Guide to Split Peas & Lentils

Like beans, lentils and split peas are low in fat and high in protein and fiber, and they have the added advantage of cooking quickly without the need for soaking.

How to Prepare Split Peas and Lentils

Sort and rinse

Spread them out on a clean kitchen towel or rimmed baking sheet. Pick out and discard any shriveled or broken beans, stones or debris, and rinse under cold water.


Bring about 1.5 cups of water or broth to a boil for every cup of lentils or split peas. Add the lentils, allow water to return to boiling, reduce heat, partially cover pan, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the variety. (Cooking times may be longer at higher altitudes.)

Lentils and split peas can be added dry to soups and stews, just be sure that there is enough liquid (1.5 cups to every 1 cup of lentils) to compensate for absorption and expansion.

Split Peas and Lentils: Cooking and Serving Tips

Chana Dahl

  • Simmer: 30 minutes
  • Characteristics: Though it resembles a yellow split pea, this staple of India is really a skinless relative of the chickpea. It has a mild, sweet flavor and a firm texture.
  • Servings Suggestions: Goes well in soups and casseroles


  • Simmer: 30-40 minutes
  • Characteristics: Dahl is an Indian term for split legumes, usually unhulled, or the dish made from these legumes. They have a mild, earthy flavor, making them a perfect platform for assertive flavorings.
  • Servings Suggestions: Season with spices, chiles, onions and tomatoes, puree lightly and serve as a side dish.

French Lentils

  • Simmer: 35-45 minutes
  • Characteristics: Also called lentils du Puy. Small, dark and more strongly flavored than other lentils, they also hold their shape better, which makes them good for salads.
  • Servings Suggestions: Toss cooked lentils with diced and sautéed celery, onions and carrots for a rustic side dish. Toss with a mustardy vinaigrette and sliced smoked sausage for a classic bistro-style lunch.

Green Lentils

  • Simmer: 35-45 minutes
  • Characteristics: Also referred to as brown lentils, these khaki-colored legumes are the American standard, used most classically in lentil soup.
  • Servings Suggestions: Combine with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, parsley and garlic as a salad. Purée with cumin, grated ginger and turmeric for an Indian dahl.

Green Split Peas

  • Simmer: 3/4 to 1 hour
  • Characteristics: Most commonly used to make split pea soup.
  • Servings Suggestions: Delicious cooked with ham hocks and bacon. Try simmering green split peas with sautéed onion and garlic until soft. Purée, chill and top with creme fraîche and fresh mint.

Red Lentils

  • Simmer: 25 minutes
  • Characteristics: Salmon pink in its dried form, red lentils turn golden when cooked.
  • Servings Suggestions: Combine with olive oil, red onion and balsamic vinegar for a warm side dish. Add to a stew of chicken braised with curry.

Yellow Split Lentils

  • Simmer: 3/4 to 1 hour
  • Characteristics: These peas have a soft texture and a mild flavor.
  • Servings Suggestions: Similar to green split peas. Good in curried dishes over basmati rice or as a base for a soup, flavored with lemon and cumin.

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