If you’re a fan of lentils, you’re not alone. This protein-rich superfood is packed with nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, making it a nutritional powerhouse for vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike. Lentils are also easy to cook and incredibly versatile, making them a go-to ingredient for soups, stews, salads, and more. However, like all food, lentils have a shelf life, and if you don’t store them properly, they can go bad. In this guide, we’ll show you how to keep your lentils fresh for longer, answer some common questions about lentil storage, and share some tips for cooking with lentils.
How Long Do Lentils Last?
The shelf life of lentils depends on a variety of factors, including the storage conditions, the type of lentil, and whether they are cooked or not. In general, uncooked lentils can last anywhere from one to two years, while cooked lentils will typically last for three to five days in the refrigerator.
Factors That Affect the Shelf Life of Lentils
The following factors can impact how long your lentils will last:
- Storage Conditions: Lentils should be stored in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and moisture. Exposure to heat, humidity, and light can cause lentils to spoil more quickly.
- Type of Lentil: Different types of lentils have different shelf lives. Brown lentils, for example, have a longer shelf life than red lentils.
- Cooking: Cooked lentils will not last as long as uncooked lentils.
How to Store Lentils
Proper storage is key to keeping your lentils fresh for longer. Follow these tips to make sure your lentils stay fresh:
Step 1: Choose the Right Container
Lentils should be stored in an airtight container to keep out moisture, insects, and other contaminants. A glass jar or a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid works well. Avoid storing lentils in paper or plastic bags, as these can easily tear or puncture.
Step 2: Keep Them Cool and Dry
Store your lentils in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and moisture. A pantry or cupboard works well. Avoid storing your lentils near the stove or oven, as heat can cause them to spoil more quickly.
Step 3: Don’t Mix Old and New Lentils
When adding new lentils to your container, make sure to remove any old or discolored lentils first. Mixing old and new lentils can cause cross-contamination and lead to spoilage.
Step 4: Label and Date Your Container
Label and date your container so you know when you purchased or cooked the lentils. This will help you keep track of their shelf life and avoid using lentils that are past their prime.
Signs That Lentils Have Gone Bad
Like all food, lentils can go bad if they are not stored properly or if they are past their shelf life. Here are some signs that your lentils may have gone bad:
- Off smell: If your lentils have a sour or musty smell, they may have spoiled.
- Mold: If you notice any mold or mildew on the lentils, they should be discarded.
- Discoloration: Lentils that have turned brown, black, or gray should be thrown away.
- Bugs: If you see any insects or bugs in your lentils, discard them immediately.
Tips for Cooking with Lentils
Lentils are a versatile and easy-to-cook ingredient that can be used in a variety of recipes. Here are some tips for cooking with lentils:
Tip 1: Rinse Your Lentils
Rinse your lentils under cold water before cooking to remove any dirt or debris. You can also soak them for a few hours before cooking to help them cook more quickly and evenly.
Tip 2: Don’t Overcook Them
Lentils cook quickly, so be careful not to overcook them. Overcooked lentils can become mushy and lose their shape.
Tip 3: Add Flavor
Lentils are a great canvas for flavor. Add spices, herbs, or aromatics to your lentils to enhance their taste.
Tip 4: Use in a Variety of Recipes
Lentils can be used in a variety of recipes, from soups and stews to salads and even burgers. Experiment with different lentil recipes to find the ones you like best.
Q1: Can you eat lentils past their best-before date?
A: Lentils can still be eaten past their best-before date if they have been stored properly and there are no signs of spoilage. However, lentils that are past their best-before date may not cook as quickly or evenly as fresh lentils.
Q2: Do lentils need to be soaked before cooking?
A: Lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking, but soaking them can help them cook more quickly and evenly.
Q3: Can you freeze cooked lentils?
A: Yes, cooked lentils can be frozen for up to six months. Just make sure to store them in an airtight container and label them with the date.
Q4: How can you tell if lentils are cooked?
A: Lentils are cooked when they are tender but still hold their shape. Taste a few lentils to see if they are done to your liking.
Q5: Can you mix different types of lentils?
A: Yes, you can mix different types of lentils in a recipe. Just keep in mind that cooking times may vary depending on the type of lentil.
Lentils are a nutritious and versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of recipes. To keep your lentils fresh, make sure to store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and moisture. If you’ve never cooked with lentils before, give them a try! With their unique taste and texture, lentils are a must-try ingredient for any home cook.
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The Spruce Eats. (2021, April 23). How to Cook Lentils Perfectly Every Time. Retrieved January 6, 2022, from https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-cook-lentils-4162153
United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. (n.d.). Lentils. Retrieved January 6, 2022, from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/fsis-content/internet/main/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/food-product-dating/food-product-dating