Canadian Lentils: Not The Kind of Beans You Know

Information from Gloria Tsang, RD, author of Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss and the founder of

Lentils are a type of pulse, along with other beans, dry peas, and chickpeas. The term “pulse” is used to describe the edible seeds of legumes. Lentils grow in pods that contain one or two lentil seeds. They ripen in their pods in the field and dry naturally in late summer. They are thought to have originated in the East, being one of the oldest cultivated plants in human history, dating back 20,000 years.

Lentils are usually classified by color and size. For instance, there are:

  • Green Lentils
  • Red Lentils
  • French Green or Dupuy Lentils
  • Black or Beluga Lentils

Canada is now the world’s largest exporter of lentils to the global marketplace. We are growing some of the world’s best lentils right here in our own country, with Saskatchewan being the leading lentil-growing province. The lentils most commonly found in our grocery stores are large green lentils (also known as Laird-type lentils) and split red lentils.

Are lentils “beans”?

Technically, lentils are not beans. Both lentils and beans are classified as pulses, as their edible seeds are what we harvest and consume. Lentil seeds are smaller in size, and usually have one or two seeds per pod. On the other hand, bean seeds are generally larger in size, and each bean pod usually contains more seeds. An average large green lentil weighs about 70 mg, whereas an average dark red kidney bean weighs about 8 times more, approximately 570 mg.

Lentils are very versatile, making them the easiest legumes to prepare. Unlike beans, lentils do not require pre-soaking. Using them is as easy as 1-2-3: Simply rinse, boil, and season. Best of all, you don’t need to worry about them being gassy! Refer to our Super Easy Guide to Cooking Canadian Lentils for more easy cooking tips.

To explore how easy it can be to cook with lentils, try the following recipes to explore the two main lentils (large green and red lentils) available locally in Canada.

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