Lentils are an awesome little legume. Excellent for long-term storage, they provide good nutrition and can be packaged to store for decades. Cultivated longer than any other legume, lentils are a staple food around the globe.
Dried lentils store for one year in store-bought packaging and three years in airtight containers. Store dried lentils long term for 30-years to indefinitely by packaging in an Oxygen-free environment, such as a sealed Mylar bag or Food grade pale with Oxygen absorber(s) or sealed in #10 cans
Store packaging doesn’t keep out air or light, both of which are food killers. Tupperware and zip lock containers are better than store-bought packaging, but they still don’t provide a true oxygen barrier. For decades of shelf-life, use Mylar bags, Food-grade pales, and Oxygen Absorbers to store your dry lentils.
Storage Environment For Maximum Shelf-life of Lentils
If you want to store dried lentils for the long term, such as in a long term pantry for survival food, first package in an oxygen-free container as noted above and store in a cool, dry location, up off the floor, and pest-free.
If you use Mylar bags to store lentils, make sure they are at least 5 mils in thickness. Thinner bags are opaque and let in light, which will decrease shelf life via light oxidation.
Consider using Mylar Bags, and Food-grade pales together as Mylar is a better oxygen barrier but is more prone to damage. The food-grade bucket will protect the bag and make for stackable storage.
5 Types of Lentils To Store Long-Term
Lentils are one variety of pulse or edible seeds in the legume family that grows in a pod. Other Pulses you may want to consider for long-term storage are dry beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cowpeas, or pigeon peas. Following are 5 types of lentils to consider for long-term food storage.
Brown Lentils The lentils you are most likely to find at the grocery store. The most flexible and best option for long-term storage.
Green Lentils: Similar to brown lentils but with a peppery flavor. Often used as a substitute for expensive Puy Lentils.
Red And Yellow Lentils: Usually sold split, these lentils cook down into a liquid and are good as a thickening agent for soups and stews. It might be a good idea to store a small portion of these, but I wouldn’t use them as a staple.
Black Lentils: Expensive, but they provide the most protein of any lentil. Too expensive for bulk storage.
Puy Lentils: Grown in Volcanic soil in France. A specialty lentil that is too expensive for bulk storage.
11 Reasons Dried Lentils Are An Excellent Food For Long-term Storage
#1 Long Shelf Life of 30 Years to Indefinite
Store these little gems in a cool, dry environment, in an Oxygen-free container, and your kids, kids will be eating them. You can, for sure, get 30 years of shelf life, maybe longer. Lentils are super-food when it comes to long-term storage, decades of storage life, and high nutritional value.
#2 Lentils Are Flexible With Other Survival Foods
Eat lentils with another super survival food, white rice. Stew lentils in curry or spices, add to soup or stew, or cook and eat in cold salads. Form into patties and fry like a hamburger, or add to sauces. Lentils are also eaten in stews with garden produce, coconut milk, or ghee.
#3 Lentils Are Inexpensive
You can purchase bulk quantities of lentils at ridiculously low prices. When you consider the shelf life and how much nutrition they provide, lentils are a powerhouse of survival nutrition at rock bottom prices.
#4 Lentils Cook Fast
Bring lentils to a boil and simmer. You’ll be eating in 15 minutes. Lentils are an especially good food to simmer on low heat and forget about.
Slow cook lentils with whatever chopped vegetables you have. Onions, garlic, and dry spices like Chili powder, yellow curry, and red pepper flakes are really good in stewed lentils.
For a nutritious ready-made survival meal, pour stewed lentils over long-grain white rice—an Excellent, low-cost survival meal.
#5 Lentils Don’t Require Pre-Soaking
You don’t need to pre-soak lentils before cooking. They only take 15 minutes to cook fully. Add vegetables, meat, or spices and stew them longer for maximum flavor.
#6 Lentils Are A Good Meat Substitute
Lentils are on par with steak for providing protein but exponentially less expensive. Not to mention you can’t store steak for 30 years unless it’s freeze-dried, an expensive option.
