Q. I like to make lentil pilafs and salads, but I don’t always have the time to cook up the lentils when I feel like eating them. I have tried canned lentils before, but they are tiny and have a weird texture that I don’t really like. A friend suggested that I just freeze some cooked lentils, and then thaw them in the microwave when I want to use them. I would love to do this, but I’m not sure if cooked lentils will freeze well. I would hate to thaw out a batch only to find that they are ruined. Can you freeze cooked lentils?
A. Yes, you can freeze cooked lentils, although not all varieties are a good choice for freezing. For best results and lentils that hold their shape and texture, green lentils are the best type of lentils to use for cooking and freezing. Other types tend to go mushy and fall apart, although brown lentils can also be frozen quite well if you can’t find green lentils.
How to freeze cooked lentils?
Be sure to rinse lentils well and pick through them to remove any small rocks or pebbles that may have made it into the pack of lentils. Cook lentils until still firm but not hard in the middle. Your teeth should sink through the lentil cleanly without it falling apart.
The key to successfully freezing lentils is in the draining of them after cooking. If the lentils contain liquid when frozen, they will continue to absorb the liquid and become mushy and soft. Strain the lentils more than once, and then let them dry on paper towels or a clean dish towel. When cool and dry, lentils can be spooned into a freezer bag or a hard freezer-safe container. I recommend the hard container in this case because the lentils are less likely to get squished and mushy in the freezer. Place the lid on the container, then label and date it.
To thaw frozen cooked lentils, remove them from the freezer and place them in the fridge for several hours or overnight, until they are completely thawed. They can them be used cold in salads, or added to hot recipes. Lentils can also be thawed in the microwave or by being added directly to recipes as they are cooking. Consume within two days for best results. It is not recommended to refreeze previously frozen cooked lentils.