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Why won't my lentils come out "fluffy"? Does anyone;'s lentils come out fluffy?

I have a recipe for a nice lentil dish (lentils, caramelized onions, herbs & spices) that includes the direction to get your cooked lentils "fluffy".

When I cook *red* lentils, either after first soaking them, or cookg them w/o soaking, they come out kind of mushy, even cooked for a short period of time; there's no way these things are gonna get "fluffy".

Can regular brown lentils ever be cooked so as to get "fluffy"?

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  1. Brown and green lentils will cook up, well, separately--not sure what fluffy is. Red and yellow lentils won't, no matter what you do, because they're split and meant to be soupy. You don't need to soak any lentils, just cook them till crunchy-tender (the amount of time depends on what kind of lentils), then drain and proceed. For lentil salads, I cook them like noodles (in more than enough water, then drain) rather than like rice (just the right ratio of water:rice, no draining).

    1. Le puy or (French baby lentils) hold their shape, if that's your goal (I am not sure what fluffy means wrt lentils). Brown lentils fare better than red. I've never cooked red lentils without them breaking, but that is actually what I want them to do, as I cook them in dals and soups.

      1. Rinse the dry lentils until the water runs clear and you can run your fingers through the mass freely. Cook them up and they won't clump.

        1. We regularly cook red, green and Puy lentils. There's never been the slightest hint that they might be fluffy - and I'm not sure if that's an effect I'd welcome.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            You're right. "Fluffy" is an inappropriate word to use describing lentils of any sort. I suspect what the original intent was was to avoid the gumminess of starchy lentils. That's why rinsing was what occurred to me.

            Watching them and not overcooking them might be where the instruction was going too. That still wouldn't be "fluffy" but it's much more appetizing.

          2. Red lentils are supposed to break down and disappear into the finished dish. The only lentils I've made that come out non-mushy are green (French) lentils. Brown ones can be made "fluffy" (ish) only if you cook them just until done, but there's a very short window of time in which they are cooked, but not mushy.

            The recipe you describe sounds middle eastern, and I'll bet the fluffy texture the recipe means is more dry and paste-like than a bunch of intact lentils. Most of my middle eastern recipes call for red lentils and do come out mushy, but delicious. If this bothers you, try switching to green lentils.

            1. I love red lentils but they require very little cooking. I usually add my flavoring agents to the pan, pour in the washed lentils, heat to a boil then turn off the heat. In thirty minutes or so the lentils are done. If not I can always bring up the heat and cook for a few more minutes.

              1. try pre soaking overnight dont add salt
                dont add any tomato either till fully cooked
                try different variety too I hear red ones are really good

                1 Reply
                1. re: goodspirit

                  its possible to get a more fluffy dry lentil texture, like for example bengali dal fry. Mung dal or red lentils would be best for this. Soaking and then cooking in a limited amount of water or cooking the final stage in an oven steaming process (could be together with rice as in kichri or mujadara) could be useful techniques for this. Cant say Ive ever seen a truly fluffy texture with puy or other green lentils.

                2. Lentils get creamy and "unfluffy" when cooked on top of the stove due to stirring.
                  I had phenomenal southern style lentils that I thought were fluffy 1 time visiting Alabama. It was a lunch buffet at a factory and they baked them covered in the oven. No stirring eliminated the squashing of some lentils which causes the creamy sensation.

                  1. When I cook lentils in my rice cooker they turn out remarkably good; somewhat dry and with a texture that can only be described as "fluffy". Unfortunately I don't know how to replicate this without the rice cooker. Perhaps I will try baking them as jnunzman mentioned.