Do Lentils Need to Be Soaked? (What Happens if You Don’t Soak Lentils?)

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Do Lentils Need to Be Soaked?

It’s not necessary to soak lentils but it is recommended that you do so because there are many advantages of this. If you soak lentils before cooking, it will essentially reduce cooking time by half. Soaking them also makes them easier to digest.  One thing you should know is that lentils have several varieties and the advantages of soaking them vary depending on the type.

Brown lentils, for instance, should be soaked and so should the French green lentils, yellow lentils, and black lentils. Red lentils on the other hand should not be soaked as doing so will remove their outer skin.

There is much debate on whether lentils need to be pre-soaked. And while it won’t ultimately make or break the quality of your dish, soaking lentils before cooking will help remove some of the gas-causing oligosaccharides that lend a flatulence-producing reputation to this legume. Soaking will also soften the lentil skins, making them easier to digest.

10 Reasons Why You Should Soak Lentils

Lentils are small, but they pack a nutritional punch. They’re high in protein and low in calories, and they contain a variety of beneficial plant compounds. Lentils are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals and soaking them is the best way to maximize their potential:

So why soak lentils?

  1. Reduces Cooking Time: This is the most basic reason people soak lentils, to reduce their cooking time. After they have soaked, lentils can be cooked in just 15-20 minutes.
  2. Easier to Digest: As mentioned above, soaking breaks down the lectins and antinutrients that are found in lentils and other legumes. Lectins bind up nutrients and inhibit digestion and absorption of vitamins, minerals, and protein. They block enzymes that digest protein, so even if you were to eat a large number of lentils, your body wouldn’t be able to utilize their protein content fully. Antinutrients also inhibit enzyme activity, especially those needed for digestion. Soaking (and sprouting) reduces levels of these harmful compounds in legumes significantly (source).
  3. Reduces Bloating & Gas: Because they are difficult to digest when unsoaked, it’s no surprise that legumes can cause some serious bloating and gas! Soaking reduces the levels of phytic acid, raffinose, and tannins in beans, which are all the culprits for causing those unwanted symptoms.
  4. Increase their nutrient content: Soaking allows for more of the nutrients in beans, such as thiamin, calcium, and iron, to be absorbed by your body when eaten.
  5. Increase digestive enzymes: Soaking allows the beans to release enzymes that help with digestion and will make them easier to cook and digest.
  6. Increase their fiber content: By soaking legumes you increase the fiber content in them. Fiber not only helps you feel full longer but also helps aid digestion and prevent constipation.
  7. Remove anti-nutrients: Anti-nutrients are substances that are naturally present in many foods that inhibit the absorption of nutrients during digestion. Anti-nutrients present in legumes can bind to nutrients such as iron, zinc, and calcium, making them less absorbable by our bodies during digestion. Soaking helps reduce levels of these anti-nutrients in legumes allowing our bodies to absorb the maximum amount of nutrients from them when we eat them.
  8. Removes Phytic Acid: Phytic acid is an anti-nutrient found in legumes that binds to minerals like iron and zinc. This can inhibit your body from effectively absorbing and utilizing nutrients from the food you eat…and phytic acid is not good! Soaking beans allows for the phytic acids in them to be broken down and removed before cooking.
  9. Increase the absorption of protein: Soaking beans allows your body to break down the proteins into amino acids, which are much easier to digest.
  10. Reduces pesticides: Some studies have shown that soaking can help reduce pesticide residues on foods (this does not include those foods that have been genetically modified or have been grown using synthetic pesticides).

What Happens if You Don’t Soak Lentils?

The primary concern when it comes to not soaking lentils is that it increases their cooking time. Apart from this, if you don’t soak them before cooking, it is likely they will be a bit difficult to digest for you. However, it’s usually not a problem for many people.

Generally, you are fine to consume lentils that haven’t been soaked before cooking. They lack sulfur which means you shouldn’t be concerned about them eliminating gas when cooked. Just be sure to rinse them to remove possible dirt.

But if you are short on time or simply forget to soak lentils before cooking, you can still cook without soaking them first. You just need to add a bit more water or stock than you usually do and increase the cooking time slightly.

Additionally, lentils such as brown, red and green ones have the ability to absorb water due to their tiny size and won’t even require much additional liquid when you cook them unsoaked. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that these take slightly longer to cook (usually 20-30 minutes).

