How to Cook Brown Lentils: Beginner’s Guide

Learn how to cook dried brown lentils using an Instant Pot, on the stove, or in a slow cooker with this ultimate guide.

Brown lentils in a white bowl.

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Dried lentils hold a permanent place in my pantry throughout the year, serving as a versatile foundation for a variety of dishes. There are numerous varieties of lentils and dishes made using them in Indian cuisine – from the most simple everyday dal to lip-smacking lentils and chicken curry.

Brown lentils are a particular favorite in my kitchen due to their earthy flavor and adaptable texture. Their quick cooking time and zero soaking time make them perfect for preparing weeknight meals. Keep them handy and add them to salads, stews, stir-fries, and delicious grain bowls.

Ingredients

Dried brown lentils on a white bowl.

You will need dried brown lentils, salt, and water.

How to cook brown lentils in Instant Pot

Washed lentils and water in Instant Pot.

Step 1: Add the rinsed lentils, water, and salt to the inner pot of the Instant Pot. Give it a quick stir to ensure the lentils do not stick to the pot. Secure the lid.

Pressure cooked brown lentils in Instant Pot.

Step 2: Pressure cook for 8 minutes for a firm texture and 10 minutes for a slightly soft texture. Let the pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes, then do a quick release.

To cook brown lentils on the stovetop:

  1. Add the rinsed lentils, water, and salt to a large pot and add three cups of water. Give it a quick stir and place the pot on high heat.
  2. Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid with a small gap for the steam to escape.
  3. Cook for 20-22 minutes for firm lentils and 30-35 minutes for soft lentils.

To cook brown lentils in a slow cooker:

  1. Add the rinsed lentils, water, and salt to the slow cooker.
  2. Pour enough water into the slow cooker to cover the lentils by about two inches.
  3. Set it to low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

Expert Tips

  • Brown lentils do not need any soaking; however, rinse the lentils before cooking them to remove any dirt or debris. Also, pick any small stones from them before cooking.
  • You can replace water with broth to add more flavor to the lentils.
  • Keep an eye on the liquid when cooking on a stovetop. Add more water or broth if it appears dry during the cooking process.

How to use cooked lentils

Storing cooked brown lentils can come in very handy to make quick meals, salads, and snacks. Use them in Indian dals, add them to salads, or roast them with your favorite spices for a crunchy snack.

Turn them into delicious lentil Buddha bowls or lentil tacos for a quick and filling lunch, or make delicious vegetable lentil curry for an easy weeknight dinner.

Brown lentils also make a satisfying addition to soups or as a base for vegetarian patties and burgers. With cooked lentils, you have a versatile ingredient ready to enhance a variety of dishes, from main courses to wholesome snacks.

Storage Tips

To store cooked lentils, drain any remaining liquid from them and transfer them to an airtight container. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Cooked lentils also freeze well and can be stored in the freezer for up to six months. Drain all the cooking liquid from it and place it in a freezer-safe container. To use frozen brown lentils, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight or microwave them for a quick defrost.

Recipe FAQs

How long does it take to cook brown lentils?

Brown lentils typically take from 8 minutes up to 30 minutes to cook. Timing can vary depending on your cooking method (stovetop, Instant Pot, etc.).

Should I cook canned lentils?

Canned lentils are pre-cooked and can be used directly. Drain the liquid and give them a good rinse before using.

Cooked brown lentils in a white bowl with mint leaves in the background.

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Cooked brown lentils topped with a mint leaf.

How To Cook Brown Lentils

Learn how to cook dried brown lentils using an Instant Pot, on the stove, or in a slow cooker with this ultimate guide.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Pressure Building Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 18 minutes
Course: Other
Cuisine: All
Servings: 4
Author: Shilpa Kerur

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried brown lentils
  • 2 cups water (3 cups for stovetop method)
  • ½ tsp salt optional

Instructions

  • Pick dirt or stones from the dried lentils. Rinse them in water and drain them.

Instant Pot Method:

  • Add the rinsed lentils, water, and salt to the inner pot of the Instant Pot. Give it a quick stir to ensure the lentils do not stick to the pot. Secure the lid.
  • Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook mode for 8 minutes for a firm texture and 10 minutes for a slightly soft texture.
  • Once the Instant Pot beeps, let the pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes, then do a quick release of the remaining pressure.

Stovetop Method:

  • Add the rinsed lentils, water, and salt to a large pot and add three cups of water. Give it a quick stir and place the pot on high heat.
  • Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid with a small gap for the steam to escape.
  • Cook for 20-22 minutes for firm lentils and 30-35 minutes for soft lentils.

Notes

  • Brown lentils do not need any soaking; however, rinse the lentils before cooking them to remove any dirt or debris. Also, pick any small stones from them before cooking.
  • You can replace water with broth to add more flavor to the lentils.
  • Keep an eye on the liquid when cooking on a stovetop. Add more water or broth if it appears dry during the cooking process.

Nutrition

Calories: 169kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 299mg | Potassium: 458mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 19IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 31mg | Iron: 4mg
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