Table of content A-Z




Botanical name: Lens culinaris



Origin, areas of cultivation


The lentil originated in the Near East and Central Asia and is one of the oldest cultivated plants known. It has been grown in Egypt and Asia Minor for approximately 10 000 years.


Lentils are cultivated today all over the world; India and Turkey are among the main growing countries. Germany imports lentils from Canada, the USA and Turkey.



Lentils are for sale all year round. They are generally graded according to size. Large seeds tend to be more expensive than the smaller ones.


Appearance, taste, characteristics


Lentils look like small, round, flatly convex discs. They mature in short, broad pods containing usually only 1-2 seeds. They come in several colours; according to the variety they are green, yellow, red, brown or black.


Lentils are classified into four commercial grades according to their diameter:

* 7 mm = giant lentils

* 6-7 mm = large lentils

* 4.5-6 mm = medium-sized lentils

* less than 4.5 mm = small lentils


Lentils are sold peeled, unpeeled, or split. Peeled lentils tend to become mushy when cooked due to the missing seed coat. Since this is the source of the typical lentil flavour, small, unpeeled lentils have the strongest aroma.


Following are some varieties of lentils:


* Beluga lentils

Beluga lentils are also sold as 'black lentils' and take their name from the caviar that they resemble. They are especially popular in India. They are very small, with a diameter of only about 3 mm, but this makes them all the more spicy-aromatic.


* Brown lentils

Unpeeled red lentils are sold as brown lentils.



* Champagne lentils

ChampagnerlinseThis variety is grown chiefly in France, where it is a popular ingredient of the sophisticated French cuisine because of its refined taste. The lentils are light brown and quite small. They are sold only peeled and are especially mealy. Their mild, nutty aroma gives a wonderful flavour particularly to oriental dishes.


*Du puy lentils

This variety also stems from France, but - in contrast to the champagne lentil - it is widespread in Europe. The raw lentils are dark green, but when cooked they turn dark brown. With a diameter of 4-5 mm they belong to the medium-sized lentils.


*Green lentils

These are very inexpensive and thus widely cultivated and consumed, although not in our regions.



* Red lentils

These are grown chiefly in Asia. They are peeled lentils that originally have a purple seed coat. They turn from bright orange-red to yellow when they are cooked.



Like all legumes, lentils contain a large amount of iron and are rich in carbohydrates. Combined with other suppliers of animal or vegetable protein (e.g. grain), the value of their protein is still greater.


Lentils are rich in important minerals, particularly iron. Like the majority of legumes, they contain little fat and much fiber.


Also worth mentioning is their content of secondary plant substances, above all saponines and protease inhibitors.


The following table of ingredients applies for all types of lentils. 100 g contain on average:



Lentils, cooked

Energy (kcal)


Water (g)


Protein (g)


Fat (g)


Carbohydrates (g)


Fiber (g)


Vitamin A (RE) (µg)


Niacin (mg)


Folic acid (µg)


Vitamin C (mg)


Potassium (mg)


Sodium (mg)


Calcium (mg)


Magnesium (mg)


Phosphorous (mg)


Iron (mg)



Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions


Lentils can be stored for up to a year in a cool, dry place. Lentils that are green or olive-green when they are harvested may turn brown when they are stored. This does not have any influence on their cooking property and their taste, however.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation


In contrast to other legumes, lentils do not need to be soaked prior to cooking. Like all legumes, however, they should not be seasoned until after they are cooked, as they will otherwise not become tender.


Lentils need to cook for 45-60 minutes, red lentils, however, only about 30 minutes. The older they are, the longer they will need to become soft. Further tips on preparation can be found in the general chapter "Legumes and pulses".


Lentil soup and lentil stew are probably the best-known lentil dishes. Lentils are also suitable as vegetable side-dishes, however, or for salads. There are innumerable recipes for preparing and enjoying lentils. Try, for instance, a lukewarm lentil salad with potatoes and feta cheese.


Lentils are prepared industrially in tins, as soups and as ready-to-serve dishes with meat, herbs and spices.


Seasoning tip


Bay leaf, thyme, marjoram, dill, lemon, parsley, cloves and garlic, but also oriental spices such as cumin, ginger, coriander and soy sauce taste good with lentils.





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