Lentils are available in a variety of forms.
You can find them fresh, frozen, canned, or even dried.
For the person who wants to keep a well-stocked pantry, dried legumes are a great way to ensure you have a source of protein, fiber, and other nutrients at the ready.
Once dried, lentils can be soaked or cooked and then enjoyed by themselves or as an ingredient.
As most people know though, dried foods will eventually go bad.
All foods have some sort of expiration date, although lentils last for a very long time.
This leads many people to ask, do dried lentils go bad?
The answer isn’t necessarily a yes or no, but may depend on storage type, time, and other factors.
How Long Will Dried Lentils Last?
With dried lentils, you’ll likely notice that their package comes with an expiration date.
This is not necessarily the date where the lentils are no longer safe to eat.
The date on the lentil package is designed to let you know how long they’ll be in good quality.
For example, you’ve probably eaten a banana that was slightly past its prime. Maybe it didn’t have the best flavor but it was still safe to eat.
You didn’t get sick from including it with a meal, smoothie, or using it in banana bread. The same goes for lentils.
One of the benefits of using lentils is that their dried nature allows them to avoid bacterial growth fairly well.
If the lentils are stored in a cool and dry location, they’re going to last for a few years.
Check the expiration date before storing but you can expect your lentils to last for 1-2 years in peak condition.
Can I Use Expired Lentils?
This is a common question for people. If you notice expired lentils in your cabinet, can you use them?
Chances are, that you can use them safely.
Lentils do not contain meat or eggs which can be extremely dangerous to consume out of date.
Additionally, their dried nature makes them less susceptible to bacterial growth. So that’s nice.
You should still check the date on lentils and see how far after your date you’re using them.
For example, a few months out of date likely won’t make much of a difference.
If the lentils are a year or two past the expiration date, thoroughly assess their condition and you’ll be able to determine if they’re worth using.
The two main problems you may experience with expired lentils is their nutritional value and cooking time.
Lentils and most foods will lose some nutrients over time. You may read that lentils are high in some vitamins and minerals.
This does not mean that they won’t get any of these benefits with the expired legumes.
However, you may not get the full nutritional value that you’d prefer.
Additionally, you can expect to spend a longer time cooking lentils.
Some people who use the expired lentils will notice that the beans are harder to cook or may have a harder texture over time.
Once again, this likely won’t affect you much when they’re just a few months past the expiration date but will taste worse over time.
If you use them, make sure to allow for extra cooking time or use extra water.
What Does a Bad Lentil Look Like?
Before you use expired lentils, make sure to inspect the package thoroughly.
You may even want to wash and sort through the lentils for the best results. Lentils can spoil, even when dried.
The biggest problem that you’ll notice tends to be insects. Bugs may get into your lentil package and start eating through the beans.
This doesn’t mean that they’re spoiled but you probably won’t want to eat them.
Take note of any mold or strange smells as well. For example, any white or discoloration on the lentils likely means that mold has grown on them.
This can happen when water gets into the package. It may be tempting to just discard the moldy lentils but you’re better off throwing out the entire package.
Lentils that smell sour or bad should be discarded as well.
In general, lentils have a mild, earthy smell so any strong or bad smells means that they’re no longer good.
How Long Do Cooked Lentils Last?
Another question people want to know is how long they can keep their cooked lentils. Make sure to refrigerate your lentils covered in a cool part of the fridge.
When stored in a fridge, they will last approximately a week.
If you freeze the lentils, you can expect them to last about three months.
Once again, do an evaluation of your lentils regardless of where you store them.
Any signs of mold or a strange taste or smell indicate that they’re not great to keep around.
How to Store Dried Lentils to Keep Them From Going Bad
The best place to store dried lentils is in a cool, dry place.
Since the plastic bags which contain lentils may be more susceptible to insect damage, you may be better off storing them in glass containers.
Canning jars are a great option for this. Place your lentils in the jars and keep them in the back of the cabinet with a label that contains the expiration date.
Rotate through your lentils, using the first in, last out method to avoid using them out of date.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you know if cooked lentils have gone bad?
If your cooked lentils have gone bad, you’ll notice mold or an off taste or smell.
How long do dried lentils take to cook?
Once the lentils are simmering, they’ll take anywhere from 20-40 minutes, depending on the time. Add additional water during cooking as needed.
Are certain lentils better than others?
You can find lentils in brown, green, and red. They each have their own health benefits but the brown lentils are the most popular today.
Is it better to buy dried or canned lentils?
Dried lentils are longer-lasting and usually a better value. However, if you don’t enjoy cooking, precooked lentils that are canned may be your best option.
I’m a foodie that’s slightly obsessed with drying fruits, veggies, beans, and more – especially from my own garden! It started as a hobby but became a “must” when my family fell on hard times, and my dried food stash sustained us. Now I’m always experimenting with different techniques and recipes and sharing them here!