Learn how to cook black lentils on the stove top, or in an Instant Pot, with this easy recipe. Black Lentils are a healthy and delicious source of plant based protein.
Serve them as a side dish, added to a salad, or as the perfect base for a bowl. If you love the black lentils at Cava, then you're going to love this recipe!
Black lentils are guaranteed to make you a lentil fan! They have a firmer texture than other lentils and a great, earthy flavor. They're my new favorite base for bowls and I love to toss them into salads!
Quickly prepared on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker, they're great for busy weeknights or easy weekly meal prepping. They are a fantastic source of plant-based protein, making them great for vegetarians.
Customize the flavor each time you make them to pair them with a variety of cuisines. Add cumin for burrito bowls, ginger for poke bowls, or basil and oregano for Italian bowls!
What are black lentils?
Black lentils are in the legume family. They are small in size with a dark black color. Due to their similar appearance to caviar they are often referred to as beluga lentils.
Unlike other varieties of lentils, black lentils hold their shape once cooked. The thicker skin allows them to stay whole instead of breaking and turning mushy.
While the skin keeps them intact better, the inside is still nice and tender! You can also overcook them until they split if you prefer that texture instead.
They're a great source of protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, and Vitamin C.
Stove top instructions
One of the great things about black lentils is that they are quick and easy to make on the stovetop!
Step 1: Add black lentils, vegetable broth, water, garlic powder and dried thyme to a saucepan on the stove. Bring to a simmer.
Step 2: Simmer for 20 minutes, drain any excess liquid, then serve.
Instant Pot instructions
You can also use your pressure cooker to make lentils. This is a great option for making a big batch for meal prep!
Step 1: Add the black lentils, vegetable broth, dried thyme and garlic powder to an Instant Pot. Cook on high pressure for 8 minutes.
Step 2: Let the pressure naturally release on the Instant Pot. Drain any excess liquid in a fine mesh strainer. Serve immediately.
Lentils are a blank slate. They really take on any flavor that you add to them, which is why I always recommend cooking them in broth, instead of water.
You can also add flavor to the lentils by adding more ingredients like minced onion and garlic, or fresh herbs, like thyme, rosemary or oregano.
Spices like coriander, cumin, and even ginger add wonderful flavor, as well as a bay leaf added to the cooking water. Or swap out the salt for a teaspoon of any of the following seasoning mixes.
- Moroccan seasoning
- Taco seasoning
- Shawarma seasoning
- Jamaican jerk seasoning
- Fajita seasoning
- Cajun seasoning
- Italian seasoning
If adding minced onion or garlic, I recommend sautéing these in a teaspoon of olive oil in the Instant Pot before adding the lentils, vegetable broth and any other seasonings.
Fresh herbs can be added with the vegetable broth. The flavor of the herbs will be released as the lentils cook in the Instant Pot. Remove sprigs of herbs from the lentils before serving.
Ways to serve them
- Simply sprinkle the lentils with fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice for a fresh side dish.
- Try it in this CAVA copycat Harissa Honey Chicken Bowl.
- Add to a Grilled BBQ Chicken Bowl, Vegan Poke Bowl, or Asian Tempeh Bowl.
- Use as a base for bowls and swap out the quinoa with black lentils in Italian Bowls with Roasted Vegetables, Grilled Harissa Chicken Bowls, or Roasted Summer Squash Bowls.
- Sprinkle over salads like this Vegan Cobb Salad or Kale Sweet Potato Salad.
- Enjoy as a side with Vegan Meatballs and Air Fryer Zucchini.
- Mix into soups and salads for a hearty boost!
Frequently asked questions
- Should you soak lentils before cooking? No, it is not necessary to soak black lentils before cooking them in an Instant Pot, or on the stove.
- Are lentils gluten free? Yes, black lentils are a naturally gluten free food.
- Can you meal prep lentils? You sure can! Once lentils have been cooked, they will keep for up to 5-7 days in the refrigerator.
- How do you store lentils? Dried lentils can be kept in a cool, dry place in an airtight container for up to one year. Cooked lentils can be sealed in a freezer-safe bag or airtight storage container, and kept in the fridge for up to 5-7 days, or frozen for 6 months. To defrost frozen lentils, move them from the freezer to the refrigerator 24 hours before using them in a recipe.
- What's the best way to reheat lentils? Reheating cooked lentils is easily done in the microwave. Simply place the lentils in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. You can also reheat them in a pot on the stove over medium heat. You may want to add 1-2 tablespoons water so that the cooked lentils don't dry out as you reheat them.
- Are black lentils healthier? Yes! They are the most nutritious variety of lentils. One half cup of uncooked black lentils provides 26 grams of protein, 18 grams of fiber, 100 milligrams of calcium, 8 milligrams of iron, and 960 milligrams of potassium, according to the USDA.
- Are black lentils and beluga lentils the same? Yes. Black beluga lentils earned their name because their appearance is similar to caviar.
- What is the amount of cooked lentils from 1 cup of dry lentils? Cooking one cup of dry lentils will yield approximately 2 ½ cups of cooked lentils.
Where to buy black lentils
Most supermarkets should have black lentils available, as well as health food stores and international markets. They are sold both dried and canned. Check the aisle with the beans, or the bulk foods section.
If you can't find any in your area, you can always find them online!
More bowl base recipes
Mix up the base of your bowls throughout the week with these easy recipes!
- How To Cook Quinoa - 3 Ways: Instant Pot, Stove or Rice Cooker
- Cilantro Lime Quinoa
- Instant Pot Brown Lentils
- How To Cook White Rice - 3 Ways: Instant Pot, Stove or Rice Cooker
- Cauliflower Rice
- How To Cook Brown Rice - 3 Ways: Instant Pot, Stove or Rice Cooker
- 2 cups black lentils
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan on the stove and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
- Drain any excess liquid, then serve.
- This recipe makes approximately 5 cups of cooked lentils. A serving of lentils is ½ cup, therefore this recipe makes 10 servings. The nutritional information provided is for one serving.
- To make black lentils in an Instant Pot:
- Combine 2 cups of black lentils with 3 ½ cups vegetable broth, 1 teaspoon dried thyme and ½ teaspoon garlic powder in an Instant Pot.
- Set the steamer release valve to the “sealing” position.
- Set the manual timer on the Instant Pot to high pressure for 8 minutes.
- Let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes, then release any remaining pressure before removing the lid.
- Drain any excess liquid, then serve.
- Leftover lentils can be stored in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for up to 7 days. I recommend reheating them in the microwave for 2 minutes before serving. They can also be served cold, if you prefer.