Under the big umbrella family of Legumes (which includes soybeans, peanuts, fresh beans and fresh peas), lentils can be found categorized under the Pulses sub-family. Its siblings in the Pulses family are dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas. Essentially, pulses refer to the dried edible seeds of specific plants in the Legume family. Varieties of lentils grown include yellow lentils, red lentils, green lentils, brown lentils, black (Beluga) lentils and French (du Puy) lentils.
Just like the other lentils, red lentils are a great low-fat source of protein and other nutrients. A half cup of raw red lentils provides 22 grams of protein, along with 10 grams of fiber, 3 grams of zinc and 7 grams of iron. Red lentils are also a source of phosphorus, potassium and folate.
So…how to you cook it? When I first started on the path to plant-based eating, I was unsure and daunted by many things. For one, how does one cook lentils? What do I cook lentils with? Do I just eat it by itself? I’ve since learned a lot and want to share my experience and knowledge with you. Cooking lentils is actually super easy and they can be used in a myriad of ways in the kitchen to create tasty yet filling dishes. Here is a very simple straightforward way to cook red lentils:
- 1 cup dry uncooked red lentils [172 g]
- 2 cups water [480 mL]
Measure a cup of dry uncooked red lentils into a small pot.
Rinse the red lentils once or twice in cold water and drain out the excess water.
Add 2 cups of cold water to the pot.
Place the pot uncovered on the stovetop on a medium heat setting. Once the pot contents start to boil, turn down the fire to a lower setting, but ensure the pot contents continue to boil gently during the rest of the cooking time.
Cook 10 - 15 minutes then taste the lentils to ensure they are cooked through (the lentils should have expanded a little in size, be slightly lighter in color and taste soft). If so, turn off the heat setting and move the pot to an unheated burner. If the lentils still need more cooking, let the red lentils cook for another 3-5 minutes on the stovetop then taste-test the lentils again to see if they are cooked through.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked lentils into a separate bowl to cool. (Reserve the lentil cooking liquid, as this can be used as a vegetable broth in other recipes.)
You can now use the cooked and drained lentils in your cooking!
The longer the red lentils are cooked, the softer they become in texture and consistency. So if you would like the cooked red lentils to retain more texture, then drain the cooked red lentils to remove the excess cooking liquid right after they are cooked through (or remove the red lentils using a slotted spoon) before using them in your plant-based dish.
Reserve the lentil cooking liquid as this makes a great vegetable broth base for other dishes (this keeps in the fridge for a few days). Note that some recipes call for using the uncooked red lentils which will save even more time during your cooking. I usually like to make a bigger batch of red lentils as once (like 2 dry uncooked cups’ worth), as the leftover cooked lentils keep well in the fridge for a few days, and can be used for other dishes. Cooked lentils also freeze well so you can make extra and just freeze a portion in a freezer safe container to take out later and thaw to use in another dish.