Lentils are great. They are healthy, versatile and cheap to buy but, and this is a big but, they aren’t that easy to cook. Too much water and too long a cook and they end up a mushy mess. Too little water, and too little time and its like eating small bullets – not pleasant and it can end up in a large dental bill.
So, its not surprising that most people who enjoy lentils find themselves standing over the stove watching them cook for what seems like an eternity.
However, you may be surprised to discover than that the humble rice cooker can produce some of the best lentils you will ever taste. So, lets look at the process and discover exactly how to cook lentils in a rice cooker.
Our Top Rice Cookers For Lentils
Are Lentils Healthy?
Ok, you have probably seen them in health-food stores and in lifestyle magazine recipes but do you know why, or even if, lentils really are as healthy as the experts say? Well, given that they are high in protein and fiber and low in fat, its not hard to see the benefits. They are also rich in iron, zinc and potassium and are a great source of vitamin B.
One of the biggest health benefits to be derived from lentils is to use them as a replacement for animal proteins and move to a more plant-based diet. By using them to reduce your fat intake and raise your fiber intake, the health benefits will be immediate and significant. In fact according to the journal of American medicine, substituting animal for plant protein is associated with a lower risk of early death – and thats something that everyone should be interested in.
They are also an extremely versatile cooking ingredient because they hold flavor really well and, when cooked properly, they can be molded into patties or used as the base for soups. You can also use them as taco filling, add them to salads and mix them into stews so, really, when it comes to versatility they simply can’t be beaten.
So, they are healthy, they are cheap and they are versatile. But how do you actually cook them? Well, lets take a look. But, before we dig into the process its probably worth taking a quick look at the different kinds of lentils you can buy.
Different Types Of Lentils
You might think that there is only one variety of the humble lentil – but you would be wrong. There are actually several types of lentils and they all have different cooking properties. Lets take a look at the main kinds of lentils available from most health food stores.
- Black Lentils: also called Beluga lentils because of their similar appearance to caviar, these lentils have a strong earthy flavor. They are less common than the other types of lentil so may not be available in your local area but they are worth trying if you get the chance. They are great fr sprinkling over sweet or baked potatoes or they are often added to salads. Like other lentils they can be pureed or roasted and give a lovely ping to savory snacks.
- Pink Lentils: often used in soups and stews because they break down quickly when cooking and form a smooth paste. They are similar in taste and consistency to the next type….
- Yellow Lentils: just like pink lentils they break down to form a smooth paste that is great for mixing into foods or making a base for soup. They are great for adding to minced beef so can be used to thicken bolognese or chili and are the parents best friend when trying to sneak some fiber into the kids diet 🙂
- Green lentils: also called French lentils, these are the smallest variety and take a bit longer to cook. They also tend to retain their shape so they aren’t great for soups or stews. They dont need to be soaked but if you choose not to soak them they will take longer to cook
So, as you can see there are several types of lentil available and this is important because, as you see, they all have slightly different properties. So, its important to adjust your cooking time and choose the right type depending on the consistency that you require.
So, that brings us to the most importation part of this article- what’s the process for actually cooking lentils and can you cook lentils in a rice cooker?
How To Cook Lentils In A Rice Cooker
Well, to answer the main question is – of course you can cook lentils in a rice cooker!! After all, a rice cooker – even one as sophisticated as the Zojirushi NP-NWC10XB is really just a big pot with a timer attached. Luckily, cooking lentils is very simple in a rice cooker – in fact, I can’t think of a better or easier way to cook them.
The secret is in the mix of water and lentils – I prefer to use 2 cups of water to every cup of lentils – and remember, you dont need to soak them but, if you choose to, you should use slightly less water in the cook as, obviously the lentils will already contain quite a lot of moisture.
I like to add a few herbs and spices while they cook and fresh garlic or some thyme makes a great addition to what can, otherwise, be a bt of a bland dish.
Top Tip: One thing you should never do is add acidic products into the cook. So, avoid ingredients like tomatoes or lemon juice as these actually cause the lentil skins to go tough and they take longer to cook. Of course, if your rice cooker is on a timer this will ruin the end product so, if anything add these in at the end after they cook is complete.
Cooking couldn’t be simpler. I avoid any complicated programming and just aim cook them for around 40 minutes. Just make sure the lentils and water are well mixed after adding them to the pot and you will get great results.
So, there you have it. It turns out you can cook lentils in a rice cooker and, not only that but its really easy and using your rice cooker is a real time-saver.
If you want to find out how to cook other dishes in a rice cooker – that aren’t plain rice – then maybe you should check out my article on how to cook sushi rice in a rice cooker or how to cook pasta in a rice cooker. Once you understand the possibilities you will open up a whole new world of cuisine.