Learn how to cook red lentils perfectly every time on the stove or in the instant pot. Red lentils make for a quick and easy way to add delicious plant based protein and fiber to any dish. Unlike other dried legumes, lentils don't require any soaking so they cook up very quickly.
Red lentils, also called masoor dal, are an easy to cook and versatile legume. They're full of gut healthy fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They're a staple in plant based diets and are eaten in many different cuisines around the world, especially in Indian dal recipes.
Red lentils can easily be found in many grocery stores in the dried beans section.
❤️ Reasons to love red lentils
- They cook quickly
- They don't require soaking, like other beans
- They're high in protein
- High in healthy dietary fiber
- They're good for the gut microbiome (because of their high fiber content)
- They're extremely versatile and can be used in soups, stews, curries and pasta sauces.
- They're amazingly affordable
⏰ How long to cook red lentils
Red lentils are amazing because they don't need a long time to cook.
When cooking them on the stove, for firmer red lentils, cook them with a lid on for about 8 minutes. For mushier, softer lentils, cook them 10-15 minutes.
In the instant pot, cook red lentils on high for 4 minutes for a more creamy texture and 2 minutes for a firmer texture.
Pro Tip: When you add acidic ingredients like tomatoes, tomato paste or lemon juice to the lentils, the cooking time will be a little bit longer. Same goes for when you add coconut milk.
💧 How much water to use
The water ratio for lentils is 1:3. So for one cup of dry lentils, use three cups of liquid.
🍛 How to use red lentils
My favorite, easy and affordable weeknight meal is cooking them on the side, then adding them to a jar of tomato sauce and pouring that over pasta. This is a great way to use up a bag of lentils and is also a really cheap meal for budget strapped college students.
♨️ How to cook red lentils on the stove top
- Sauté some diced onion in some oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat until golden brown.
- Add some minced garlic clove and sauté for one minute.
- Rinse one cup of red lentils in a fine mesh strainer and take out any stones.
- Add the rinsed lentils to the pan. Add three cups of vegetable stock or water and your seasonings of choice. If you didn't add broth, add a few pinches of salt.
- Cover and cook for 8-15 minutes, depending on the consistency you desire.
- Serve over rice, or add to a pasta sauce, to give it a protein boost.
🥘 How to cook red lentils in an instant pot
- Rinse one cup of red lentils in a fine mesh strainer.
- Put the pressure cooker on sauté mode and add a teaspoon of olive oil. Let the oil heat up.
- Add some chopped onion and sauté until golden brown.
- Add in minced garlic for one minute.
- Add in the red lentils and 21/2 cups of water or vegetable broth. Pressure cookers need less water because less moisture is evaporating.
- Add in seasonings of choice if you'd like. Add salt if you didn't use vegetable broth.
- Cover and seal and cook on high pressure for 2 minutes for a firmer texture, and 4 minutes for a creamier texture. Quick release when done.
✏️ Expert tips
- Buy lentils in bulk if you can find them sold like that. It's a bit cheaper.
- If you have an Indian grocery store near you, that is the cheapest way to buy them.
- Always rinse lentils. They will taste better, and you won't be surprised with any small pebbles.
- Red lentils taste amazing topped with some lemon juice and fresh herbs like fresh cilantro. Add them after cooking. They add a perfect balance to the earthy flavor of lentils.
- For a little kick, add some red pepper flakes or red chili powder.
- Red lentils are a bit bland on their own, so I love adding an array of spices like curry powder, garam masala, mustard seed, cumin seeds, garlic, onions and salt. Adding some coconut milk will make them super creamy and is another great addition.
❄️ Storing tips
Fridge - They will keep up to five days in the fridge in an airtight container.
Freezer - Red lentils freeze really well. Store them in a freezer friendly container for up to three months. Let them thaw out in the fridge. Then heat them up on the stove or in a microwave. They will become a little more mushy, so they'd be good to add to a soup.
No need to soak whole lentils before cooking. They cook very fast compared to other beans like dry black beans.
Yes! They are extremely healthy. They are full of gut healthy fiber that is a prebiotic. It feeds all the healthy gut bacteria. They're also high in protein, folate, iron, B vitamins and minerals. Not to mention, low in fat and zero cholesterol.
There are many different varieties of lentils: brown lentils, black beluga lentils, green lentils, black lentils, red lentils and yellow lentils. And they all taste amazing.
Red lentils are a bit more delicate. They don't hold their shape as well as brown lentils or green lentils. They take less time to cook and have a sweeter flavor as well.
Red and yellow lentils are very similar and can be used interchangeably. Yellow lentils take a little longer to cook, but have a similar texture. Red lentils have a slightly sweeter flavor.
🍲 Recipes using red lentils
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How to cook red lentils
- 1 cup red lentils (rinsed)
- 3 cups vegetable broth (if cooking on the stove)
- 2½ cups vegetable broth (if cooking in an instant pot)
- ½ onion (diced)
- 1 teaspoon oil
- salt (to taste)
- Rinse the red lentils and take out any pebbles. Dice the onion.
- Heat up the oil on medium heat in a large sauce pan. Once the oil is hot, add the diced onion and sauté until golden brown.1 teaspoon oil, ½ onion
- Add the rinsed lentils to the saucepan and 3 cups of vegetable broth or water. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt if not using vegetable broth. Add in any seasonings of choice.1 cup red lentils, 3 cups vegetable broth, salt
- Cover and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for 8 minutes for firmer lentils and 10-15 minutes for mushier lentils.
Instant pot directions
- Set the instant pot to sauté mode and add the oil. Let it heat up for a minute. Add in the diced onion and sauté until lightly golden.1 teaspoon oil, ½ onion
- Add in the rinsed lentils and 2½ cups of vegetable broth or water. Add in any seasonings or flavors that you'd like. Add ¼ teaspoon of salt if you only used water.1 cup red lentils, 2½ cups vegetable broth
- Cover and seal the lid. Cook on high pressure for 2 minutes for firmer lentils and 4 minutes for creamier lentils. Quick release when done
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.