Lentils are a protein-dense addition to your kitchen, offering a variety of uses and nutritional benefits.
They are great in many foods, ranging from tacos to veggie burgers to soups.
So, what are lentils and how can they be used in the kitchen? Lentils are legumes, similar to beans, soybeans, peanuts, and chickpeas. They are a small, flat variety of legumes and come in a range of colors. Lentils cannot be eaten raw but can be cooked into a variety of protein-dense meals.
Perhaps you read about the nutritional value of lentils or wanted to add some extra protein to your diet. But, now, you find yourself with a bag of unused lentils in the back of your pantry, and you are wondering whether they have gone bad or if they are still good to use.
Now here’s the bottom line: Lentils will go bad, though they have an incredibly long shelf life. Read ahead to know what you can expect of the shelf life of your lentils and how they can be preserved to ensure freshness for a long time.
Nutritional Value Of Lentils
Lentils have a variety of health benefits, in addition to being a tasty and versatile legume. They are packed with vitamins and nutrients and make a healthy addition to your kitchen.
One of the biggest benefits of lentils is that they are packed with protein. They also come with a number of nutrients, including zinc, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B.
Because they are high in protein and iron, they also make a good addition to vegetarian diets. Their versatility also allows lentils to be made into many meat substitute meals.
Shelf Life Of Lentils
Lentils are typically sold as dried legumes, found with other dried beans in grocery stores. When in dried form, lentils have an incredibly long shelf life.
Most packaging on lentils will come with a “best by” date. This is typically a recommendation for ideal freshness, rather than an indication of when the lentils will expire. Though lentils may begin to lose their freshness and quality of flavor, they will be perfectly safe to consume for several months past this date.
Typically, a bag of dried lentils will last several years, though you will want to ensure there are no signs of spoilage prior to use.
How To Store Lentils
Ensuring good storage practices will keep your lentils good for longer. For dried lentils, it is best to keep them in a cool, dry location. A pantry is ideal.
When the bag or packaging storing the lentils has been opened, the packaging should be properly sealed again, with the air completely squeezed out. If in a plastic bag, it may be better to transfer the lentils to an airtight container.
It is crucial to ensure the lentils have no exposure to moisture. Moisture will cause the lentils to spoil quicker, even developing mold.
Keep in mind: The cabinets next to and above stoves and ovens will get warm and can develop condensation. Lentils should not be kept in these locations, as exposure to moisture will cause them to rapidly spoil.
Are These Lentils Bad?
If your lentils have reached their labeled “best by” date and you are uncertain if they are still good to use, there are several signs of spoilage you should look for prior to cooking them.
First, you should look for any visible signs that your lentils have gone bad. If there has been any development of mold, the lentils should be thrown out. This could look like a white film or discoloration on the lentils.
Mold will typically develop when the lentils have come in contact with moisture, which is why it is so crucial to keep lentils in airtight packaging, safe from any condensation or moisture.
Another sign of spoilage could include a strange smell, such as an excessively earthy scent. If the lentils smell off, it is probably best to discard them.
Typically, lentils will not go bad in the sense that there is harm in consuming them. However, after time, they will begin to degrade in quality, losing nutritional value and flavor. In addition, once past their prime, lentils will become harder and dried out, making them more difficult to properly cook. While still likely safe to consume, they will not be as palatable.
In Summary On Lentils
- Lentils can go bad, though they typically have a very long shelf life.
- If stored properly, dried lentils will typically last several years, even beyond the labeled “best by” date.
- Dried lentils should be stored in a cool, dark location, such as a pantry. They should be stored in an airtight container, away from any sources of moisture.
- Lentils can go bad if exposed to moisture, so you should check for any sources of mold or an unpleasant smell.
- After time, lentils will lose flavor and nutritional value, but are safe to consume if they have not spoiled.
So, if you are unsure about the lentils in the back of your pantry, just double check for any signs of spoilage. If nothing seems off about them, they are probably fine to consume.