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Learning How to Cook Lentils in a Rice Cooker is a great time saving hack for meal prep, batch cooking, or convenient weeknight meals. All you need is a cup of your favorite lentils and a rice cooker or pressure cooker. 

Bowl of green lentils with spoon.

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What are Lentils?

Lentils are a type of legume that are commonly used in plant-based cooking. They are small, lens-shaped seeds that come in a variety of colors including green, brown, red, and black. Lentils are a rich source of protein, fiber, carbohydrates, and essential vitamins and minerals. They are also low in fat and calories, making them a healthy and nutritious addition to any diet.

Closeup of red lentils, beluga lentils, and green lentils.
  1. Brown Lentils: These are the most common type of lentils, and are great for lentil soups, stews, and salads. They hold their shape well when cooked, and have a slightly nutty flavor.
  2. Green Lentils: These lentils are also known as French green lentils or Puy lentils, and are a bit smaller than brown lentils. They hold their shape well when cooked, making them ideal for salads and side dishes. 
  3. Red Lentils: These lentils are smaller and cook much faster than brown or green lentils, and are often used in Indian dal recipes. They have a sweet, nutty flavor and cook down into almost a paste-like texture which is ideal for dal or soups. 
  4. Yellow Lentils: These lentils are similar to red lentils, but have a milder flavor and a similar creamier texture when cooked. They are often used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine, and are great for making soups and stews.
  5. Black Lentils: These lentils are also known as beluga lentils, because of their resemblance to caviar. They have a rich, earthy flavor and hold their shape well when cooked, making them ideal for salads and side dishes. They're also one of the most nutritious lentils because they're richest in antioxidants due to their deep color. 
  6. Split Lentils: These are lentils that have been split in half, and are often used in Indian cooking. They cook quickly and have a creamy texture when cooked, making them perfect for dal and curries.

Rice Cooker vs. Instant Pot

Here I am going to share with you step by step instructions for both the Instant Pot and Rice Cooker. Note that the instructions for cooking lentils are almost identical for both, with a couple of key differences:

  • Instant Pot cooks the lentils faster. I’ve timed it, and between my 6 QT Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus Pressure Cooker and my Aroma 20 Cup Rice Cooker, the Instant Pot beats the rice cooker lentils in terms of cook time significantly.
  • Instant Pot method is slightly more high maintenance. Although the lentils cook itself in both pots without any stirring, you do have to manually release the pressure of the Instant Pot immediately when the pressure cooking is complete. The rice cooker, however, does not require any manually release of pressure and could be made and left in the pot on warm setting for several hours. For this reason, I usually opt for the rice cooker method myself.
  • Rice cooker method requires 1/4 cup more water. Rice cookers steam far more than pressure cookers and need additional water to compensate for water loss due to steam.
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Bowl of green lentils with spoon.

Best Rice Cooker Recommendations

​If you're looking for a new rice cooker to invest in, I recommend going with a multifunctional rice cooker. These rice cookers can do more than just cook rice and typically come with a steaming basket that you can place on top of the inner pot. This allows you to steam vegetables and create a complete meal in one pot. 

Second, I recommend looking for a multifunctional rice cooker that has a large cup capacity. Whenever I'm using my rice cooker to cook grains and rice, I always fill the pot to max capacity and freeze the excess. This cuts down on prep time, kitchen clean up, and makes it easy to batch cook. 

This is the exact rice cooker I've owned for over 10 years and it still works like a charm: Aroma Housewares 20-Cup Multicooker

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Aroma 20-Cup Multicooker

I've owned this rice cooker for over 10 years and it works like a charm.

How to Cook Perfect Lentils in Rice Cooker 

Green lentils in rice cooker.
  1. Rinse and drain. Pour the dried lentils into a fine mesh strainer. Rinse under cool water to remove any dirt and debris. As needed remove any small stones or unfavorable looking lentils. 
  2. Place ingredients in the pot. Add lentils, clean water or vegetable broth, and salt, if using, to the Instant Pot or rice cooker pot. 
  3. Cook. If using a pressure cooker, set the valve to the “sealing” position. Pressure cook on high pressure for 9 minutes. When the timer beeps, carefully switch the valve to the “venting” position and manually release the pressure. If using a rice cooker, set the pot to either ‘”saute” then simmer' or ‘grain mode' and begin the cooking process.  
  4. Serve. ​Serve cooked lentils while warm or cold. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. 

Optional Add-ins

I typically cook my lentils in water with a pinch of salt to keep them as versatile as possible, but if you'd like to add some additional flavors to your lentils here are a few of my favorites: 

  • Olive oil (adds flavor and tenderness)
  • Fresh garlic cloves, micned
  • Bay leaves
  • Green onion
  • Fresh lemon juice (after cooking)
  • Fresh herbs
  • Soy sauce (alternative to sea salt for saltiness)

Storage Instructions

​Cooking and freezing cooked lentils is one of my favorite ways to meal prep and batch cook. It makes cooking plant-based meals during the week so much simpler, creates less dishes, and will last for months when stored properly in the freezer. It's a great system for college students, busy moms, or people with demanding work schedules. 

