04/08/2014 06:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 Mistakes People Make When Cooking Lentils

by Danielle Walsh


Lentils: They're healthy and hard to screw up. You should be cooking them all the time, especially for a quick, easy, guilt-free lunch. But you can bring these humble legumes to new heights by avoiding a few minor mistakes people sometimes make when cooking them. So, we asked senior associate food editor Alison Roman and test kitchen contributor Alfia Muzio for their tips. Here's what they recommend:

1. Lentil Is a Lentil Is a Lentil

There are so many different types of lentils -- not just green ones you see all the time! There are the beautiful, glistening black beluga lentils that are great in soups and as a side dish, de Puy lentils that are firm, rich, and perfect for salads, red lentils that become creamy and salmony pink and are best cooked into Indian-spiced stews. And guess what? They don't all cook the same way -- but we'll get to that in a second.

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2. That Pebble Thing's Just a Myth

You're probably not going to find a pebble in your lentils -- but it's worth a quick look. The one time our writer Rochelle Bilow decided not to pick through her lentils for an unwanted intruder, her friend cracked her tooth on a rogue rock. You could pick through five pounds of lentils and not find a stone -- but it's worth the insurance.

3. That's Too Much Water!

Lentils aren't rice -- they don't need to absorb every last drop of cooking liquid. They're more like pasta: best cooked in an abundance of water or stock. Bring your liquid up to a boil, add your lentils, then turn down your heat to a simmer for at least 25-30 minutes. Keep tasting your lentils as they cook to see if they're the consistency you want -- more firm if you're eating them on their own or in a salad, and softer if they're going into a soup or stew.

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4. Just Some H2O and You're Good to Go

Never miss an opportunity to add more flavor to your lentils -- they can take a LOT. Add a halved onion to your water/stock. Or crushed garlic. Or a bundle of herbs. And never forget: Salt your water.

5. Lentils Are Meant to Be Eaten Naked

If you're going to serve them on their own as a side, make sure you give them a dressing. A little red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil goes a long way -- and an armful of butter and a ton of Indian spices goes a lot further. Don't underestimate these little legumes: Those babies can take all the butter and seasoning you can throw at them.

Get the recipe: Canal House Lentils

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