Black lentils are an easy, healthy side dish and are the perfect type of lentil for cold salads and meal prep. This recipe will teach you how to cook black lentils made in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop. Plus, lots of black lentil recipes!
Like both green and brown lentils, you'll find that black lentils have an earthy flavor. They're also healthy and easy to cook, using either an Instant Pot or your stovetop.
What sets black lentils apart from other lentils is that they hold their shape really well when cooked. They also have a gorgeous, glossy black color.
Black lentils are different than other types of lentils because they have a texture and shape that is firmer and smaller. They are much less likely to burst or turn mushy while cooking.
For this reason, black lentils are a great choice for cold salads or side dishes. They can also be used in soup or stew, although they don't get quite as soft and creamy.
Black lentils are sometimes called black beluga lentils or caviar lentils because these small black legumes look like beluga caviar! Aren't they pretty?
Need to cook red lentils? Read about How to Cook Red Lentils.
Or, use brown or green lentils to make my favorite Crock Pot lentil soup and Instant Pot sausage and lentil soup. You should also try lentil sloppy Joe's or lentil bolognese for pasta, which both use brown lentils.
Now, on to the best ways to cook black beluga lentils!
Ratio of Water to Lentils
For the stovetop, used a 3:1 ratio of water to lentils (3 cups water for every 1 cup black lentils).
For the Instant Pot, use 1 ¾ cups water for every 1 cup black lentils.
Stovetop Cooking Instructions
I like cooking black lentils on the stove top when I'm using them in a cold salad. For cold salads, I really want the lentils to hold their shape and have a tender but slightly firm texture.
On the stove, it's easier to control the cooking time and drain off extra water before the lentils absorb it all. This gives you more control over the texture of the lentils.
- Combine 1 cup black lentils with 3 cups water. For more flavor, add ¼ teaspoon salt.
- Simmer gently without a lid until the lentils are tender. Start checking the lentils after 15 minutes, so you can turn off the heat as soon as the lentils have reached the texture you want. I usually simmer black lentils 20 minutes for a tender, but not mushy texture. .
- Use a colander to immediately drain any remaining water from the lentils.
Instant Pot Cooking Instructions
Instant Pot black lentils will hold their shape, but have a wonderfully creamy texture. This makes them a perfect dinner side dish that's served warm.
- To cook Instant Pot black lentils, combine 1 cup black lentils with 1 ¾ cups water. For more flavor, add ¼ teaspoon salt.
- Cook for 8 minutes on high pressure. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes.
- There will be some water remaining in the pot. You can immediately drain the lentils in a colander, or you can let them sit in the pot to absorb the water. This will make them softer and creamier.
Less Cooking Time
Cooking Instant Pot lentils for 6 minutes + natural release will yield a firmer lentil with a less creamy interior. If you're using black lentils for a cold salad and like a firmer texture, then try 6 minutes.
More Cooking Time
Cooking Instant Pot lentils for 10 minutes + natural release will yield a softer, creamer black lentil. This cooking time is more likely to start breaking down the shape.
Natural or Quick Release?
You will find some lentil recipes that cook the lentils for a longer amount of time, but use a quick release.
I prefer a natural release, rather than a quick release, when cooking black lentils in a pressure cooker. Mainly because it's more convenient, but also because the lentils tend to hold their shape better and are less likely to burst and break apart.
Add More Flavor
You can cook lentils in just cold water and salt. I find that this gives lentils plenty of flavor. However, if you want to add even more flavor then add one or more of the flavor enhancers below to the cooking water.
- Bay leaf
- Fresh herbs (several sprigs)
- Smashed garlic cloves
- Chopped onion and/or carrot (saute briefly before adding water and lentils)
Favorite Black Lentil Recipes
Salads: Add your favorite salad dressing and some crunchy raw veggies (radish, carrot, celery, bell pepper, red onion) and voila! You have a black lentil salad. Crumbled cheese and seeds or nuts make it even tastier.
You'll definitely want to try my black lentil salad with sweet potatoes and maple dijon dressing.
Or try lentil salads from other bloggers:
Sausage and Greens: Add sautéed spinach and fully cooked, sliced sausage to black lentils. To make the meal even better, add a fried egg on top!
Burrito Bowl: Add cooked brown rice and quinoa, grated cheese, salsa and all of your favorite burrito toppings to make a yummy lentil burrito bowl.
Lasagna Bowl: Add a few spoonfuls of jarred marinara, melted mozzarella and fresh basil to your lentils. Meatballs are optional!
Wraps: Use a tortilla or homemade yogurt flatbread to wrap up lentils, arugula, feta cheese and roasted veggies.
What is the Difference Between Lentils and Pulses and Legumes?
Lentils are a type of pulse in the legume family. A pulse is the edible seed of a legume plant. In this case, the "edible seed" is the dried lentil that you buy at the grocery store.
Other types of pulses in the legume family are beans and peas. Beans and peas are also edible seeds of legume plants.
So, legume refers to the whole plant (leaves, stem, pod, seeds). Pulse refers only to the edible seed growing on the plant (the beans, peas and lentils that we eat).
Curious about how lentils are grown? I was too! Watch this video from Lentils.org exploring how lentils are grown.
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No, lentils do not need to soak in water before cooking. However, it is a good idea to give them a quick rinse to wash off any dust or debris.
Sprouted lentils have been soaked in water before they are dried. It is thought that sprouting legumes enhances the nutrients and digestibility.
Uncooked lentils will stay fresh for a year or more if kept in an airtight container. Moisture and heat are the two main factors that will make uncooked lentils go bad. It's unlikely that lentils will turn rancid, but over time they will get stale and have less flavor and/or take longer to soften while cooking.
Yes, all varieties of lentils are naturally gluten-free. Lentils are a legume, not a grain that contains gluten.
No. Lentils are legumes. Legumes are plants that have seed pods. Inside the pod of lentil plants is a seed. This seed, or pulse, is the dried lentil that you buy at the store.
Other common legumes are beans, peanuts, peas and soybeans.
Lentils freeze pretty well, although the texture will get softer and slightly grainy. The best way to freeze lentils is in a soup with broth.
I find it easier and more affordable to cook lentils in salted water instead of chicken broth or vegetable stock. Salted water gives lentils plenty of flavor.