Packed with protein, fiber, iron, and vitamin B, lentils are budget-friendly nutritional superstars. These legumes are a staple
in Indian, Middle Eastern, and European cuisines, a favorite of vegetarians, and a great ingredient to keep on hand for quick-cooking
meals and side dishes.
How to Choose Lentils
Lentils are sold dry and never eaten fresh. Make sure you choose lentils that are dry, firm, and smooth, not shriveled. Common brown lentils, which are mild and earthy and great in soups, stews, and salads, can be found at any supermarket. For a larger lentil selection, shop at a Middle Eastern market. You’ll find red, pink, and yellow lentils, which are commonly used in Indian dishes and become creamy when cooked, as well as French green lentils (lentilles du Puy) and black beluga lentils, which both hold their shape well.
How to Store Lentils
Store lentils at room temperature for up to a year in an airtight container (oxygen can turn the oils rancid) away from light, which fades color. Cooked lentils will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
How to Prepare Lentils
Check the lentils carefully for grit or bits of gravel then rinse with cold water in a colander. After rinsing, simmer lentils in water or broth to cook; cooking times vary depending on the type of lentil. Cooking lentils with salt and acidic ingredients like lemon or vinegar can make them tough, so add after cooking.
How to Cook Lentils
Use lentils as a base for hearty soups or in classic Indian dal dishes. Season them with onions and herbs and use as an earthy bed for fish or meat. Or use them in a cold grain-based salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette.
—Stephanie Southworth Geary
Real Simple Lentil Recipes:
- Spice-Baked Sea Bass and Red Lentils
- Winter Lentil Soup
- Spring Lentil Soup
- Halibut With Lentils and Mustard Sauce
- Balsamic-Glazed Pork With Lentils
Fruits and vegetables at their peak right now.
Find out what's in season in your area right now, then locate a farmers' market near you.