How great are lentils? They’re pretty easy and quick to make, they taste great, and they are also super healthy! It’s hard to ask for much more of a dish. Since they are not only rich in vitamins and minerals and compared to their bean family members like brown beans, kidney beans, or black beans, they are much quicker to cook, it’s no surprise why they are such a great ingredient to keep on hand to use in a variety of foods.
Personally, my favorite lentil-based food is dahl. It’s an incredibly rich and delicious food that’s perfect cooked as a large batch in a big pot. In fact, I make this quite frequently in a large batch and save most of it for quick meals throughout the week or month. You may be wondering how I can do that, and it’s as simple as freezing it! Pretty much all lentil dishes freeze very well, from soups to curries. So, you can keep a tasty, lentil dish on hand at all times!
Read on for our complete guide to freezing, thawing and using cooked lentil dishes.
Is It Safe To Freeze Cooked Lentils?
Yes, it’s completely safe to freeze cooked lentils. In fact, that’s the best way to freeze them. Dried lentils are fine to stay in the pantry for months or even years on end. The same goes for canned lentils.
However, if you want to store lentils that are cooked, which are much tastier than their canned counterparts, then you will definitely want to freeze them. But, of course, they need to be stored in the proper manner for them to be edible months down the road. And this goes for all of the dishes. It’s completely safe to freeze them all, from lentil soup to dahl.
Why Batch Cooking and Freezing Lentil Dishes is a Good Idea
I briefly alluded to it, but freezing cooked lentil dishes is a great idea because it can save you time and also prevent any leftovers from going bad. If you are into meal prep and like to plan your meals for the week or even the month, then this is a particularly good idea.
It’s such a good idea because the typical dishes that you cook with lentils generally freeze very well. And while lentils may already be pretty quick and easy to cook, sometimes it’s still too much to make a whole meal, especially if you live a busy and hectic life. So, to save you time you can just cook an extra-large batch of whatever lentil dish you like and then store many portions in the freezer. This way, if you are ever short on time or just feeling lazy, you can whip up a tasty and healthy freezer meal in no time, just by heating it up.
The kicker is that you’ll also save money. As most people know, buying in bulk from a big-box store can save you money in the long run. However, sometimes it can be difficult to use everything before it goes bad. By making a big batch you can use the food you bought in bulk much easier.
How to Freeze Cooked Lentil Dishes
Just like lentils are easy to cook, lentil dishes are also very easy to freeze as well. I’ll go through the steps of how to freeze some of the most popular lentil dishes: normal lentils, dahl, and lentil soup.
Like most other foods, if you plan on freezing something you should store it in the freezer as soon as possible. So, after you have made the lentils this is how you should freeze them. This approach works for all types, including red and green lentils:
- First, allow them to cool to room temperature.
- Next, strain the lentils to get rid of as much moisture as possible. Allow them to sit in a strainer for some minutes to get rid of as much water as possible.
- Dive the strained lentils into portions, either in freezer-safe Tupperware containers, or freezer-safe bags. Having more portions that are smaller sized is always safer as you can always take more, rather than being stuck with too much that’s been defrosted.
- Don’t overpack the containers as the lentils will slightly expand when they freeze.
- Label the containers and then store them in the freezer.
Red lentil Dahl is a delicious dish that’s quick and simple to make. Freezing dahl is also a very easy process, with only a couple of differences from regular lentils. This is how you do it:
- Allow the dahl to completely cool to room temperature, but don’t let it stay at room temperature for more than two hours. The sooner the better.
- Then, ladle the desired amount of each portion into a corresponding freezer-safe container or freezer bag. Make sure that the containers or bags are airtight.
- Label the bags or containers and place them in the freezer.
Freezing Lentil Soup
The steps to freezing red lentil soup (or any other lentil-based dishes for that matter) are pretty much just like freezing dahl.
- Allow the soup to cool to room temperature and then place it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
- Once the soup has chilled, take it out of the fridge and ladle the soup into a freezer-safe container or freezer bag. Remember to consider the portions you would like to use in the future.
- Then, label each container and then place them in the freezer.
How Long Can You Keep Cooked Lentil Dishes in the Freezer?
Since lentils and lentil dishes are pretty hearty, they can stay in the freezer for quite a while before they start to decline in quality. Assuming that they were stored in an airtight container or bag, cooked lentils or cooked lentil dishes like dahl will last up to six months. They will still be edible after that, but you may start to notice extra ice crystals forming and/or a decline in the taste and texture of the lentils or dish.
How to Defrost Cooked Lentil Dishes
Defrosting frozen lentils is super easy and you have four different options.
In the Microwave
To use the microwave to defrost the frozen lentils simply put the lentils in a microwave-safe bowl and then heat them on medium to high for two to three minutes. Check if they’re fully defrosted. If not, repeat the process in 30 second increments until the lentils are ready to use.
In the Fridge
This method takes a bit longer, but it’s convenient if you have the time. You simply just take the desired portions from the freezer and place them in the fridge. Usually, if you put them in the fridge the night before, they will be ready to go the next day.
Under Warm Water
If the lentils are in a plastic bag then running them under warm water, or soaking the bag in warm water is a good way to defrost them as well. It’s quicker than the fridge, and you don’t risk starting to cook them again like in the microwave.
Cooking them Directly
Lastly, particularly in the case of a lentil dish, you simply just cook them as you would normally. So, if it’s lentil soup or dahl, you can put the frozen dish into a pot and heat it up, and then serve it over rice or plain. Or, if you will be adding uncooked lentils to a dish, you can also do that!
You just need to keep in mind that adding frozen lentils while cooking will extend the time needed to cook it.
Can You Refreeze Cooked Lentil Dishes?
Similar to most other foods, it’s not recommended to refreeze cooked leftover lentils after they have been defrosted. This is also a good reason to freeze multiple smaller portions to prevent this problem and that you use only what you defrost.