How to Cook Black Lentils (Instant Pot & Stove)

bowl of cooked black lentils

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5 from 7 reviews

Perfectly cooked black lentils, made in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop. 

I like cooking black lentils on the stove top when I'm using them in a cold salad. On the stove, it's easier to control the cooking time and drain off extra water. This gives you more control over the texture of the lentils. 

Instant Pot black lentils will hold their shape, but have a wonderfully creamy texture. This makes them a perfect side dish for dinner that's served warm. 


Units Scale
  • 1 cup black lentils
  • Water:
    3 cups water for cooking on the stove
    1 3/4 cups water for the Instant Pot
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


Stove Top

  1. Combine black lentils, water and salt.
  2. Bring the water to a boil.
  3. Turn down the heat to medium low. Simmer gently without a lid until the lentils are tender.
  4. 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 them for 20 minutes, but the brand you buy might need slightly more or less time).
  5. When the lentils have the texture you want, immediately drain off the remaining water and transfer the lentils to a serving bowl. 

Instant Pot

  1. Combine water, black lentils and salt.
  2. Cook for 8 minutes on high pressure. This yields a tender, but not mushy texture. For a firmer texture, cook for 6 minutes. For a much softer texture, cook for 10 minutes. 
  3. Let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes (slightly longer is okay)
  4. 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. 


This recipe was tested in a 6-quart Instant Pot. 

How Much Water Do I Add for More 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.

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. 

Cooking Instant Pot lentils for 10 minutes + natural release will yield a soft, creamy lentil and the shape will start to break down. 

If you're simmering on the stovetop for more than 20 minutes, keep an eye on the lentils to make sure all of the water doesn't boil away before the lentils are done. If needed, add a little bit more water until the lentils reach the texture you want. 

Lentils keep well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, making it a perfect meal prep ingredient.