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
Balsamic-Glazed Pork
Credit: 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.


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.


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.