Quick, easy, nutritious and flavoursome; there are many things to love about lentils. A store-cupboard stalwart, these dried pulses are the perfect ingredient to call upon when you're in need of an easy, satisfying and soothing bowl of feel-good food.
With so many kinds of lentils to choose between - from nutty puy legumes that hold up in a goat's cheese salad, to soothing velvety red lentils in a gently spiced dal - it can be hard to know where to begin.
With that in mind, we explore the main kinds of lentils and how to best use them, to ultimately let you get more lentils into your life.
What are lentils?
Lentils are a part of the legume family, which includes chickpeas and beans, and are the dried seeds of the lentil plant. They are mainly grown in Canada and India.
Prized for their nutritional qualities, they are rich in protein and carbohydrates, as well as being a good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins, and make a good meat substitute. In many countries, they are an important diet staple.
There are several different varieties of lentils, but the most commonly used are brown, green, red, yellow, and speciality, like lentils. Take a look at the key types of lentils below and how to use them.
Different kinds of lentils and how to use them
Brown lentils are the most common variety of lentils, they can range in shade from khaki brown to dark black, and have a mild, earthy flavour. Common varieties includeSpanish brown, German brown, or Indian brown.
Culinary Uses:This variety holds its shape well during cooking, making it ideal for use in warm salads, casseroles, soups, and stews as well as veggie burgers or vegetarian meatloaf.
Cooking time: 35-45 minutes
Green lentils are very similar to brown lentils, in that they come in a variety of colours and sizes, but have a more pronounced, earthy and slightly peppery flavour.
Culinary Uses:Green lentils tend to retain their shape well after cooking making them ideal for warm salads, casseroles, stuffing or serving with fish or sausages.
Cooking time: 35-45 minutes
Sweet and nutty red lentils stand apart from green and brown in that they cook quicker and lose their shape, becoming mushy, during cooking. This makes them ideal for soups and absorbing spices and stronger flavours, particularly in Indian cooking.
Culinary Uses:thickening soups, stews, casseroles and satisfying curries, like dal.
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
黄色的小扁豆, or yellow split peas, moong dal or yellow dal perform similarly to red lentils and are commonly found in Indian cuisine.
Good for:purées, soups, curries, mashes
Cooking time: 40-45 minutes
Black beluga lentils
These black, shiny, peppercorn sized lentils are named after beluga caviar and are the smallest and usually most highly prized of the bunch. They are also the most intense with a rich and deeply earthy flavour and retain their shape when cooked.
Good for: salads,
Cooking time:25 to 30 mins.
Discover more aboutblack lentils, including recipes, here.
But first, discover how to make one of India’s most popular vegetarian dishes using yellow lentils, tadka dal, inThe Secrets of Indian CookingwithMonica Haldar.