Cooking Tips

Crispy Lentils Add Pop to Soups, Salads, and More

And they make a great snack, too.

Published Nov. 16, 2021.

Lentils are nutritious and quick cooking, and they play well with many spices. They’re also more versatile than you might think. Not only do they make a great salad, but when brined and fried, they also make a great salad garnish.

I learned this new-to-me way to prepare lentils in The Complete Salad Cookbook, the test kitchen’s modern guide to preparing healthful, colorful, and fresh salads. While I’m still a big fan of boiled and stewed lentil dishes such as palak dal, the crispy, crunchy lentils from this brine-and-fry technique have enhanced many of my meals since I first came across them.

The Complete Salad Cookbook

Say goodbye to so-so salads. The Complete Salad Cookbook is a game-changing compilation of failproof, modern salad recipes.  
Save 39% Right Now

I talked to Senior Editor Leah Colins, who developed the crispy lentils for the cookbook. Here’s how to achieve light, popped, crunchy lentils without the difficulties of deep frying.

How to Make Crispy Lentils

Brining beans softens their outer skin, and because lentils are smaller with a thinner coating, they don’t need as much time to brine. A shallow fry in a high-sided saucepan limits the amount of oil needed and minimizes the mess without taking away from the fully fried experience.

  1. In a bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon of table salt in 1 quart of water. Add ½ cup of rinsed lentilles du Puy or brown lentils and soak for at least an hour (or up to 24 hours, refrigerated). Thoroughly blot the lentils dry to mitigate any water that might be added to the frying oil.
  2. Heat 1/3 cup of vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the lentils and cook, stirring constantly, until crisped and golden in spots, 8 to 12 minutes (the oil should bubble vigorously throughout; adjust the heat as needed). As the oil draws out the water, it will foam and bubble while the lentils crisp. Once the water evaporates, the bubbling will stop, the lentils will puff, and the skin will separate. 
  3. Carefully drain the lentils in a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Transfer the lentils to a paper towel–lined plate and discard the oil.
  4. Season the lentils with salt and toss with spices. Here are some of our favorites:
  • Smoked paprika and dill (to bring out earthy flavors) 
  • Sugar, cinnamon, and coriander (for something on the sweeter side) 
  • Tajín and lime (for a tangy pop)

These crispy lentils can be stored in an airtight container for up to 24 hours, but we know they won’t last that long. 

How to Use Crispy Lentils

The possibilities are limited only to your imagination.

These six recipes are among our all-time lentil favorites. Start a free trial to access all these, plus our other home kitchen–tested, foolproof recipes.

This is a members' feature.