How To Cook Red Lentils

Red lentils are a common ingredient in many vegetarian and vegan recipes. You’ll find them in curries and soups, but also in some sweets such as cookies and muffins.

They’re small, reddish-orange legumes that can be cooked quickly but are high in fiber and a wide variety of other nutrients. 

How To Cook Red Lentils

But how do you cook red lentils? In this article, we will look at two methods for cooking red lentils and will explain everything you need to know about cooking them.

Do Red Lentils Need To Be Soaked Before They Are Cooked?

Although most legumes must be soaked before cooking, you don’t need to soak red lentils. In fact, you don’t need to soak any lentils before cooking them.

You should, however, make sure that you thoroughly rinse your lentils before cooking them to make sure that they are clean. Run them underneath a cold tap until the water turns clear.

You should also try to pick out any stones in the lentils before cooking them.

How To Cook Red Lentils

How to cook red lentils depends on your method of cooking. 

Cooking in an Instant Pot is the quicker and easier way to cook lentils, but it gives you less control over the consistency of your cooked lentils.

Lentils cooked in an Instant Pot are almost guaranteed to be soft and mushy.

However, when cooked on a stovetop, you have more control. You can remove them from the stovetop earlier to ensure the lentils still have some texture and firmness to them.

We will look at step-by-step instructions for cooking red lentils on both a stovetop and in an Instant Pot.

Stovetop Red Lentils

If you want to cook your red lentils in a pan on a stovetop, this is how you do it.

Step 1 

After rinsing the lentils, place them in a saucepan and add water.

This should be at the ratio of one cup of lentils to three cups of water. You can sprinkle them with a pinch of salt if you wish.

Step 2 

Don’t cover your pan and bring the water to a boil. Do this slowly using medium heat. 

Step 3 

Reduce the heat of your stove and bring the water to a simmer.

Step 4 

Cover the pan and cook your lentils for the appropriate amount of time to get the consistency you want using the below timings as a guideline

  • Five to seven minutes – tender but firm lentils
  • Eight minutes – tender and soft
  • Nine minutes – soft lentils that are beginning to turn mushy
  • Over ten minutes – very soft and mushy lentils

Step 5

Most of the water will have been absorbed by the lentils during cooking, but make sure to drain any excess water that remains before serving.

Instant Pot Red Lentils

Instant Pot Red Lentils

Step 1

After rinsing the lentils, place them in your Instant Pot. Add water at a ratio of one cup of lentils to two cups of water.

Step 2

Secure the lid of your Instant Pot and ensure that you have the release valve set to the sealed position.

Step 3

Program your Instant Pot to high pressure. You should cook the red lentils for around three to five minutes. This will give you soft and creamy lentils that are mushy. 

Step 4

Allow the pressure to release naturally for about five minutes. You can release the steam by turning the steam release valve to the venting position. 

Another option is to leave the Instant Pot to release the pressure naturally for 15 minutes. You can then turn the valve to the quick release setting and allow the steam to escape.

How Are Red Lentils Different From The Other Types Of Lentils?

Red lentils are pretty similar in both flavor and texture to yellow lentils, but they differ in many ways from the other lentil varieties.

The most obvious difference is the color of the lentils. Although they’re called red lentils, you’ll find that their color is more similar to salmon pink than any deep shades of red.

Red lentils are generally softer than other types of lentils and when cooked, can become mushy.

They don’t hold their shape very well so red lentils are best suited to recipes that don’t require the lentils to have much texture.

As for their taste, red lentils have a slightly nutty flavor. They’re usually mild and sweet and this makes them a delicious addition to any meal.

Are Red Lentils Healthy?

All lentils are very healthy foods. They’re very high in fiber which can aid your digestion and help your gut create the healthy bacteria it needs to keep you healthy.

They’re also a great source of numerous vitamins and minerals such as the B group of vitamins, magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium.

Red lentils also have the perfect combination of being high in protein but low in calories and fat.

How Can You Store Cooked Red Lentils?

Once you’ve cooked your red lentils, you can store them to eat later if you need to. They can be kept refrigerated for up to five days.

Before putting them in the fridge, make sure that they have completely cooled and store them in an airtight container.

You can also freeze cooked lentils. Again, make sure that they have completely cooled and store them in a container that is safe for the freezer.

Once frozen, they should be consumed within one month.

To reheat your lentils later, make sure they have defrosted fully and transfer them to a saucepan. Use a medium-high heat to thoroughly warm them through.

If the consistency of the lentils is a little thicker than you would like, you can add a little water to rehydrate them. It’s also possible to microwave them, just ensure you’re using a microwave-safe container.

Final Thoughts

Red lentils can be cooked either on a stovetop or in an Instant Pot. Both methods are easy and quick, but stovetop cooking will give you more control over how your lentils are cooked.

Clara Howie
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