Lentils have excellent macros and are one of few legumes that cook quickly without soaking. They can be used either as the base of a meal, or as a component to add flavor, texture, or nutrition.
Here’s the stats for red lentils:
They come in a number of varieties. In the west, they’re usually labeled by color:
- most common; often just labeled “lentils”
- larger and usually include skins
- taste is earthy
- red, orange, and yellow
- smaller, usually split and without skins
- taste a bit sweeter or nuttier
- a bit more expensive
- yellow are also known as “pigeon peas”
- similar to brown, but more peppery
- black (beluga)
- smaller, usually include skins
- taste similar to brown, but more intense
- often labeled “white” when sold split
Varieties with skins are slower to cook, firmer, and higher in fiber. I tend to use red lentils like oatmeal and reserve brown lentils for soups.
Lentils should generally be rinsed before cooking, though I often skip this for higher-quality split varieties.
I haven’t noticed a difference between brands, and usually buy whatever’s cheapest in bulk. Since lentils are a staple in many types of Indian cuisine, you’ll often get better prices by searching in Hindi:
- masoor: red
- toor: yellow
- urad: black
- dal: split (eg “toor dal” means “split yellow lentils”)