What are the differences among the various types of lentils?

Lentils come in various sizes and colors, and the differences in flavor and texture are surprisingly distinct. We asked tasters to evaluate five kinds of lentils in our lentil soup, rating them in terms of taste, texture, and appearance. Here's what we found, with the lentils listed in order of preference.

Lentils du Puy

These lentils are smaller than the more common brown and green varieties. While they take their name from the city of Puy in central France, they are also grown in North America and Italy. Dark olive green, almost black, in color, with mottling, these lentils were praised for their "rich, earthy, complex flavor" and "firm yet tender texture."

Black Lentils

Like lentils du Puy, black lentils are slightly smaller than the standard brown lentils. They have a deep black hue that tasters likened to the color of caviar. In fact, some markets refer to them as beluga lentils. Tasters liked their "robust, earthy flavor" and "ability to hold their shape while remaining tender." A few tasters found the color of the soup made with them "too dark and muddy."

Brown Lentils

These larger lentils are the most common choice in the market and are a uniform drab brown. Tasters commented on their "mild yet light and earthy flavor." Some found their texture "creamy," while others complained that they were "chalky." But everyone agreed that they held their shape and were tender inside.

Green Lentils

Another larger lentil, this variety is the same size as the brown lentil and is greenish-brown in color. Although tasters accepted the "mild flavor" of these lentils and liked the way they "retain their shape while being tender," most complained that the soup made from them was "a bit anemic looking."

Red Lentils

These small orange-red lentils "completely disintegrate when cooked." They made a soup that looked "anemic."

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