Lentils are high in protein, fiber and contain such nutrients as folate, potassium, and phosphorus. Thus, lentils can make a part of a healthy and balanced diet.
But cooking lentils can be time-consuming. Having lentils pre-made would be a great solution.
But can you freeze lentils? You can freeze cooked lentils, as well as leftover canned lentils. Dried and cooked lentils can last 6 months in the freezer; canned lentils will taste best for up to 2 months. You can then thaw them in the microwave, fridge, or warm water, or add them directly to your dish.
Continue reading for a detailed guide on how to cook, freeze, and defrost lentils, as well as cooking ideas and tips to achieve the best result.
Freezing Lentils – Right or Wrong?
Having cooked lentils in your freezer will allow you to put together a hearty dish within minutes.
Cooking lentils and freezing them in portions will not only save you time but also money. Buying canned lentils certainly costs more than a bag of dried lentils.
Now you can cook a big batch of lentils on the weekend and have some ready for the months to come.
How to Cook and Freeze Lentils
We strongly recommend cooking lentils before you freeze them, as they will be much more useful to you when they thaw. Unlike beans that require soaking and cook long, lentils don’t take too much time to be done.
Here is how to cook and freeze lentils for later use:
- Rinse the lentils well making sure to discard stones, debris, and pebbles.
- Put the lentils into a pot of cold water. The water should be covering the lentils for half an inch.
- Bring the lentils to simmer and boil for 20 to 30 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the variety you are using.
- Keep an eye on the lentils while they are boiling and add water to keep them covered.
- Strain the lentils once they are ready. Perfectly cooked lentils are neither too soft nor too crunchy.
- If possible, leave the lentils on the strainer for a longer time to get rid of the moisture as much as possible. Too much water in lentils makes them stick together once frozen.
- Divide strained lentils into portions. Keep in mind that the smaller the portions are the less time you will spend on thawing.
- Pour the lentils into airtight plastic bags or containers. Don’t overpack the container or freezer bag with lentils. As freezing causes the product to expand, make sure to leave some extra space.
- Label the containers with the date and portion size.
Don’t add salt to the lentils until they are cooked. Otherwise, they will become softer and lose their shape.
If you are freezing lentils to later use them in recipes where they will be cooking along with other ingredients, you can cook the lentils less.
This way, when cooking stews or soups, you can let the lentils get fully done while other ingredients in the dish are cooking.
If you do cook the lentils all the way through, add them to the rest of the ingredients when the dish is almost done.
How Long Do Cooked Lentils Last in the Freezer?
Cooked and frozen lentils will maintain their best qualities for about 6 months in the freezer.
They will remain safe after that if you have provided all the necessary conditions and kept the lentils in a way that they are not exposed to air.
In any case, closely examine thawed lentils. If they have an off-putting smell or have mold, discard the lentils.
Can You Freeze Dried Lentils?
Dried lentils have quite a long shelf life. They will keep for over 2 to 3 years in your pantry and remain safe for consumption even after that.
The only thing you need to do is to maintain the right conditions. Dried lentils should be kept in a cool and dry place, in a tightly closed package.
While you can wash and freeze dried lentils in the freezer works, you will get little use out of doing so, because you will still need to cook them once they are out of the freezer.
Freezing cooked lentils is preferable, as it will save you a lot of time and effort.
Can You Freeze Canned Lentils?
Sometimes you open a can of lentils, use as much as needed in the recipe and see that you are left with enough lentils to make a good-sized portion of soup or curry.
But what if you are not in the mood for a lentil dish for the upcoming week or so? Can you freeze leftover canned lentils?
Leftover canned lentils will last for a maximum of 4 days in the fridge and much longer in the freezer.
To save leftover canned lentils you will need to rinse the lentils with cold water and put them in an airtight container, sealable plastic bag, or a freezable jar. Canned lentils will keep for around 2 months in the freezer if they are stored properly.
To use frozen canned lentils, add them directly to hot dishes, such as casseroles or stews.
Keep in mind that frozen and thawed canned lentils will change their texture becoming mushy and softer than they previously were.
How to Defrost Frozen Lentils
Defrosting lentils is easy. It is a matter of minutes if you need something quick to put together a filling dinner. Here are 4 easy methods of defrosting frozen lentils.
Defrost Lentils in the Microwave
To defrost frozen lentils in the microwave, put the lentils in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave the lentils on medium to high for 2 to 3 minutes until the lentils are ready to use in the recipe of your choice.
Defrost Lentils in the Fridge
If you don’t need the lentils at that very moment, defrost them in the fridge. Transfer the bag of frozen lentils into the refrigerator and let it sit there until the lentils are fully defrosted.
Run Under Warm Water
If you have lentils frozen in a bag, it is quite convenient to quickly defrost them under running warm water. You can use this method to thaw the lentils and reheat them in the microwave.
Put Directly into the Dish
When making a stew, soup, or casserole, you can easily put frozen lentils directly into the dish. As you cook them, lentils will thaw and become one with the rest of the ingredients.
How to Use Defrosted Lentils?
There are so many things you can make with defrosted lentils. Here are some ideas:
- Sprinkle defrosted green lentils over a salad.
- Add lentils to a hearty stew with a bunch of vegetables.
- Make a delicious pasta sauce.
- Cook a hearty lentil soup and serve with crostini.
Tips for Freezing and Defrosting Lentils
If you like your lentils to be slightly crispy rather than mushy, do not cook them all the way through before freezing.
Cooking the lentils so that they reach a crispy-tender texture won’t make them mushy and too soft once they are defrosted.
This tip is for you if you don’t like freezing lentils as they stick together and lose their shape once defrosted.
Spread cooked lentils on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer. Transfer the lentils into plastic bags or containers once they are frozen. This way, you will keep the lentils nice and separated.
If you are thinking of freezing some lentils for further use, think of the dishes you want to cook and only then choose the variety to work with.
Green and brown lentils maintain their shape well when cooked, frozen, and defrosted. Red and yellow lentils, however, are split, which causes them to become mushy when cooked.
So, green and brown lentils are quite versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes, from salads to stews. Red and yellow lentils, however, are best used for purees, food for babies, dips, and any recipe where the softer texture of lentils is preferable.
Related: Can You Freeze Lentil Soup?
If you didn’t know that lentils expand when cooked and you have accidentally ended up with more soup or stew than you can eat, you can easily freeze it for another occasion.
Here is how to freeze lentil soup:
- If the soup is still warm, let it cool down.
- If you are diving the soup in portions, make sure to stir it well so that there is enough water, lentils, and other ingredients in each bag. The last thing you want is having only liquid in one bag and only lentils in another one.
- Pour the soup into a plastic bag, squeeze out the air by leaving some space for the soup to expand when it freezes.
- Flatten the bag to save space in the cold storage.
To thaw the soup, let it defrost in the fridge for 10 to 12 hours and only then pour it in a saucepan and heat it.
Freezing and defrosting lentil soup may affect the texture. The defrosted stew or soup will be thicker than it was before freezing. But it is not a problem at all as you may add water or broth to make it liquidy again.