Does It Matter Which Type of Lentils I Use in Recipes?

There are lots of lentils out there: green, brown, red, etc. We help you sort through them all.

Published Feb. 27, 2023.

We love lentils. This hearty food—which has been farmed for millennia—cooks quickly, tastes great, and is full of fiber and protein. Lentils are comfort food. 

But which kind should you buy? There are dozens of types of lentils used prominently and proudly across myriad cuisines. But the ones you’re most apt to find in American markets (and our recipes) are green, brown, red, and du Puy (no offense, fans of beluga and yellow lentils). Here are our notes on each. 

Sign up for the Cook's Country Dinner Tonight newsletter

10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

Brown Lentils

These workhorse lentils are inexpensive and widely available. They are a top choice for lentil soup or for spooning onto a plate and laying a protein (pork chops, roast chicken parts, sausage, fish) over the top. 


Sausage with Lentils

Herby, sweet pork sausage and earthy lentils make a perfect pair.
Get the Recipe

Green Lentils

Green lentils (also called Laird lentils) can be used interchangeably with brown lentils in recipes. They taste mild and earthy and break down a bit through cooking to result in creamier dishes. 


Braised Chicken and Lentils

This stewy dish of spiced chicken and lentils is incredibly satisfying.
Get the Recipe

Lentilles du Puy (French Green Lentils)

These small, “fancy” lentils are imported and a bit more expensive than other varieties. They hold their shape well through cooking and have a peppery and complex flavor, and thus are great in applications where lentils are the star player. You can substitute other small green lentils in recipes, but only those from Le Puy-en-Velay, in France, can carry the Puy name. 


Lentilles du Puy with Spinach and Crème Fraîche

This deeply satisfying lentil dish is both humble and extravagant.
Get the Recipe

Red Lentils

Also sold as masoor dal or split red lentils, these little beauties are actually brown or green lentils that have been skinned and split in half. They cook quickly and have a delicate-yet-complex flavor, perfect for spicing up for dal or other soups. Since they are skinned and halved, they break down readily. 


Red Lentil and Squash Soup

Looking for outsize flavor from inexpensive, nutritious ingredients? This warming soup fits the bill.
Get the Recipe

No matter which type of lentil you choose, when you’re ready to cook it’s best practice to start by pouring the lentils onto a large plate or rimmed baking sheet to give them a good once-over (small pebbles are not uncommon in bags of lentils) and then a rinse. 

This is a members' feature.