Looking to cut costs and enhance your nutritional intake? Embrace the goodness of lentils. These delectable legumes serve as a wallet-friendly alternative to meat, having swift cooking times and versatility across a range of culinary creations.
What are Lentils?
Dating back to around 8,000 BC, lentils stand as one of humanity’s earliest cultivated plants, originating in the Middle East.
Lentils, the seeds of leguminous plants, distinguish themselves from grains, categorizing as pseudocereals akin to quinoa. These complex carbohydrates, brimming with fiber and protein while low in fat and calories, present a valuable addition to your emergency food storage, diversifying your dietary options.
Within the realm of lentils, a diverse array exists, with some of the more popular varieties including:
- Red & Yellow Lentils: Known for their mild and sweet flavor.
- Black Lentils (Beluga Lentils): Offer an earthy taste.
- Green & Puy Lentils (French Lentils): Present an earthy flavor profile.
- Brown Lentils: Has an earthy taste as well.
How to Store Dried lentils?
Lentils, when properly packaged, can retain their quality for up to 30 years. However, achieving this extensive shelf life requires specific measures, such as sealing them in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers, within a controlled environment. There are several approaches to lentil storage, depending on the quantity you plan to store.
For long-term storage, opt for 5-gallon buckets to ensure lentils stay protected over time. On the other hand, if you anticipate using them within a year, mason jars are a suitable choice. In the following sections, we’ll delve into these two storage methods. If you want to know the shelf life of ghee then check out my recent article Shelf Life Ghee ( How To Store It Correctly ).
Mylar Bags In 5-Gallon Buckets
To safeguard your lentils and extend their shelf life to 30 years, employing food-grade 5-gallon buckets in combination with mylar bags is essential. This approach shields lentils from environmental factors, pests, and other elements that could lead to spoilage.
Determine Your Portions
Begin by calculating the required quantity of lentils. The average yearly legume consumption per person in the US is around 12 pounds. Tailor your lentil storage based on your family size – add 12 pounds per additional family member. Conveniently, a single 5-gallon bucket can hold up to 36 pounds of lentils, sufficient for approximately three people.
Prep the Bucket
To ensure optimal shelf life for your lentils, proper storage containers are crucial. Here are guidelines to maintain container quality:
Opt for BPA-Free buckets, preventing chemical leakage into stored food and ensuring suitability for food storage. Thoroughly wash the bucket with warm water and soap to eliminate any residues that could cause spoilage. Secure the food with Gamma Seal Lids, highly effective in preventing oxygen infiltration into the bucket.
Fill the Mylar Bags
Subsequently, fill mylar bags with lentils, leaving a few inches to facilitate a complete seal.
Put The Mylar Bags Into The Storage Container
Carefully position the mylar bags inside the designated storage container. This arrangement ensures extended preservation and enhanced protection.
Clean the Jar
Start by ensuring the mason jar is thoroughly cleaned. Using a clean jar is essential to prevent bacteria exposure and maintain the quality of your dried lentils during storage.
Fill the Jar
Once the jar is clean, proceed to fill it with the lentils. Leave about an inch of space from the rim to allow proper sealing.
Add Oxygen Absorbers
To eliminate oxygen from the jar, place oxygen absorbers inside. For each quart-sized jar, use approximately 100cc of oxygen absorbers. After adding the absorbers, securely seal the jar with its lid.
Seal the Jar
With the oxygen absorbers in place, tightly seal the jar containing the dry lentils. This step ensures that environmental factors such as oxygen, moisture, heat, and sunlight won’t compromise the lentils’ quality.
Label the Jar
Lastly, label the jar with its contents and the date of sealing. This labeling practice helps you easily identify the contents and track the storage timeline.
Utilizing vacuum sealing can effectively extend the natural shelf life of lentils. However, it’s important to follow a specific process to ensure their preservation. Before vacuum sealing, freeze the lentils for a minimum of 72 hours to eliminate any potential lingering insects. It’s worth noting that vacuum sealing isn’t completely oxygen-free.
Once the lentils have been frozen and thawed to room temperature, you can proceed with vacuum sealing. It’s crucial to avoid sealing them while they’re still cold to prevent excess moisture retention. In regions with high humidity, desiccants can be considered but are not mandatory.
Unlike other methods, using an oxygen absorber isn’t necessary when vacuum sealing due to the semipermeable nature of food storage bags. It’s essential to emphasize that vacuum sealing isn’t the optimal choice for extended long-term storage and is best suited for lentils you intend to use within a 12-18 month timeframe.
Shelf Life of Dried Lentils
In their original packaging, dried lentils have a shelf life of 2-3 years. However, with proper storage, lentils can have an extended shelf life of up to 30 years. To achieve this maximum shelf life, lentils should be stored in an airtight container along with oxygen absorbers. It’s important to note that the nutritional value of lentils tends to decrease as they age. If you opt to store lentils in their original packaging, it’s recommended to replace them every 3 years; with proper storage, replacement every 15 years is advised. This practice ensures that you and your family continue to benefit from the full nutritional value of lentils. If you want to know how to store beef tallow then check out my recent article Store Beef Tallow ( For Long Shelf Life ).