Why is it Important to Soak Lentils?

There are many reasons why you should soak lentils before cooking. While there aren’t any noticeable disadvantages of not soaking them, there are many significant benefits of soaking that make the extra time you spend doing so worth it.

The advantages include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Improved texture
  • Decreased cooking time
  • Easier digestion
  • Decreased phytic acids, enzyme inhibitors, tannins, and gas and bloating
  • Increased mineral absorption

Do You Soak Lentils in Hot or Cold Water?

You can soak lentils in either hot or cold water depending on your preferences. That said, the best results are achieved when you soak lentils in hot water. Soaking them in hot water will help you ensure that they are easy to digest and have improved texture.

You should soak lentils in hot water for at least 15 minutes. You can also soak them overnight if you wish. But if you don’t have the time, then using cold water is a more suitable option. Simply put lentils in a strainer and soak them in cold water for a few minutes before cooking.

How Long Should You Soak Lentils Before Cooking?

Soaking dried beans, lentils and some peas speeds their cooking and reduces any potential side effects (gassiness in beans and lentils, flatulence in peas). It also helps reduce the cooking time. The easiest way to soak dried peas, beans, and lentils is overnight.

Use enough water to completely cover the legumes by a few inches. Soak at room temperature and change the water two or three times while they soak. This prevents bacteria from growing which can affect legume quality and make them less digestible.

You can soak lentils for any amount of time before cooking. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can soak them for 15-30 minutes. However, for optimal results and benefits such as easy digestion, you should soak lentils for at least 2 hours before cooking.

Another option is to soak them overnight but doesn’t do it for more than 12 hours. Considering these, the ideal soaking time for lentils is 2-8 hours. After soaking them, drain the water and give them a quick rinse with cold, fresh water and you are all set to cook.

Do I Need to Soak Lentils for Soup?

No. There’s no need to soak lentils if you intend to use them for soup. All you need to do is simply rinse and drain them before proceeding. This will help you ensure that there isn’t any dirt on them. You don’t need to soak lentils for soup and this is true for all types of lentils. It is in fact one of the primary reasons why lentils soups are so popular.

Do You Have to Soak Lentils Before Slow Cooking?

No. Soaking lentils is generally only done for normal cooking. For slow cooking, there’s no need to soak or pre-cook lentils. This makes them very easy to cook when using a slow cooker or stove. However, don’t forget to rinse them for the best results.

Simply rinse and then place them in a large saucepan. Next, fill the can with water and put it in the pot. Stir to make sure that they are covered by the liquid. Then you can proceed to your slow cooking process.

Is it Bad to Soak Lentils?

No. It’s actually recommended to soak them because of the various benefits. The only time soaking lentils is bad is when it has been done for too long. Generally, the longer you soak lentils, the healthier they become.

The ideal soaking time for lentils is 2-8 hours. The maximum you can go for is 12 hours. If you soak them for longer than this, they will start to germinate or sprout, and become more difficult to digest.

Does Soaking Lentils Reduce Gas?

Yes. It is believed that if you soak lentils in water for the optimal duration before cooking, it makes them easier to digest and less likely to cause gas. You should aim to soak the lentils for a few hours or if you have the time, soak them overnight. After that, give them a good rinse before you proceed to cook. In this way, any gas-producing carbohydrates will be washed away.

In summary, at the end of it all, it doesn’t really matter if you should soak lentils before cooking them as they will cook down anyway. In the end, you will simply need to adjust the cooking time to match your preferred level of tenderness. The best part is that cooked lentils will still retain some texture, so you get all the health benefits without sacrificing texture!

Soaking your beans helps break down those complex sugars and make them easier to digest—which means less gas for you. Soaking also reduces the phytic acid content of legumes which makes it easier for our bodies to absorb the nutrients in them.

Dried legumes are a wonderful pantry staple that cooks can rely on for quick and healthy meals throughout the week. Beans, peas, and lentils all have the same basic nutritional profile and make a great addition to soups, stews, chilis, salads, casseroles, and more.

You may also be interested in… Do Bell Peppers Need to Be Refrigerated? (How Do You Know if a Bell Pepper is Bad?) and Do Olives Need to Be Refrigerated? (Do Unopened Olives Go Bad?)