all about lentils

Lentils are one of the world’s oldest legumes or pulses.  Pulses are powerhouses of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals and include peas, beans and lentils. Lentils are also one of the oldest cultivated legumes and are a staple crop around the world.

Lentils are generally quite small but add a great deal of fiber and protein to your diet. Unlike dried beans, they do not need any soaking before cooking and they do cook very fast. Lentils are incredibly versatile, inexpensive and easy to use.

Lentils are available both canned and dried and they are available in most grocery and specialty stores. Dried lentils have a great shelf life and are generally good for up to one year (and sometimes longer). Dried lentils work beautifully in soups, stews, salads, side dishes, pilafs and a vast range of dishes. Canned lentils are really convenient if you want to make a quick salad or side when time is critical. Don’t forget to store your dried lentils in a cool dry place preferably in a sealed container or bag.

Lentils must be washed and sifted before using as you can occasionally find a small stone that has slipped through the cleaning process. Once the lentils are cleaned and ready to cook you will need around one cup of dried lentils which will be the equivalent of about 2 1/2 cups cooked. Unlike pasta which needs to have a large quantity of water or rice that needs an exact amount of water with lentils you simply need to cover them with around double the water to lentils. Remember lentils will absorb the flavors used in the cooking water so feel free to get creative with herbs and spices.

Lentils have an earthy somewhat peppery flavor and they have also been called ‘meaty’ because of the texture, which is similar to beans but more delicate. They work well in almost all dishes and soak up flavors beautifully. Because of their versatility, lentils are used in wonderful curries from India, Egyptian Koshari, French cassoulets and Moroccan salads. You could probably find a lentil recipe from every country in the world, as these tiny legumes are so incredibly versatile. When cooking with lentils don’t be afraid of adding flavor to the cooking water, everything from curry powder, diced onions, garlic cloves, herbs and spices will soak into the lentils and leave them with a great flavor.

Lentils are not only very affordable but they are considered very healthy. A cup of cooked lentils will only have around 230 calories but it will contain 16 grams of fiber, 18 grams of protein and a tiny 1-gram of fat. Lentils are an easy, affordable ingredient to add to many meals, and they’re also extremely healthy.

Here are some of the health advantages of using lentils in your cooking:

  1. Fiber

Most of us have a difficult time packing in enough fiber into our diets. Lentils are an easy way to do that as they are packed with both insoluble and soluble fiber. This fiber is what reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke and can help stabilize your blood sugar as a diabetic. Insoluble fiber is fantastic for good digestion and helps prevent lots of digestive issues before they begin.

  1. Folate

For pregnant women folate is an essential B vitamin that helps build new cells in the body, which is particularly important when carrying a child and one cup of cooked lentils will provide you with nearly 90% of the recommended daily intake of this critical vitamin.

  1. Protein

It is protein that fuels the body and gives us the energy to get through the day this is where lentils are a star for a good diet, Protein is an essential nutrient needed to maintain and repair the cells in your body one cup of lentils provides about 18 grams of dietary protein

  1. Energy

Thanks to the mix of fiber and complex carbohydrates in lentils a steady slow burning source of energy is provided

  1. Vitamins and Minerals

Lentils are high in essential nutrients, including folate, iron, potassium, magnesium and a slew of antioxidants. The iron may help fight off anemia, which is especially common among those with low-iron diets, like vegans and vegetarians. Moreover, lentils are low on the glycemic index, meaning they cause blood sugar to spike less quickly than other starches. Magnesium helps transport oxygen and other nutrients through the body helping improve blood flow and antioxidants are important to fight cancer and other diseases.


You will notice when you go shopping for lentils that there are several varieties available.  These are generally categorized into red, brown, green and what are considered specialty lentils.

Brown and Green Lentils

Brown and green lentils will be found almost everywhere, in the grocery store if you see a bag of these labeled simply Lentils – they are going to be the brown kind. The color will range from dark brown to the most common which is sort of a shade of khaki green. These lentils have a mild earthy gentle flavor. Brown lentils tend to maintain their shape and are perfect for salads, soups, and stews; they also work very well for veggie burgers or meat replacement products for vegetarian and vegans.

If you want to cook some brown lentils simply add 1 cup of the dry legume into a pot with around 3 cups of water and bring it to a boil. When the water is boiled turn down the heat and simmer for around 30 minutes until the lentils are tender.  If you want to add your lentils to a stew or casserole simply, add them into the pot around 30 to 40 minutes before the end of cooking. Test your lentils when cooking as the brown lentils can get too mushy and you want them to hold their shape and texture.

French and Puy Lentils

There are two types of green lentils and they are known as French green or Puy lentils. They were originally grown in the Le Puy region of France, which gave them their name, but those grown outside of the region are simply called green or French lentils. Puy lentils are often considered the most flavorful variety because they have a peppery taste, they are also smaller than brown lentils and a bluey green shade compared to the darker more matte green of the North American lentil. They take a bit longer to cook, but tend to stay firm. Use them in dishes that need a little crunch, such as salads. The North American green lentil will cook up exactly the same as the Puy lentil but cost less.

To cook either green of these lentils simply combine 1 cup of the lentils with around 2 1/2 cups of water and flavor the water with some herbs, spices and garlic. These lentils will take around 40 minutes to cook and don’t forget to test, as you want a firmer lentil, which is perfect for salads and sides.

Red and Yellow Lentils

Red lentils are commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. They are actually brown massor lentils with the hulls removed. Red lentils have a mild, sweet flavor and when they are cooked, they turn a golden yellow color. These lentils do not retain their shape and will become mushy which is why they are used as thickeners or in Indian cooking for dals and dal purees.

These lentils will cook up very quickly in around 15 minutes, simply add them to the pot if using in a stew or soup to thicken. When cooking alone for a dal or a puree simply cook for 15 minutes with your added spices and herbs and cook until very tender and when stirred they break down.

Black Beluga Lentils

These are considered a ‘gourmet’ lentil. They are tiny, round black shiny lentils that look like Beluga caviar, which is of course how they got their name. They have a rich earthy texture and taste and are quite soft when cooked. They are lovely in salads and in side dishes where you want to show their beautiful appearance. Cooking Beluga lentils is simple, combine 2¼ cups water and 1-cup lentils and bring to a boil then simmer for 25–30 minutes or until tender.

Lentils are not only good for you but they are amazingly versatile. Used in soups, stews, salads and side dishes they make a great healthy addition to any kind of meal hot or cold. You can spice up your lentils with curries and hot peppers or cool them down in a lovely cold salad with cheese, tomatoes and olive oil. Adaptable and easy to cook lentils should be on everyone’s menu and you can easily replace your favorite rice or pasta with these powerhouse legumes.

If you are looking for a lentil exporter company in Canada or for more information about lentils, give us a call at +1 (416) 548-5901 today!

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