How long are lentils good for?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “How long are lentils good for” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of lentils. Moreover, we are going to discuss the different ways to spot bad lentils.

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

How long are lentils good for?

Dry lentils last for about 1 to 3 years if they are stored properly in a cool, dry, and dark corner of your pantry away from direct sunlight and heat. It is not recommended to refrigerate or freeze dried lentils.

Once you open the pack in which lentils are stored, it is recommended to transfer the remaining dried lentils in an air-tight container or plastic zipper bag and store them in a cool, dry, and dark place. You should never store your dried lentils in a humid environment as the high moisture content of the humid environment can mess up the quality of dry lentils and can even make them stale.

In the case of the unopened canned lentils, they last for about 1 to 2 years past their packaging date if it is stored properly and there is no leakage or bulging in the can.

Once you have opened the canned lentils the clock starts ticking and there is a limited time during which you can enjoy the optimum quality of lentils. The canned lentils leftovers last for about 3-4 days when stored in the fridge properly at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Last but not least, cooked lentils last for about 3-5 days if stored at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the fridge. It should be stored in air-tight containers or plastic zipper bags on one of the shelves of the refrigerator.

Thus, you should always store your cooking as well as open canned lentils at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Bacterial growth takes place at a faster pace between the temperature of 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, therefore it is always advised to store your cooked lentils at a lower temperature to preserve their freshness for a long time.

It is worth mentioning that the figures mentioned above are the estimated shelf life of lentils.

Are lentils safe to use after the best by date?

The “best by” or “best before” date that is written on the can of lentils refers to the quality rather than safety so the lentils don’t necessarily go bad immediately after the best before date.

This date refers to the time during which you can enjoy the peak quality of lentils but you can still use lentils that are past this date as long as they were stored properly and there is no leakage in the can.

You can read how to make lentil soup here.

Different ways to spot bad lentils

There are a couple of indicators that point out bad lentils. You should consider the appearance, texture, and smell of the lentils, as well as the condition of the can, to reach a  final verdict on whether or not they have gone bad.

Appearance

If you spot a mold or other organic growth on your dried lentils (can only happen if water somehow found a way to the uncooked lentils and stayed there for quite a while) or cooked lentils then it means that your lentils have gone bad and the best thing you can do in this scenario is to get rid of them.

It is worth mentioning that you should refrain from smelling lentils that have molds on them as molds can produce mycotoxins that if they enter your body even via inhalation can disrupt your gut microflora thereby weakening your immune system.

Texture 

If you feel something slimy or gooey while touching the cooked lentils then it means that your cooked lentils have gone bad and it is better to discard them. 

Smell 

If you smell something unpleasant or foul while taking a sniff test of your lentils then it is better to get rid of these lentils.

In the case of the cooked or canned lentils, if you smell something acidic or sour while taking a sniff test then it is an indication of bad lentils.

Condition of can

If you spot rust, leakage, or if there is some bulging in the lid or body of the can of lentils then you should discard such canned lentils.

If microbes somehow found their way to your lentils and have spoiled it then the best thing you should do is to discard them.

Tips to properly store lentils

  1. Dried lentils or unopened canned lentils can be stored in a cool, dry, and dark corner of your pantry away from direct sunlight and heat and they can stay there for quite a long time.
  1. Once you open the can of lentils, it is recommended to store the leftovers in the fridge properly.
  1. Cooked lentils should be stored in the fridge at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in an air-tight container.
  1. You can even freeze the cooked lentils to prolong their shelf life and if you want to do so it is better to store cooked lentils in a plastic freezer bag or heavy-duty freezer container

Conclusion

In this brief guide, we answered the question “How long are lentils good for” with an in-depth analysis of the shelf life of lentils. Moreover, we discussed the different ways to spot bad lentils.

Citations

https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Cooking-And-Food/Legumes,-Soy,-Nuts-and-Seeds/All-About-Lentils.aspx#:~:text=Store%20dried%20lentils%20in%20an,for%20up%20to%206%20months.
https://www.canitgobad.net/how-long-do-lentils-last/
https://www.doesitgobad.com/do-lentils-go-bad/
https://www.stilltasty.com/fooditems/index/17549

Mahnoor Asghar is a Clinical Nutritionist with a bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is compassionate and dedicated to playing her part in the well-being of the masses. She wants to play a fruitful role in creating nutrition and health-related awareness among the general public. Additionally, she has a keen eye for detail and loves to create content related to food, nutrition, health, and wellness.