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Ingredient Highlight: Lentils

Spoons full of red and green lentils, next to a bowl of yellow lentils

Today’s blog will focus on one of the most nutritious plant-based protein and carb sources: lentils! One cup of cooked lentils is only 230 calories and provides 40 grams of carbs, 18 grams of protein, and 16 grams of fiber.  Lentils may protect against certain types of cancers, heart disease and other health conditions.

The most common types of lentils available in the U.S. are green, brown, red, and yellow lentils. Lentils are available as whole lentils or split versions where the husks are removed. Since whole lentils still have their husks, they take a longer time to cook.

Red lentils break down quicker than other lentils and will also cook faster. Red and yellow lentils are very similar in taste and can be used interchangeably. Since their texture is soft and creamy, they are suitable for soups and curry dishes. Green and brown lentils hold their shape better and are excellent choices for stew dishes and salads. 

Here are the steps you can follow to cook simple lentils:

  • 1 cup dry lentils 
  • ½ teaspoon salt, to taste
  • Optional: 1 bay leaf, 1 large whole clove of garlic


1. Sort through lentils for possible rocks and remove any foreign materials. Rinse lentils with water. 

2. Fill a medium-sized pan with water and boil it until you see bubbles. Reduce the heat to slow. 

3. Once the water starts boiling, add lentils, salt, and, if using, bay leaf and the whole garlic clove—Cook red/yellow lentils for 6 minutes and green lentils for approximately 13 minutes. You may check if the lentils are done, as some varieties may take extra minutes. 

4. Once they are cooked, remove the bay leaf and garlic and strain the lentils.

For super tasty, budget-friendly, and nutritious lentil recipes, please check our recipe library:

Enise Kaya Urcan, MPharm, MS, RDN
August 30, 2023