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The Best Brown Lentil Recipe

by Lorena

How good are lentils?! So good. I love them all year round and served with different side dishes which include rice, mashed potatoes, toast, polenta and quinoa :). These are the best brown lentils I’ve ever had. They are super tasty, easy to make with lots of amazing ingredients and extremely freezable.

Do you need to soak brown lentils?

The short answer is no… and yes. Ok, there’s no short answer. You don’t need to soak them and you will be able to cook them just fine. Now, soaking them makes them easier to digest (bye-bye gas) and makes it easier for your body to absorb its nutrients. Soaking them will also reduce their cooking time! Ideally, soak them overnight or at the very least for 1-2 hours.

Brown lentils in a bowl, finished with olive oil and spinach. On the side, a small dish with olive oil and a slice of bread.

How to cook brown lentils

This brown lentil recipe is delicious because it has several layers of flavours stacked onto each other. First, we cook onions and peppers in olive oil. At this point, I also add aromatic elements such as paprika, oregano and bayleaf. With the olive oil, they bloom and become more intense. Once that’s nicely cooked and softened, I go in with the garlic and tomato purée. Tomato really adds depth to the brown lentils and makes them extra tasty. After that, comes the wine, which is optional but highly recommended. Since we reduce it almost completely, it’s ok to use a wine you opened a while back and is no longer suited for drinking. That’s when we add the vegetable stock, lentils and tomatoes. When everything starts to simmer, put the lid on and cook until the lentils are tender. To finish you can remove the lid and let it thicken further and finish with chopped spinach.

From soup to stew

You can cook this brown lentil recipe into a soup or more of a stew depending on what you want to eat. If you want it as a soup, simply reduce the amount of liquid that you let evaporate once the lentils are cooked. You can also just add more vegetable stock. This is a good recipe to play around with, the flavours are intense and complement each other really well. It’s really lovely with rice, quinoa, or a nice slice of sourdough bread.

Using a pressure cooker

Pressure cookers are great tools for cooking pulses/legumes. They make the process quicker and ensure a soft result every single time. Whether you’re using an electric pressure cooker such as an Instant Pot or just a regular stove-top pressure cooker, they’re fine to use for this recipe. The total time it will take to cook the lentils will be of 30 minutes on high pressure. After that time you can remove the lid and let the liquid evaporate to get the desired thickness of the brown lentils.

Finishing the brown lentils

These brown lentils are SO YUM. They’re packed with flavour, lots of yummy ingredients and finished with spinach. Whenever you’re finishing stews or soups with spinach (like on my chickpea stew), be careful to add it at the very end as it only takes a few seconds to cook it. If it’s in there longer it will become brown and not very pleasing to the eye. With pulses in general, I love a nice drizzle of good-quality olive oil. Have you tried it? There’s no coming back once you do! I do it with all of them and LOVE it. It’s a match made in heaven. Try it the next time you have pulses and let me know what you think ;).

Tips for making brown lentils

While I made these brown lentils I was sharing with you on Instagram stories and you guys had lots of questions about how to not get hard pulses. Making pulses go hard in the cooking process is actually quite easy so here are a couple of things you need to avoid to prevent this.

  • Season with salt at the very end when the dish is done. Adding salt at the beginning can make pulses go hard.
  • Keep the heat on medium-low. High heat with effervescent boiling can make the brown lentils or pulses in general go hard as well.
  • Use a pressure cooker. This temperature consideration changes completely if you’re using a pressure cooker because it’s nearly impossible to get them hard in a pressure cooker.

How to freeze brown lentils

Brown lentils and pulses in general are one of those recipes that are extremely freezer-friendly. You can freeze them all together or portion them to have a quick lunch or dinner. They freeze up to 6 months in an air-tight container for best results. If only refrigerated, they will last for 5 days.


Super Tasty Brown Lentil Recipe

I adore lentils and this brown lentils recipe is easy to make as well as extremely tasty.
4.18 from 17 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main
Keyword: brown lentils, lentils, tomato
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Servings: 6 portions
Author: Lorena Salinas from Cravings Journal


For the vegetable stock

  • 1 small carrot in medium pieces
  • 1 celery stalk in medium pieces
  • ½ brown onion in medium pieces
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 3 lt water

For the lentils

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 bayleaves
  • 1 medium brown onion finely chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano powder
  • ½ red bell pepper peeled, deseeded and cut in small cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic minced, finely grated or pressed
  • 6 tbsp tomato paste
  • 150 ml red wine (optional)
  • 1 small carrots in small cubes
  • 2 roma tomatoes extra ripe, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 250 g brown lentils I used 3mm diameter brown lentils
  • 1 lt vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 60 g baby spinach stalks off and chopped (optional)


For the vegetable stock

  • Place all the ingredients in a large pot and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

For the lentils

  • Soak the lentils in cold water for 1 hour. It's not absolutely necessary but it helps you to digest them.
  • Cook the onion and pepper in the olive oil over medium heat. Also add the oregano, paprika and bayleaves at this time.
  • Once the onions are cooked through and smell sweet, add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for a minute.
  • Add the red wine and let it boil down until you have no visible liquid left on the base of the pot.
  • Add the carrots and tomatoes and stir to heat up.
  • Add the lentils and stock and stir. Bring it to a light simmer and put on the lid of the pot. Don't let it boil too hard or it will make the lentils go hard. Also, don't add seasoning until the very end also to prevent them from going hard. If using a pressure cooker, cook for 30 minutes on high pressure.
  • After 30 minutes check on them, it could take up to 50min to become soft. Once they're soft remove the lid and let the contents in the pot thicken as the liquid evaporates.
  • Season with salt and pepper and add the spinach right before serving.
Tried this recipe?Mention @CravingsJournal or tag #RecipeCJ!
Brown lentils in a bowl, finished with olive oil and half a slice of bread.
Brown lentils in a bowl, zoomed in, finished with olive oil and spinach. A slice of bread is slightly sunk into the lentils.


Maggy March 2, 2022 - 3:11 pm

Hi Lorena,
soy peruana y vivo en USA. Me encantan tus recetas. Pero se me hace dificil seguir las cantidades de los ingredientes. En una misma receta pones ingredientes en cuchadas o “medio pimiento rojo”. Al mismo tiempo pones otros en peso en gramos. Necesitaria una balanza. Hay alguna forma de convertir el peso de por ejemplo 250 gr de lentejas a tazas? seria muchisimo mas facil. Mil gracias.

Lorena March 3, 2022 - 9:34 am

Hola Maggy! Te recomiendo que compres una balanza o scale en inglés, son súper baratas y útiles, no confío en las tazas 🙂

Ali April 18, 2023 - 4:17 pm

Am I missing something? Do you add the leftover stock to the lentils later or just pack it away for future use? Thanks.

Lorena April 19, 2023 - 6:10 pm

Hi Ali! Yes, refrigerate it for future use 🙂

Susan Elizabeth September 10, 2023 - 5:26 pm

ALI #6 is Add the lentils and stock and stir. Bring it to a light simmer and put on the lid of the pot.

Cathy February 17, 2024 - 6:13 pm

Very good! We live on a little island in Central America, and I was able to find brown lentils. Just made your recipe and will serve a bowl with grilled homemade sourdough bread for our evening meal. Mucho Gracias.


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