The etiquette rules on how to serve and eat lentils. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest and avoid any embarrassment.

What lentils etiquette is

Lentils etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat lentils. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow the etiquette to serve lentils to your guests appropriately.

As a guest, respect the etiquette rules to properly eat lentils at the dining table and avoid offending your hosts or embarrassing yourself.

how to serve and eat lentils

What you should know about lentils

Lentils are small, lens-shaped legumes that are a staple in many cuisines around the world. They are members of the legume family, along with beans, chickpeas, and peas.

Lentils are typically small, round, and lens-shaped, and come in a range of colors including green, brown, red, and black. They have a firm texture and a mild, nutty flavor.

Etiquette rules to serve and eat lentils

1) How to store lentils

Store lentils in a cool, dry place, ideally at room temperature. You can store them in airtight containers in the pantry for up to a year. If storing in the fridge or freezer, you should place lentils in airtight containers or freezer bags to prevent moisture from getting in.

Store cooked lentils in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to six months.

2) How to clean lentils

Rinse and sort lentils before cooking to remove any debris or damaged lentils. There are no significant risks associated with cleaning lentils.

Signs that lentils have gone bad include a rancid or sour smell, mold, or discoloration.

3) How to prepare & cook lentils

Lentils must be cooked before consuming them. To prepare lentils for cooking, rinse and sort them, then add them to a pot with water or broth and any desired seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender. The most common ways to cook lentils include boiling, simmering, pressure cooking, and slow cooking.

Popular dishes made with lentils include lentil soup, lentil stew, dal (a type of Indian lentil soup), and lentil salads.

Lentils can be a great addition to salads and sandwiches. While they are not typically used in juices, smoothies, jams, or preserves, they can be a good protein source for vegan, keto, and paleo diets.

4) How to serve & present lentils

Lentils can be appropriate for a range of occasions, from informal meals to more formal occasions. They can be served as a side dish, main course, appetizer, or even in some desserts.

Lentils can be served in any type of bowl or plate and can be served with a spoon or fork.

Lentils can be accompanied by a range of seasonings and accompaniments, including spices like cumin and coriander, and herbs like thyme and rosemary.

5) Food and wine to pair lentils with

Lentils pair well with a range of vegetables and fruits, including tomatoes, peppers, onions, carrots, celery, kale, spinach, and citrus fruits. However, lentils may not pair well with certain fruits and vegetables that have a strong flavor or aroma, such as garlic.

Lentils can be paired with cheese and dairy, such as feta or goat cheese. However, some dairy products, such as cream or butter, may not pair well with lentils.

Lentils can be paired with a range of meats, including chicken, beef, lamb, and pork. They can also be paired with fish, such as salmon or tuna. However, some fish, such as shellfish, may not pair well with lentils.

Lentils pair well with both red and white wines. For red wines, choose medium-bodied and fruity wines such as Merlot, Syrah, or Chianti. Avoid full-bodied, tannic wines like Cabernet Sauvignon. For white wines, choose crisp and acidic wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. Avoid oaky or buttery wines like Chardonnay. Rosé wines, sparkling wines, and beer can also pair well with lentils, depending on the preparation and seasoning. Avoid sweet or heavy dessert wines and overly strong spirits.

6) How to eat lentils

The most polite way to eat lentils is to use a spoon or fork. It is not polite to eat lentils with your fingers. You can eat the whole lentils, but you should discard any debris or impurities before cooking.

Lentils etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the most common lentils etiquette mistakes:

  • 8/10. Not washing or sorting lentils properly before cooking.
  • 7/10. Picking through the lentils to find specific pieces or remove unwanted items.
  • 7/10. Slurping or making loud noises when eating lentils.
  • 6/10. Overcooking or undercooking lentils.

Additional information for properly serving lentils

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and correctly plan a menu.

Lentils contain about 230 calories per cooked cup (198 grams) or 116 calories per 100 grams. A single lentil contains about 2-3 calories, depending on the size.

How to buy the best lentils

A crucial factor in lentils etiquette is serving your guests the best product possible.

Season and availability 

Lentils are available all year round, but their quality and availability may vary depending on the season. The best season to buy lentils is usually late summer or early fall, when they are harvested and available in abundance.

Choose the best

Lentils are commonly found in commerce as dried or canned, although fresh lentils are also available in some specialty stores or farmers’ markets.

The most popular varieties of lentils in commerce are brown, green, and red lentils. Brown lentils are the most versatile and common type, with a mild and earthy flavor and firm texture that holds up well in soups and stews. Green lentils are slightly larger and firmer than brown lentils, with a nutty and slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with vegetables and herbs. Red lentils are smaller and softer than brown or green lentils, with a mild and sweet flavor that works well in curries and purees. French or Puy lentils, which are small and dark green, are also highly prized for their distinctive flavor and texture.

When buying lentils, look for lentils that are clean, dry, and uniform in size and color. Avoid lentils that are discolored, broken, or wrinkled, as these may be old or contaminated. You can also check the packaging date or best-before date to ensure freshness.

Alternatives to lentils

Common alternatives to lentils include other legumes such as chickpeas, beans, and peas, as well as grains like quinoa, rice, or barley. These can be used in similar dishes and preparations as lentils and provide similar nutritional benefits.