How to Cook Lentils in a Rice Cooker


Although the name may suggest otherwise, ricer cookers don’t just cook rice. If you are getting tired of the same rice dishes day in and day out, you might consider swapping to another grain. An excellent option is lentils because they taste great and are packed with nutrients. But can they be cooked in a rice cooker? The simple answer is, yes.

What Are Lentils and Why Should You Eat Them?

A lentil  is a grain legume and is known for being the third highest plant-based protein element. Not only are they high in protein, though. Lentils are also jam-packed with a wide variety of nutrients per ½ cup, including:

  • 9 Grams of Protein
  • 8 Grams of Fiber
  • 20 Grams of Carbohydrates
  • 1 Gram of Fat
  • 3.3 Milligrams of Iron
  • 1.27 Milligrams of Zinc
  • 369 Milligrams of Potassium
  • Good source of B Vitamin including Folate

Lentils aren’t just a great option for healthy eating. They are also a great swap for regular rice – alone or in a recipe. This is because rice and lentils have similar textures. Lentils also have the ability to easily soak up flavors. They can be used in a variety of applications, from veggie patties to salad toppings. 

With versatility and a high nutrient label, it’s easy to see why lentils are becoming a staple in the kitchen. If you are thinking about adding lentils to your diet, you’re likely wondering how they’re cooked. This next section will describe how you can utilize your convenient rice cooker as a lentil cooker, too.

How to Cook Lentils in a Rice Cooker

What You Need

You will need the following:

  • 1 Cup of Lentils
  • 2 Cups of Purified Water
  • Strainer
  • Spoon
  • Container or Bowl

Steps to Cook Lentils in a Rice Cooker

  1. Begin by thoroughly rinsing the lentils. Just as you would wash rice before cooking, you need to rinse lentils, too. Use clean, purified water while washing. Continue to wash until dirt-free. 
  2. Add water and lentils to the rice cooker. For every cup of lentils, you will need 2 cups of water. For this step-by-step guide, you will be placing 2 cups of purified cold water into the rice cooker. Pour one cup of lentils on top.
  3. (Optional) Add seasonings. At this point, you can add seasonings to your lentils. Remember – lentils are stellar at absorbing flavors. Some of the favorites are bay leaves, some olive oil, turmeric powder, chili powder, or garlic. Avoid salt and acids as these can make the lentils tougher and harder to cook. 
  4. Mix and cook. Mix the lentils and water thoroughly before cooking. Place the rice cooker on a regular cooking cycle for 40 minutes. 

Does Lentil Type/Color Matter?

Lentils come in a variety of types with different colors. They range from black and brown to yellows and pinks. They will all have different results. The good news is, they all cook the exact same way in a rice cooker. Keep these things in mind, though:

  • Black Lentils. Have an earthy taste compared to other lentils. May want to add more seasoning.
  • Brown Lentils. They have a mild taste. They will need to be spruced up with seasonings.
  • French/Green Lentils. These are smaller and may require an additional 2-3 minutes for the best results.
  • Pink Lentils. These lentils have a tendency to break down. They are best reserved for soups and stews.
  • Red Lentils. Red lentils do not hold their shape due to their thin and soft makeup. That being said, red lentils are best used in thick soups or purees.
  • Yellow Lentils. These are similar to red lentils, just a different color. Use these for soups, stews, and purees.

Cooking Tips

Here are a few helpful tips and tricks for making the best lentils in a rice cooker:

  • Stir halfway through. For the best results, it’s recommended to open the lid of the rice cooker halfway through the cooking process. This will ensure that the lentils are cooked thoroughly.
  • Never add salt or acids before cooking. Salt and acids will automatically make the lentils tougher. In turn, the cooking time of 40 minutes will not be enough. Depending on how much salt and acids are added, cooking time can vary greatly. It’s best to avoid adding these ingredients until after cooking.
  • Always follow recipe instructions. When using a recipe for the rice cooker utilizing lentils as the main ingredient, always follow the instructions. 
  • Lentils will double in size. Even though it might seem like you’re cooking a small amount, don’t be overly concerned. Lentils double their size before you see the final product.

How Is It Different Than Stovetop Cooking?

Many people simply cook their lentils on the stove in a large saucepan. How does this differ from cooking lentils in a rice cooker, though? Though both methods require you to wash the lentils thoroughly beforehand, there are some major differences. 

  • Cooking on a stovetop requires more water. Stovetop instructions call for 3 cups of liquid per 2 cup of lentils. A rice cooker only requires 2 cups of water per 1 cup of lentils. 
  • Cook time for stovetop lentils is less at just 15 to 20 minutes. The rice cooker needs 40 minutes to complete.

Recipes to Try

Ready to take the plunge into lentil rice cooking? Here are a few great recipes you might want to try:

  • Rice and Lentils. This is ideal for the lentil “newbie” who isn’t sure if they are going to enjoy just lentils. This combo combines the “safety” of rice with the beauty of lentils. It makes for a very flavorful side dish. 
  • Red Lentil Soup. A soup made right in the rice cooker? You bet. This hearty soup is easy to throw together, and you can adjust to make it as spicy or mild as you’d like. 
  • Pasta with Lentils. Who doesn’t love pasta? This dish makes it easy to get a good helping of protein without any meat in a delicious, spaghetti-like sauce. 

Final Thoughts

Lentils are an excellent addition to any diet. They can easily be subbed in any rice side dish or main dish. Cooking in a rice cooker is a cinch. Simply add 2 cups of liquid per 1 cup of lentils. Cooking time is typically 40 minutes. Remember that certain types of lentils are more prone to breaking down than others, which can affect the end result

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