Cooking Lentils in a Rice Steamer

Lentils are a good source of plant-based protein. Cook lentils in a rice cooker for an easy preparation that makes adding them to your diet a breeze.

Always rinse bulk lentils before cooking them.
Image Credit: Nataliia Yankovets/iStock/GettyImages

Tip

Make lentils in the rice cooker using a ratio of 2 parts water to 1 part lentils. Cook them for about 40 minutes on the regular cycle.

Health Benefits of Lentils

Lentils contain 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber in a ½ cup cooked serving. They're slightly higher in protein than pinto beans, black beans and chickpeas.

This serving also provides 20 grams of carbohydrates and less than 1 gram of fat. Rich in iron, with 3.3 milligrams of the mineral, lentils also provide 1.27 milligrams of zinc and 369 milligrams of potassium. Lentils are also a good source of several B vitamins, including folate.

Lentils make an exceptional plant-based protein, as they soak up flavors and can be used in soups and stews. Form lentils into a veggie patty for sandwiches, mix them into salads, season them for a taco filling or soup them up with tomato and molasses to mimic a Sloppy Joe filling.

Replacing some animal protein in your diet with plant protein, such as that found in lentils, may improve your health. According to an October 2016 research review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, substitution of plant protein for animal protein is associated with lower risk of early death.

Read more: 9 Frozen Foods that Are Packed with Plant-Based Protein

The Process of Cooking Lentils

Cooking lentils in a rice cooker is an easy process. You need just 2 parts water to 1 part legumes. So, for example, prepare 1 cup of dried lentils in 2 cups of water. This yields about 2 cups of cooked lentils. Lentils don't require overnight soaking.

Lentils may taste bland on their own, so add flavorings such as a dried bay leaf, fresh garlic cloves or sprigs of fresh thyme before turning on the rice cooker. Avoid adding salt or acidic ingredients, such as lemon juice or tomatoes during the cooking process, however. These can make the skin of the lentils tough, and make them take longer to cook. Add these flavor-boosters after the lentils are already soft.

To cook the lentils, place the water, lentils, herbs and spices into the base of the rice cooker. Swirl them about to blend them together. Close the lid and put on the regular cycle for about 40 minutes.

Read more: What's the Difference Between Vegan, Vegetarian and Plant-based Diets?

Types of Lentils

Lentils come in many varieties, including brown, yellow, black and red. All cook up the same way, in the rice cooker, with slightly different results. For example:

  • Black lentils hold their shape well, and taste earthy.
  • Brown lentils retain their shape when cooked, and are mild tasting.
  • French, or green, lentils are a little smaller in size, retain their shape when cooked and may need a few extra minutes to cook.
  • Pink lentils cook quickly and break down into a smoother consistency, so they're best for soups.
  • Red lentils don't hold their shape well when cooked, because they are relatively thin and soft; they are best pureed, or as part of thick soups.
  • Yellow lentils break down quickly during cooking, too, so they're also good for soups and stews.

When you cook lentils in a rice cooker, pay attention to the type your recipe calls for, or decide yourself based on your desired result. The rice cooker isn't to blame for your lentils' texture; it's the type of lentil that really matters.

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