Lentils are an excellent plant-based protein source and provide carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, folate, and B vitamins. According to the USDA, 1 cup of boiled lentils provides 230 calories.
Though nutritious lentils should be eaten with a complimentary food like white rice or wheat to obtain a full protein or full amino acid chain.
#7 Lentils Are Excellent in Meatless Dishes
Vegans often use lentils as a meat replacement. You may not be a vegan, but meat is hard to come by in a survival environment. Combine lentils with dishes when you don’t have meat, or use lentils to stretch what meat you have on hand.
#8 Lentils Can Be Sprouted
A big challenge of survival, especially cold weather survival, is a lack of fresh vegetables or herbs. Sprout lentils indoors during the winter, and you have fresh greens. You don’t need light to sprout though a little sun causes a flush of chlorophyll in the sprouts, good for your survival diet.
#9 Lentils Can Be Used to Make Gluten-Free Flour
Lentils can be ground into gluten-free flour and used to bake fresh bread. A good alternative to wheat berries if someone in your group is gluten intolerant.
#10 Lentils Pair Well With Rice
Lentils and rice go well together, and they are both super prepper foods that store for 30+ years. If you don’t store rice, you should definitely consider storing it. It’s probably the best overall food to store for long-term survival.
#11 Lentils Are Filling
Eating foods that fill you up is good for morale. In a survival situation or during a societal collapse, you want what little food you have available to fill you up.
5 Steps To Cook Stored Survival Lentils
Lentils are Easier To Cook In A Survival Situation Than Beans because they don’t have to be pre-soaked, and they cook much quicker. Also, You don’t have to worry as much about adding water or wasting fuel.
- Optional Step: Rinse Lentils. In a survival situation, this is a waste of water, in my opinion.
- Optional Step: Sort your lentils for pebbles or debris. I don’t sort any legumes. In a survival situation, you probably won’t either.
- Put a pan on the stovetop, camp stove, or in a cast-iron pot on a fire.
- Bring water to a boil using 1 cup of lentils to 3 cups of water. You can’t use too much water, but more water will reduce flavor.
- If you want to eye-ball it, keep water at least 1″ above the lentils.
- For extra flavor, use meat or vegetable stock or add bouillon cubes to the water.
- Chop and add foraged vegetables and herbs
- Once boiling, Reduce heat, set to the side of the fire or on lower heat, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
- The longer you cook lentils, the more they will break down. I like mine stewed 45 minutes with veg and spices to build flavor, but this isn’t necessary.
Sweating Foraged Vegetables Before Cooking Dry Lentils
An alternative to boiling vegetables with the lentils is to put a couple of tablespoons of oil or fat in the pan before adding the liquid or lentils
- Put the pan over medium-high heat.
- Place a couple of tablespoons of oil or fat in your pan
- Dump your cut-up vegetables in the oil and sweat them a little.
- Add your stock or water.
- Add bouillon cubes or spices like yellow curry, chili powder, or cayenne pepper.
Lentils are forgiving, so experiment with them. If you want a soupy mixture, add more liquid.
If you want a thicker mixture, add less water, or cook longer. Mix in different ingredients and eat with 30-year staples like white rice, rolled oats, or bread made from wheat berries.
Do You Need To Soak Your Dried Lentils Before Cooking?
Soaking lentils will cut the cooking time down by 50%. Instead of a 15 or 20 minute cook time, you’re looking at 7 to 10 minutes until soft enough to eat.
In a survival situation where resources like water are limited, presoaking is a good option. Pre-soaking will cut down on how much fuel you use.
Store Lentils and Grains For Survival Food: Complementary Proteins
Eating grains or lentils alone doesn’t provide you with a complete protein. Eaten together, you get a full complement of amino acids. Grains like white rice, wheat berries, and rolled oats contain amino acids that lentils lack and vice versa, so eat them together for a full protein.
Lentils.org, Lentils, Cooking Made Easy with Lentils, Downloadable PDF
Extension, Utah State University: Brian Nummer, Food Safety Specialist, A Guide To Food Storage For Emergencies, Downloadable PDF
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Protein In Vegetarian and Vegan Diets Downloadable PDF