Lentils are a type of pulse, along with beans, field peas, chickpeas, and faba beans. The term “pulse” is used to describe the edible seeds of legumes.
Lentils come in a variety of sizes ranging from extra-small to large. The most commonly found lentils on grocery store shelves are large green lentils and split red lentils. Split lentils have had their seed coat removed and the inner part of the lentil, known as the cotyledon, has been split in half. Split lentils cook much faster than whole lentils and are excellent for use in curries, as a thickener in soups, and for purees, whereas whole lentils tend to work better in salads or other applications where texture is desired. Lesser common varieties of lentils also include black Beluga lentils, and French green lentils.
Packaged lentils (dry or canned) keep easily on your cupboard shelf or pantry in a dry, dark, cool location for up to one year. If you are purchasing your lentils in bulk or have open packages, transfer them to an airtight container to take advantage of the one-year shelf life. After one year, cooking time will increase and the quality of your lentils will decrease.
Cooked lentils and prepared lentil puree can be frozen and used within three months, or refrigerated for one week. Be sure to store in airtight containers or plastic bags.