They may look like little pebbles, but lentils cook up tender and soft in as little as 20 minutes and are full of protein and fiber. In short, they rock. Here’s a quick guide to what you’ll find in stores.

By Chris Morocco
Updated February 21, 2014
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Get the recipe for Balsamic-Glazed Pork With Lentils.Perfect wine pairing for this dish: 2009 Big House Red ($7, finewinehouse.com)The subtle layers of rhubarb, vanilla, and leather in this blend complement the pork’s tangy balsamic glaze. Lip-smacking ripe plum and red currant flavors help cement the marriage of the salad’s apple and lentils.Your Four-Week Dinner Plan Shopping List for all the recipes.
Christopher Baker

Yellow and Red

Cook time: 20 to 25 minutes
Small split lentils with a tendency to break down during cooking. Great for making thick soups or dal, an Indian lentil stew usually served with rice.

Green

Cook time: 20 to 30 minutes
Widely available, large, and mild in flavor, these cook quickly, making them a good choice for a simple side dish. Just toss with fresh herbs, oil, and vinegar.

Brown

Cook time: 20 to 30 minutes
The most common variety sold in the United States. Large and rich, but prone to mushiness. Stir into a vegetable stew to add protein and thickness.

Black (Beluga)

Cook time: 30 to 40 minutes
Like caviar (hence the name), these are small and nearly spherical, with a firm texture that makes them a great addition to cold or warm salads.

French (du Puy)

Cook time: 40 to 45 minutes
Small and dark green, with a deep, earthy flavor. They take longer to cook but retain their shape, making them a fine upgrade for classic lentil soup.

For more, see how to cook lentils.