Lentil shortcut options: For a shortcut, you may use refrigerated, pre-steamed lentils, which are often sold in the refrigerated/produce section of the grocery store. Avoid canned lentils as they are not as firm or “loose” as when freshly cooked.
To cook lentils yourself: If cooking yourself, you’ll need ⅔ cups dry to yield 2 cups cooked lentils. Brown, green or black lentils all work well. Rinse the lentils and bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the lentils and 1 teaspoon of optional salt. (The idea that salt impedes the cooking process of legumes has been debunked, so don’t worry – and though salted water will enhance the flavor of the lentils, it is strictly optional.) Stir, reduce heat to low to medium-low, and allow the lentils to simmer, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes or until cooked but still a little firm. Check a few minutes early and taste for doneness. You want them to be just tender but not mushy, and cooking time will vary based on precise level of heat and age of the lentils. Drain thoroughly. Prep-ahead tip: cooked and cooled lentils may be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.
How to mix it up: Instead of teriyaki sauce, you could try an Asian alternative like sesame ginger dressing – or you could totally branch out and use something like a honey mustard dressing, in which case a garnish of dried cranberries, toasted pecans or walnuts and crumbled blue or feta cheese would likely be nice. Feel free to experiment!
Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.
1 cup dry lentils = 7.1 ounces (this is slightly under the fill line or a scant cup – I shake off after measuring instead of leveling with a straight edge of a knife. This is actually more helpful when cooking rice, so that you don’t end up with too much rice and not enough water.)
1 cup cooked lentils = 5.6 ounces/158 grams