Turn To Your Rice Cooker For An Easier Way To Make Lentils

Lentils are a killer source of protein for plant-based foodies (or anyone), and they're packed with calcium, folate, and potassium. Just ½ cup of lentils has 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. Superfood much? They also boast versatility as an imaginative meat substitute. Lentils can be shaped into veggie burger patties, meatballs, falafel, used to top a savory salad, or enjoyed on their own — and with your rice cooker, it's never been easier to make 'em.

Rice cookers consist of a main body, an inner cooking pan, an electric heating plate, and a thermal-sensing device. The appliance works by moving through four phases: Sitting in water, boiling, absorbing water, and resting. As such, you can use your rice cooker to cook any type of dried bean or legume.

To do it, rinse and drain your lentils, then add them to your rice cooker with water. They don't need to be soaked beforehand. As a general rule, a 2:1 water-to-lentil ratio is ideal. For best results, remove the lid and stir the lentils halfway through the cooking process to make sure they thoroughly hydrate. Also, remember that your lentils will double in size from dry to cooked.

Work smarter, not harder

You can adjust the cooking time to achieve a firmer or creamier texture, whatever you prefer. Using a rice cooker instead of cooking on the stovetop is an extra easy swap because the rice cooker is a fill-it-and-leave-it kind of tool. You can literally step away while your lentils steam, cooking until the appliance automatically shuts off. Still, just like how long-grain brown rice requires a different cooking time from short-grain jasmine rice, different types of lentils can also require different cooks.

Yellow lentils tend to hold up best in a rice cooker. Brown and black lentils have blander flavors and would benefit from some additional spices. Smaller lentils like French or green lentils might require a few extra minutes of cooking time to soften. Unless you plan to puree them for a soup or sauce, steer clear of making softer red or pink lentils in a rice cooker, as they fall apart more easily.

You can also toss other flavorful ingredients into your rice cooker to infuse into your legumes as they steam. Chicken broth, bouillon, garlic, chili powder, olive oil, turmeric, and bay leaves are all solid options.

Looking for the best tool for the job? In our 2023 Awards, Tasting Table named the Zojirushi NS-TSC18 the overall best rice cooker currently on the market. It can hold up to 10 cups of uncooked rice (or lentils!), making it a solid option for dinners for the whole household or make-ahead meal prep.