How to Cook Red Lentils

uncooked red lentils

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Easy instructions for cooking red lentils on the stovetop or in an Instant Pot.


Stovetop Red Lentils
1 cup red lentils
3 cups water

Instant Pot Red Lentils
1 cup red lentils
2 cups water


Stovetop Red Lentils
Bring the lentils and water to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, then cover and cook the lentils until they reach desired texture, anywhere from 5 to 12 minutes. Most, if not all, of the water will be absorbed by the lentils. Season with salt after cooking. 

Stovetop Red Lentil Cooking Time
5 to 7 minutes: Tender/firm
8 minutes: Tender/soft
9 minutes: Soft, starting to get mushy
10+ minutes: Very soft/mushy

Instant Pot Red Lentils
Combine 1 cup lentils with 2 cups water in an Instant Pot. Secure the lid and make sure the steam release valve is in the sealed position. Program the Instant Pot to cook at high pressure for 3 to 5 minutes (I usually cook them for 3 minutes). Let the pressure release naturally for about 5 minutes, then turn the steam release valve to "venting" to immediately release the steam. Season with salt after cooking. 

Instant Pot Red Lentil Cooking Time
3 to 5 minutes: Very soft, creamy, mushy


Add More Flavor!

Onion/Garlic/Ginger: Before adding red lentils and water, saute onion, garlic and/or ginger in oil or butter in the pot. 

Spices: Garam Marsala, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander and chili powder all pair well with red lentils. Spices can be added before or after cooking the lentils. 

Herbs: Fresh cilantro, parsley or dill can be added to the lentils after cooking

Condiments/Sauces: Curry paste and/or coconut milk are often added to red lentils before cooking. 

Vegetables: Tomatoes, spinach and chili peppers are often cooked with lentils.