Jar of lentils for storage.
  • To refrigerate: ​Allow the lentils to cool completely to room temperature, then transfer the lentils to an airtight container, preferably glass. Enjoy within 4-5 days. 
  • To freeze: Again, allow the lentils to cool completely, then transfer to a freezer safe container such as 16 oz mason jars or Souper cubes. If you freeze when warm, the heat from the lentils will build condensation inside whatever vessel you use and add a layer of frost bite and excess water to your grains. This will negatively impact both the flavor and texture of the lentils. I like to freeze lentils in smaller servings as opposed to larger servings. This allows me to defrost the exact amount I need and reduces food waste. 
  • To thaw: ​When ready to use, transfer the amount of lentils you need to the refrigerator and thaw overnight. Alternatively, microwave until warmed through. 

Favorite Freezer Cubes

Silicone Cubes

My favorite way to freeze individual portions and meals. Use code HOMECOOKEDROOTS10 for 10% off.

How to Reheat Tender Lentils

When reheating lentils, I recommend using either the stovetop or the microwave (fastest!). 

  • Stovetop: Place the lentils in a small saucepan or skillet. Heat the lentils over medium heat, stirring occasionally until heated through, about 5-7 minutes. Add water or broth as needed to rehydrate the lentils. 
  • Microwave: ​Place the lentils in a microwave safe bowl or container. Heat in 30 second bursts until warmed through. If the lentils appear dry, add a splash of water before microwaving to rehydrate.

Lentil FAQs

Do you need to soak lentils before cooking them in a rice cooker?

Nope. Dried lentils can be cooked directly in the rice cooker with either water or broth. If your lentils have been soaked or sprouted, they will require a shorter cook time. 

What is the water-to-lentil ratio when cooking lentils in a rice cooker?

The water-to-lentil ratio for cooking lentils in a rice cooker is typically 2:1. For example, if you are cooking 1 cup of lentils, you should use 2 cups of water. This applies to any time of lentils. 

How do you clean a rice cooker after cooking lentils?

To clean a rice cooker after cooking lentils, unplug the rice cooker and let the inner pot cool down (this will prevent the pot from warping due to a drastic temperature change). Once it's cool, remove the inner pot and wash it with warm, soapy water by hand. Rinse thoroughly and dry completely before storing. Depending on your rice cooker model, you may be able to place the inner pot in the dish washer, too.

How do I prevent my lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pot?

If you are using a stainless steel inner pot, turn off the keep warm setting before starting the cook cycle. This will prevent the lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pot. 

Closeup of cooked lentils.

Go-to Meals Using Lentils

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How to Cook Lentils in Rice Cooker

4.72 from 7 votes

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Cost: $0.73 per recipe / $0.24 per serving
Learning How to Cook Lentils in a Rice Cooker is a great time saving hack for meal prep, batch cooking, or convenient weeknight meals. All you need is a cup of your favorite lentils and a rice cooker or pressure cooker. 

Ingredients
 

  • 1 cup green lentils can use brown lentils ($0.71)
  • 1 3/4-2 cups water or vegetable broth ** (2 cups for rice cooker, 1 3/4 cups for IP)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt optional ($0.02)

Instructions

Rice Cooker

  • Rinse lentils under cool water and remove any foreign objects, as needed. Drain.
  • Add lentils, water, and salt if using, to the inner pot of the rice cooker.
  • Set the rice cooker to the '"saute" then simmer mode' or 'grain' mode and click start. Allow the rice cooker to run through the full cook cycle.
  • Once ready, serve warm or cold or refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for later.

Instant Pot Instructions

  • Rinse lentils under cool water and remove any foreign objects, as needed. Drain.
  • Add lentils, water, and salt if using, to the Instant Pot.
  • Set the valve to the “sealing” position. Pressure cook on high pressure for 9 minutes. When the timer beeps, carefully switch the valve to the “venting” position and manually release the pressure.
  • Strain the lentils to drain out the remaining water, as needed.
  • Once ready, serve warm or cold or refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for later.
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Notes

  • If batch cooking increase the ratio to fit the max capacity of your pot or desired amount. 1 cup of dried lentils = 2 1/2 cups of cooked lentils.
  • Note about type of lentils: This will work with any type of lentils however it works best with green lentils, brown lentils or black lentils. Red lentils, yellow lentils, and split lentils are faster cooking and will be very, very soft with these cook times.
  • Freezing instructions: Allow the lentils to cool completely, then transfer to a freezer safe container such as 16 oz mason jars or Souper cubes. If you freeze when warm, the heat from the lentils will build condensation inside whatever vessel you use and add a layer of frost bite and excess water to your grains. This will negatively impact both the flavor and texture of the lentils. I like to freeze lentils in smaller servings as opposed to larger servings. This allows me to defrost the exact amount I need and reduces food waste. 
  • Thawing instructions: When ready to use, transfer the amount of lentils you need to the refrigerator and thaw overnight. Alternatively, microwave until warmed through. 

Nutrition

Calories: 226kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 1g | Sodium: 398mg | Fiber: 20g | Sugar: 1g

Disclaimer: The Nutritional Information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.

Course Basics
Cuisine American, Indian

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4.72 from 7 votes

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4 Comments

  1. Hi, do I need to pre soak the lentils? Also, my rice cooker only has 2 settings – “keep warm” & “cook”. Is that ok?

    1. No soaking them first, that will make them too soft. And that should be fine! Just set it to cook and it should work well! Hope it goes well 🙂

  2. 3 stars
    I used the instant pot, 9 minutes, and the lentils are mushy. Is this normal? thanks

    1. Hi! Did you release the pressure immediately after 9 minutes of pressure cooking? If you used green or brown lentils they should be soft but not mushy.

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