Got a pack of “expired” dried lentils, and not sure if you can still use them? How long do dried lentils last, and do they really go bad?
Or maybe you’ve cooked a big batch of lentils, and you’re wondering what’s the best way to store them and how long they can sit in the fridge before they spoil.
If either sounds familiar, or you have any questions about handling lentils (either dry or cooked) or lentil soup, this article is for you.
Want to jump straight to a specific section of the article? Here are some handy links:
Let’s dig in.
How Long Do Dried Lentils Last?
Dried lentils retain best quality for 2 to 3 years, which is usually 1 to 2 years past the date on the label, if you keep them in a cool and dry place. They stay safe to eat for years longer but lose most of their vitamin content over time.
A typical bag of dried lentils comes with a best-by date that’s a year or more from the packaging date ([USU]). That date only informs you of the period the producer expects the lentils to retain quality for and has little to do with food safety.
Some of the beans, particularly those marketed to preppers, have all the oxygen removed from the bag and come with a ten years long shelf life. They also cost much more than regular ones.
As I already hinted at, lentils gradually lose their vitamins. A noticeable degradation occurs after 2-3 years (hence my recommendation above), and most of them are gone after about 5 years ([USU]).
As usual, the better job you do of storing your lentils (more on that in the storage section), the longer they will stay good for.
How To Store Dried Lentils
Dried lentils should sit in a cool and dry place, away from any light sources. Once you first open the bag, consider pouring the beans into a freezer bag or airtight container, especially if pantry bags are an issue you’re familiar with.
Like most dry foods, keeping lentils in a cold place (think pantry, not the fridge) increases the shelf life ([USU]).
When it comes to packaging open lentils, you can leave them in their original plastic bag and wrap it as tightly as you can. I’ve done that for years and never had any issues.
However, that only works if that bag sits in a cool cabinet, away from any moisture, and there’s no risk of pantry pests present.
Do Dried Lentils Go Bad?
Dried lentils don’t really go bad or expire. If you store them properly, they last for years, and the only downsides of prolonged storage that you might experience are a slight change in quality and vitamin loss.
Nutritional components such as proteins, carbohydrates, or minerals stay intact during long-term storage ([USU]).
That doesn’t mean that dry lentils cannot go bad.
There are a couple of situations where discarding the bag is the only course of action that makes sense. Those are:
- Bugs in the package. No matter if those pantry pests are dead or alive, you probably don’t want to eat those lentils. They aren’t necessarily spoiled, though, so if you fancy some extra protein, be my guest.
- Mold. If water gets to the bag, there will be mold. And as you might imagine, moldy lentils are no good.
- Off smell. This might be due to mold that’s starting to grow under the surface, or something else entirely. Either way, if your lentils smell stale, rancid (there’s a trace amount of fat in lentils), or funky in any possible way, get rid of them.
If you’re not confident that your 5-years-old lentils are safe to eat, assume they aren’t and toss them.
How Long Do Cooked Lentils Last?
I suggest keeping cooked lentils in the fridge for no longer than 4 to 5 days. That’s the same period that’s recommended for pretty much all leftovers. If you need more time than that, freeze them.
Some of the sites out there say you can store cooked lentils for up to a week.
While sometimes those lentils may actually last that long, I wouldn’t feel comfortable serving them to my family or eating them myself. Do it at your own risk.
How To Store Cooked Lentils
Store cooked lentils in an airtight container in the fridge. Remember to first cool them to around room temperature, which shouldn’t take longer than 30 minutes to an hour.
You can also leave the leftover lentils in the pot you cooked them in, secure the lid on, and refrigerate the whole pot. This way, you don’t have to wash this one and use another pot when you’re reheating the dish.
How To Tell If Cooked Lentils Are Bad?
Throw out cooked lentils if:
- There’s mold or any other discoloration on the surface. That’s pretty self-explanatory.
- They smell off.
- They sit in the fridge for too long. If your lentils sit in the fridge for like a week or so already, I’d toss them just for safety reasons. They might still be okay, but you never know.
- The taste is off. This one is super rare, but if your cooked lentils after reheating taste funky, it’s a sure sign something is wrong when them.
How Long Does Lentil Soup Last?
Unopened canned lentil soup lasts for months (if not years) after the date on the label, similarly to other canned foods like baked beans. As long as the can is intact and not rusting or bulging, the soup should be just fine.
Once you open the can or cook your homemade lentil soup, eat the leftovers within 4 to 5 days tops and keep them refrigerated and covered.