Small Dry Legumes

I am decribing the lentils and other small dry legumes, as opposed to small phaseolus beans (including black turtle beans). Such legumes are commonly sold as dry grain; some canned lentils are available. Some were sold in bulk food stores and as bulk foods in grocery stores. The availability of bulk products was affected in 2020 by the Covid-19 epidemic.

Lentils and other small legumes are almost inedible to humans without cooking. The hulls are hard and have to be removed mechnically, or softened by cooking. The seeds are dry and hard and have to be softened by cooking. Many recipes reduce split and hulled legumes to a gruel. Recipes for whole legumes may specify a legume with a hull that softens rapidly such as a French lentil. Other recipes for whole small legumes require long cooking – e.g. the urad bean. The seeds have to be flavoured, often by an infusion of other plants including peppers. Meat and vegetables can be cooked with legumes for nutrition or flavour. Some recipes cook small legumes in a sauce. South Asian dal recipes may require a tarka – a sauce of spices friend in oil or ghee (clarified butter) be added to cooked legumes and other ingredients. Some recipes pre-cook small legumes, and cook the legumes with other ingredients in soup, sauce or stew.

Lentils (Lens culinaris and related species) have several varieties which look different and cook differently. Brown lentils cook (get soft in boiling or simmering temperature water) faster. Green lentils take longer and taste different. Some of the differences in cooking time are shortened or can be ignored with pressure cookers and slow cookers. Recipes may suggest soaking some small legumes, but soaking is often left out.

The interior parts of brown lentils are reddish pink and can be hulled and processed into red lentils. Some exporters, wholesalers and retailers refer to brown lentils as red lentils. Some Green and brown/crimson lentils grown in the US (Pacific Northwest, Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho) and Western Canada are larger than other lentils. Canadian growers mainly grow green culinaris lentils of the Laird, Richlea and Eston varieties, and a large crimson lentil (Lens esculanta).

Whole green and brown lentils and red/pink/salmon lentils grown in the US or Canada were widely available in grocery stores before Covid-19. Whole brown lentils were popular in stores in the US but not as common in Canada. The availability and presentation began to vary during the pandemic. Black lentils, small lentils that cook brown, were and are a specialized product, remained available in some channels. Other small dry legumes could be available in stores specializing in selling supplies for South Asian, Middle Eastern, North Afican, or regional European cuisines or health themed stores including vegetarian/vegan.

Legume,
English/Euro name(s)
South AsianConditionAppearance
DryCooked
dark chickpeachana dal (duhli)split, hulledyellow
pigeon peatoor dal (duhli)split, hulledyellow
moong bean,
mung bean
(sabut) moong dalwholegreen
moong beanmoong dal (duhli)split, hulledyellowyellow
urad bean
black bean
(sabut) urad dalwholeblackblack
urad beanurad dal (duhli)split, hulledwhite
brown (spanish or german)
lentil
(sabut) masoor dalwholebrownbrown
red, pink, salmon lentilmasoor dal (duhli)hulled and splitredyellow
crimson lentilhulled and/or splitred, largeyellow
green lentilwholepale green
French green lentil
Lentil de Puys
wholedark green, speckled
black or beluga lentilwholeblackbrown

The modern kitchen provides several options for cooking dry legumes. all involving cooking in water at a boil or simmer. There are recipes to simmer small legumes in ceramic tagines and other ceramic vessels. Few cooks have such tools. On a stove, in a metal vessel, sources favour bringing the water to a rolling boil and backing off to gentlly boiling, braising or steady simmering. Cooks judge simmer or gentle boil differently. Stove and pots perform differently. Beans may be old.

Traditional slow cooker recipes for usually start from dry (unsoaked) legumes. Traditional slow cooker recipes work in pressure multi-cookers such as Instant Pots in the slow cooker program, with adjustments. There are Instant Pot and pressure multi-cooker recipes for the slow cooker program. Electric pressure cooker and pressure multi-cooker pressure program recipes also usually start from dry (unsoaked legumes). The cooking times are at pressure, and do not estimate or count the time for the machine to preheat to pressure. The release of pressure has to be natural (i.e. about 15 – 20 minutes). Slow cookers, pressure cooker and pressure multi-cookers can pre-cook dry legumes, or cook a recipe using dry legumes in a sauce or stew.

Sources provide a range of cooking times (minutes unless other unit noted):

Legume/DalSourceSimmerSlow cookerElectric Pressure
Brown, Green, French Green or
Black (beluga) lentil
How to Cook Everything and, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,
Mark Bittman
20-30
test and cook longer
depending on tenderness
brown lentilItalian Vegetarian Cookbook (1997), Jack Bishop25-35
brown lentilPakistani & North Indian Cooking (2015), S. Abbas Razza45
brown or green lentil366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans and Grains (1998),
Andrea Chesman
25-40
brown or green lentilEasy Beans (1994),
Tish Ross and Jacqueline Trafford
30-40;
1-2 hrs for soups
green lentilAt Home with Madhur Jaffrey (1973), Madhur Jaffrey40
brown lentilThe Indian Slow Cooker (2nd ed. 2018), Anupy SinglaLow; 3 hrs
brown or green lentilHip Pressure Cooking (2014), Laura PazzagliaHigh 12-14
brown or green lentilVegan Under Pressure (2016), Jill NusinowHigh 6
red lentil366 Delicious Ways to Cook Rice, Beans and Grains (1998),
Andrea Chesman
15
red lentilAt Home with Madhur Jaffrey (1973), Madhur Jaffrey40-45
red lentilIndian for Everyone (2014), Anupy Singla;
The Indian Slow Cooker (2nd ed. 2018), Anupy Singla
12 + final boilLow; 3-6 hrs
red lentilThe Complete Slow Cooker (2017), America’s Test KitchenHigh; 2-3 hrs
Low; 3-4 hrs
red lentilHip Pressure Cooking (2014), Laura PazzagliaHigh 1
red lentilVegan Under Pressure (2016), Jill NusinowHigh 6 +
toor dal (duhli)At Home with Madhur Jaffrey (1973), Madhur Jaffrey1 hr +
chana dal,
toor dal (duhli),
Indian for Everyone (2014), Anupy Singla;
The Indian Slow Cooker (2nd ed. 2018), Anupy Singla
*soaked 2-4 hrs,
25-60
High; 6 hrs
sabut moong dalIndian for Everyone (2014), Anupy Singla;
The Indian Slow Cooker (2nd ed. 2018), Anupy Singla
25-30Low; 2 ⅟₂ hrs
moong beanHip Pressure Cooking (2014), Laura PazzagliaHigh 7-8
sabat urad dalIndian for Everyone (2014), Anupy Singla;
The Indian Slow Cooker (2nd ed. 2018), Anupy Singla
1 ⅟₂ hrsHigh; 8 hrs
moong dal duhliAt Home with Madhur Jaffrey (1973), Madhur Jaffrey45
“yellow split” lentilHip Pressure Cooking (2014), Laura PazzagliaHigh 1

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