Red vs. Green vs. Brown Lentils – A Detailed Comparison

We all love lentils. That’s why you are reading this post. Not only are lentils nutritious, but also delicious. However, lentils vary in different aspects. You will find that different lentils have different nutritional values, textures, cooking times, and more.

So, what are the differences between red, green, and brown lentils? Well, it can be a bit confusing, especially if you are a newbie. But not to worry.

We have prepared this post to discuss the difference between these three, and help you figure out the one you need for your recipe. Let’s dive right in.

An Overview

Before we dive into the differences, let’s look at an overview of these three types of lentils.

Red Lentils

red lentils

You will mostly find red lentils in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes. When they are cooked, they will normally become somewhat mushy. For that reason, it is a variety that is mainly preferred for soups, stews, as well as purees. They will cook for close to 20 minutes.

One of the main reasons why they are used is to give dishes a bright color and a savory nutty flavor.

Brown Lentils

Brown Lentils

Brown lentils will normally hold their shape after cooking properly. They are a great alternative to green lentils. Normally, they are widely used in North America. As for their flavor, they are earthy and milder.

You can use them in any way you’d like. That includes soups, for salad topping, as well as veggie burgers. You would have to cook them for around 30 to 40 minutes for them to be ready.

Green Lentils

green lentils

Green lentils have a peppery taste that makes them a great choice for salads, even though they would work as a side dish as well. These will take longer to cook because you will need around 45 minutes. Even after cooking that long, they will still hold their shape.

The original green lentils are the puy lentils, which have a gray-green color. They are preferred most because they are top regarding flavor and texture. For that reason, they are more expensive than other varieties.

Difference between Red Lentils vs. Brown Lentils vs. Green

3 types of lentils

In this section, we will talk about the different aspects of these three types of lentils and check out different they are from each other. Let’s go.


Well, regarding taste, you will notice a huge brown lentils vs. green difference. To start with, green lentils are the most delicious. Even though they will take longer to cook, they will be completely worth it. They have a zingy peppery taste that applies to most dishes, including salads.

Brown lentils, on the other hand, have a mild and earthy flavor that will still work for a range of recipes. That is a great taste to include in salads, veggie burgers, as well as soups, and more.

Finally, the red lentils are mildly sweet. However, their use might be limited because they require to be used in dishes that need their mushy texture when cooked.


One of the differences between red lentils vs. green and brown is the texture. Red lentils will become somehow mushy when they are cooked. For that reason, they are preferred for thickening purees, stews, and soups.

However, green and brown lentils do not become mushy when cooked. Even though they take time to cook completely, they will not change their shapes. They remain firm and that is why they are preferred in recipes where you need your lentils to be seen. That includes salads. Green and brown lentils are similar in this manner.


Now, let’s consider the nutritional value of each. Are red lentils as good as brown lentils or green lentils?

According to the USDA, half a cup of red lentils (uncooked) has 10g fiber, 22g protein, 6mg iron, 600mg potassium, and 40 mg calcium. This is the same for yellow lentils.

Half a cup of brown lentils (still uncooked) features 4mg iron, 26g fiber, 24g protein, as well as 80 mg calcium.

But what about green lentils? Well, half a cup of green lentils (dried) gives you 4mg iron, 80mg calcium, 24g protein, and 10g fiber.

Cooking time

Green lentils take the longest to cook properly. You will need to cook them for around 45 minutes, while it will only take brown lentils 30 to 40 minutes to be ready. Red lentils take the least time to cook. They will take around 30 minutes, at which point they will start to become mushy.


Green lentils, especially the French green (Lentils du Puy) are the most elegant and are most expensive compared to other types of lentils. The brown lentils are the least expensive of the three.

Remember: When making a purchase, make sure that they are dry, smooth, firm, and have a uniform color. Also, remember that lids are completely covered if you are buying in bulk and that you do not mix the older ones with new ones. Even though lentils do not go bad, older ones will take longer to cook. Mixing them will not produce uniform results when you cook.


So, can you substitute brown lentils for red lentils? Do brown and green replace each other? Well, here’s what you should know.

First, the brown and green lentils are similar in some ways, which includes the amount of time they need to cook and the expected texture of the cooked versions. For that reason, green and brown lentils will substitute each other properly.

Can I use brown instead of red lentils? Considering that one gets mushy when cooked, it is understandable to wonder about interchanging these. However, they are completely interchangeable with each other. Brown lentils have a somewhat similar taste to red lentils. In soups, you can interchange them without a problem.

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These are some of the most common types of lentils in the market. They are similar in more ways than one. However, they have their differences. That is why each variety works better in a certain specific recipe compared to the other two. Consider the recipe you have and the type of lentil it calls for. If you do not have it or cannot access it, try the substitutes as suggested.

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