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      How Long Do Lentils Last? Shelf Life, Cooked & Dry

      You just found a bag of lentils in the back of your pantry and you are trying to decide if they are still safe to eat. So, how long do lentils last? Let’s discuss.

      how long do lentils last

      What are lentils?

      Lentils are an edible legume. They are small and shaped like small discs. When cooked, they grow in size, become soft and absorb the liquid around them. 

      Other legumes in the same family as lentils include beans, chickpeas and peas. They are a versatile food, used in soups, stews, salads and side dishes.

      Varieties of lentils

      There are a variety of lentils that are used around the world. These varieties of lentils differ in shape and/or color. Here are a few common varieties of lentils:

      • Brown lentils
      • Green lentils
      • Yellow lentils
      • Red lentils
      • French lentils

      Each variety of lentils are used in different applications and recipes. Some have longer cook times than others, so be sure you are getting the correct kind. 

      Origins of lentils

      Lentils have been a staple food in a wide variety of cultures for thousands of years. In fact, lentils are one of the most ancient cultivated foods.

      They are cultivated in the Middle East, North Africa and all over Europe. Because of this, they appear in a variety of traditional recipes including:

      • Indian Dal: flavorful lentil stew.
      • Ethiopian Misir Wot: spicy lentil stew.
      • Italian Lentil Soup: hearty vegetable soup.
      • Lebanese Mujadara: lentils, rice, caramelized onions.
      • Moroccan Lentil Tagine: fragrant spiced lentil stew.
      • Turkish Mercimek Köftesi: lentil-bulgur herb patties.

      Nutritional value of lentils

      Lentils are very nutritious and have a high vitamin and mineral content. Half a cup of lentils contains 115 calories, 9 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbohydrates and 0 grams of fat.

      It contains almost 6 grams of fiber and is a good source of vitamin B1, B5, B6, folate, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. 

      how long do lentils last

      How to cook lentils

      To cook lentils, start by rinsing them under cold water to remove any debris and dirt. Then, combine the lentils with water or broth (for extra flavor) in a pot. 

      Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until tender but still hold their shape. Cooking time will vary depending on the variety of lentils.

      Add salt and any desired seasonings, such as garlic, onion, or herbs, during cooking for extra flavor. Drain any excess liquid and use the cooked lentils in soups, stews, salads, or as a side dish.

      Where to buy lentils

      You should be able to find lentils fairly easily at any of your local grocery stores. They should be in the dried bean section.

      If you are unable to find lentils there, you can try your local health foods store or an international foods store or Asian grocery store, especially if they have an Indian section. 

      how long do lentils last

      How to store dry lentils 

      To store dried lentils, transfer to an airtight container or large mason jars. If the lentils are already in a sealable bag, that is fine as well. 

      Be sure to note the expiration date and label it on the container.

      Keep your lentils in a dry place at room temperature or cooler. Store in a dim or dark place, avoid direct sunlight.

      Shelf life of dry lentils 

      Dry lentils should have a long shelf life if storage conditions are optimal. They typically will last about one year on the shelf.

      They being said, they could last longer with some lentils lasting up to 2-3 years if stored properly. Be sure to check the expiration date on the package. 

      How to store cooked lentils 

      Once your lentils are cooked, it’s important to store them correctly to ensure they stay safe for as long as possible.

      The best way to store your lentils is in a sealed container or plastic bag. Make sure there is no way for air to enter or escape the container. 

      Transfer your lentils to your container or bag and let cool slightly before putting in the refrigerator. 

      If you put your lentils in the refrigerator while still hot, it can affect the temperature of your refrigerator and cause other items in the refrigerator to spoil faster. 

      Shelf life of cooked lentils 

      With proper storage, cooked lentils should last in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days before spoiling. After this period of time, it’s best to toss the lentils to avoid foodborne illness.

      If you are unsure if your lentils are still good, check their appearance, texture and smell. Any signs of discoloration, mold or unpleasant smell could mean they are spoiled.

      Shelf life of canned lentils

      Canned lentils should last for about 1-2 years in your pantry, but could potentially last 2-3 years depending on the preservatives used to store the lentils.

      The high sodium content helps preserve the lentils, which is why they are able to last a longer period of time without harmful bacteria growing. 

      Be sure to check the expiration date on the can of lentils to see what the manufacturer lists.

      how long do lentils last

      Signs of spoilage

      Unsure if your lentils are still good to eat? There are a few ways to determine if your lentils are spoiled or safe to eat. 

      Appearance

      Examine how your lentils look. Are there any signs of mold? Any discoloration? What about dark spots or black dots? Any signs out of the ordinary may mean it’s time to toss. 

      Texture

      Examine the texture of the lentils. Are they slimy to the touch? You can even visually examine the lentils to see if they have a “sheen” to them. 

      Smell

      Examine the smell of the lentils. Do they have a foul odor? Smell rotten or fermented? Do they smell sour? Anything out of the ordinary could be a sign your lentils are spoiled. 

      how long do lentils last

      Frequently Asked Questions

      Do you need to wash lentils before cooking?

      You should gently wash your lentils in cold water before cooking them. This is because there could be debris or dirt still on the lentils, leftover from processing.

      Giving your lentils a quick wash can help ensure that debris and dirt is removed so it doesn’t end up in whatever dish you are cooking. 

      Do you need to soak lentils before cooking?

      Lentils do not require soaking before cooking. They already have a pretty quick cooking time, so soaking isn’t necessary like it is for other varieties of legumes. 

      That being said, you can choose to soak your lentils if you desire. This may speed up cook time and make the lentils more digestible for some. It’s your choice, not a requirement.

      Why are my lentils foaming?

      Your lentils are foaming because of the presence of starch. It is similar to the process of cooking rice, starch will be released and this will create a layer of foam.

      The foam isn’t harmful and is in fact a natural part of the cooking process. To lessen foam, rinse your lentils beforehand, use a larger pot, skim excess foam off with a l

      Why do my lentils turn to mush?

      Lentils will get softer during the cooking process. That being said, if your lentils are turning to mush, it’s probably a sign your lentils are being overcooked or you are using too much water.

      To avoid this from occurring, make sure you are using the correct lentil to water water, make sure your lentils are simmering (not boiling) and periodically check your lentils for doneness to avoid overcooking. 

      Why was there a rock in my lentils?

      Occasionally you will need a small rock or “debris” in your lentils. This is perfectly normal. Often the processing of lentils doesn’t fully remove environmental debris like rocks and twigs.

      To avoid accidentally eating a rock, I recommend rinsing your lentils in cold water before adding them to a recipe. This will filter out any small rocks or twigs that weren’t removing in processing.

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      tia glover rd

      My name is Tia and I am a registered dietitian and content creator.

      My goal is to help young people learn how to eat a nutritious, balanced diet without restriction or giving up cultural foods. 💛

      Hapa/Japanese American 🇺🇸🇯🇵

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