Shelf Life of Canned Lentils
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that canned lentils offer a viable choice for medium-term storage. Their packaging shields lentils from the damaging effects of heat, light, and air exposure. When stored correctly, canned lentils can remain viable for 3-5 years. These canned lentils can be conveniently stored in a cupboard or any cool, dry area. However, once opened, it’s recommended to consume them promptly or transfer them to an airtight container for preservation. If you want to know how to store goose fat then check out my recent article Store Goose Fat ( Shelf Life & Storing ).
How can you determine if lentils have become spoiled?
No matter how well-dried lentils are stored, they will eventually spoil. Thankfully, identifying signs of spoilage is straightforward if you know what to look for. When checking for expired lentils, pay attention to changes in color, the presence of mold, and any unusual odors. If you suspect that lentils have gone bad, it’s safer to discard them rather than consume them. Expired lentils offer no nutritional value and could pose health risks.
Discoloration and mold on the surface of the lentils are visual cues that they have deteriorated. Exposure to air allows microbes to contaminate the lentils, leading to mold growth and discoloration. This emphasizes the importance of storing dried lentils in an airtight container.
However, there are instances where no visible signs of spoilage are apparent. In such cases, rely on your sense of smell. If you detect a strong, unpleasant odor, it indicates that your lentils have turned bad and should be disposed of immediately.
While lentils are a valuable addition to our diets, being mindful of their condition is crucial. Pay attention to their appearance and smell to prevent potential health issues and discomfort.
How to Select Lentils
Lentils are exclusively found in a dried form. When split, dried lentils bear a resemblance to split peas. These seeds grow two to a pod and are dried post-harvesting, and they are not consumed in their fresh state. When choosing lentils, opt for ones that are dry, firm, clean, and not shriveled. The color of the lentils you choose will vary based on your intended use, but generally, the color should be fairly consistent.
While canned lentils are available, cooking your own lentils is just as simple. The cooking time for these seeds ranges from 10 to 40 minutes, depending on the variety. Varieties with the husk removed, such as common red lentils, require shorter cooking times.
Types of Lentils
Lentils come in a variety of types, each with a distinct earthy flavor. They are widely used around the world to create a diverse range of dishes, particularly popular in South Asia, the Mediterranean regions, and West Asia.
If your recipe requires lentils that hold their shape after cooking, common brown lentils are the typical choice. These lentils still have their outer seed coat intact and haven’t been split.
On the other hand, red, yellow, and orange lentils tend to break down with prolonged cooking due to the removal of their hulls. With a slightly sweet flavor, these lentils are best suited for pureed soups or thickening stews.
Additional options include French lentils, which come in olive-green and slate-colored varieties. French lentils retain their firmness when cooked. Persian green lentils transform from green to brown while cooking, maintaining their shape and tenderness. The most flavorful and costly variety is the French Puy lentils, known for their ability to hold their shape.
For those seeking unique options, lentil flour might be available in select specialty markets. In India, lentil flour is utilized to create fermented dough for bread-making.
Opting for dried lentils frequently comes at a lower cost compared to their canned counterparts. Nevertheless, canned lentils offer undeniable convenience, sparing you valuable time. With a simple can opening, followed by a brief rinse, they seamlessly integrate into your dishes.
Consider conducting a price evaluation encompassing brand name, generic options, and offerings from bulk stores. If space allows, seizing the opportunity to stock up on canned or dried lentils during sales can prove a prudent move.
Lentil Cooking Tips
- Canned lentils are pre-cooked; just rinse and they’re ready.
- For dried lentils, start by checking for any stones, rinse, then simmer in low-sodium broth or water for 20-30 minutes.
- Use a large pot, as dried lentils can double in size while cooking. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to prevent foam formation.
- Green and French lentils retain shape; red, yellow, and split lentils become soft for soups or dips.
- Enhance flavors with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, and vegetables.
- Avoid acidic ingredients until lentils are cooked, as they slow down the process.
- Enjoy lentils as sides, in salads, soups, or stews.
- 1 cup dried lentils yield 2.5 cups cooked whole lentils or 2 cups cooked split lentils.
Mastering the art of lentil storage is a valuable skill that can ensure your family’s access to nutritious and dependable food for up to three decades. When safeguarding dried lentils, key considerations involve minimizing air exposure and shielding them from light, heat, and moisture.
Can you store lentils long term?
With correct storage methods, bulk lentils can maintain their quality over an extended period, ensuring a continuous supply. Typically, uncooked bulk lentils can be preserved for about a year in a cool and dry environment. It’s essential to be aware that as storage time increases, there might be a decline in their overall quality.
Where do you store raw lentils?
To properly store lentils, ensure they are placed in a sealed package or an airtight container within a cool, dry, and dark location. Dried lentils are a global staple food, owing to their indefinite shelf life, significant nutritional value, and their resilience in challenging growing conditions, including droughts.
How do you store lentils in the pantry?
Dried beans have an indefinite shelf life but are recommended for use within one year, while lentils are best used within six months. Store dried beans and lentils in an airtight container within a dry, cool, and dark location, such as a pantry or cupboard. Avoid storing them in the refrigerator.