What are the differences among the various types of lentils?

Lentils are weeknight dinner champs. They’re pulses (edible seeds), just like black beans, pinto beans, and chickpeas, but their tiny size means they can cook in as little as 15 to 20 minutes and there’s no need for an overnight soak. That said, for salads and side dishes, we like to brine green and black lentils in warm salted water for an hour before cooking to season them thoroughly and to soften their skins, which leads to fewer blowouts (brining is not necessary for lentil soups).

Here are the four types of lentils you’ll find most often at the supermarket and their differences.

Large Brown Lentils

These are the widely available, workaday lentils that many of us grew up with. Their earthy taste and tender texture continue to make them a popular, comforting choice for soup.

Brine: No Cooking time: 30–40 minutes Best uses: Soups

Black (Beluga) Lentils

Small, shiny jet-black beluga lentils resemble beluga caviar. They cook up firm and hold their shape well yet have a creamy texture. Their flavor is robust, meaty, and earthy.

Brine: Yes Cooking time: 20–30 minutes Best uses: Salads, sides

French Green Lentils (and Lentilles du Puy)

These small greenish orbs feature a complex, nutty taste and maintain a firm texture after cooking. Generic small “French” green lentils are grown around the world, but name‑protected Puy lentils are grown exclusively in Le Puy-en-Velay.

Brine: Yes Cooking time: 25–35 minutes Best uses: Salads, sides

Red Lentils

Red lentils are brown or green lentils that have been skinned and split. They have a delicately nutty taste with floral notes. Because of their size and lack of skin, red lentils cook quickly and disintegrate completely.

Brine: No Cooking time: 15–20 minutes Best uses: Soups, dal

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