label with the contents and the date. They will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Reheat: When ready to reheat, transfer to a saucepan and warm on medium-high heat until heated through. If the lentils have thickened, you can add a bit more water. Alternatively, you can reheat them in the microwave.

💭 Expert Tips

  • Make sure your red split lentils are fresh! Cooking old lentils will take longer, and will also result in a bitter taste.
  • Buy your lentils in the bulk section of your grocery store. This will ensure that your lentils are fresh, and haven’t been hanging around in the bag in the aisle of the grocery store for too long.
  • Be sure to sort your lentils before cooking. Sometimes tiny stones or other debris gets mixed into the lentils.
  • Thoroughly rinse your lentils before cooking.
  • Add more spices! While this is a basic recipe for how to cook red lentils, you can add in your own favorite spices to amp up the flavor. I suggest turmeric, chili powder, curry powder, cumin seeds, bay leaf, and coriander.
  • Serve over basmati rice, make a simple red lentil soup, or an Indian Red Lentil Dahl!
how to cook red lentils on the stove top - cooked red lentils in a white bowl

👪 Red Lentil Recipes To Try

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📋 Recipe Card

dry red lentils in a bowl
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5 from 6 votes

How to Cook Red Lentils

Learn how to cook red lentils with these simple steps that result in perfectly cooked lentils every single time using the stove top or instant pot method.
Prep Time2 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time17 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Indian
Diet: Gluten Free, Low Calorie, Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 4
Calories: 159kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • ½ ⅔ tsp salt

Instructions

Stovetop

  • Rinse lentils under cool water until water drains clear.
  • Place the lentils and water in a large saucepan. Cover with water, and sprinkle with salt. Bring to a boil uncovered.
  • Reduce heat, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lentils are soft.
  • Drain any excess water before serving.

Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker)

  • Rinse lentils under cool water until water drains clear.
  • Place lentils in the instant pot, add the water and salt. Stir to combine.
  • Secure the lid, set the valve to sealing. Set the pressure to high, and the time to 4 minutes.
  • Allow to naturally release pressure for 15 minutes, then turn the valve to quick release to release the remaining pressure. Remove the lid once all the steam has escaped.

Video

https://youtu.be/be42e6tuwjo

Notes

  • 1 cup dry red lentils makes about 2½ cups cooked. 1 serving is about ⅔ cup cooked red lentils.
  • Make sure your red split lentils are fresh! Cooking old lentils will take longer, and will also result in a bitter taste.
  • Buy your lentils in the bulk section of your grocery store. This will ensure that your lentils are fresh, and haven’t been hanging around in the bag in the aisle of the grocery store for too long.
  • Be sure to sort your lentils before cooking. Sometimes tiny stones or other debris gets mixed into the lentils.
  • Thoroughly rinse your lentils before cooking.
  • Add more spices! While this is a basic recipe for how to cook red lentils, you can add in your own favorite spices to amp up the flavor. I suggest turmeric, chili powder, cumin seeds, bay leaf, and coriander.
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freeze for up to 1 month.

Nutrition

Calories: 159kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 302mg | Potassium: 430mg | Fiber: 14g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 18IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 3mg

Posted In…

Vegan ·

Try my favorite vegan recipes, like my BBQ Jackfruit Burrito Bowl and decadent healthy raw chocolate pudding.

Want to convert an existing recipe into a vegan-friendly version? Flax eggs make it easy!

Also posted in Recipes · Entrees · Gluten-Free · Quick Meals · Vegetarian

16 responses to “How To Cook Red Lentils”

  1. Thank you for easy to follow recipe. After cooking and draining the excess water my lentils were still pretty watered down and not fluffy like in the video. Please advise.

    • Hi Natalie! By watered down, do you mean that your lentils became mushy? Or that your lentils weren’t cooked through? If your lentils became mushy that just means you cooked them for the full time (red lentils will completely break down once cooked for a long time). If your lentils weren’t cooked through (e.g. crunchy, not soft), then you needed to cook them for longer. And if your lentils were cooked properly, not mushy, and you just had excess water, that’s ok! You can just drain the water and enjoy them as is. Hope that helps!

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