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Gone are the days when lenses had a poor-man image. For several years, the flat legume has been experiencing a renaissance in our kitchens and has been more popular than ever since. And not only gourmets and vegetarians appreciate the variety of their fine aromas. We have put together popular types of lentils for you, including a little product information.

lens types

The lenses (botanical Lens) include only six different types of lenses. The ancestors of the kitchen lens (Lens culinaris) are two of these types of lenses, namely lens nigrans and lens orientalis. Many only know the large lentils that are often used for stews. There are over 70 varieties worldwide, some of which are only grown very regionally in small quantities.

Small product knowledge

Lentils are among the oldest cultivated plants on earth. The homeland of legumes is believed to be in Asia Minor and Egypt, where the herbaceous plant was probably cultivated around 10,000 years ago. And in Germany, too, around 100 years ago, the lentil was a typical field crop, especially in the Swabian Jura. Here the Lens culinaris finds perfect conditions, because it likes poor soil and warm, dry climate conditions. What she does not tolerate is repeated cultivation in the same area. It requires at least a six-year break from cultivation - a difficult undertaking in today's agriculture, which is geared towards monocultures.

by the way: Did you know that the lentil is one of the legumes that enrich the soil with nitrogen?


Because of the many different breeds and variations, kitchen lentils are preferably distinguished by color and size. There are hardly any major differences in shape between the individual types of lenses. Most seeds have their characteristic, flat-oval shape. A few varieties are also spherical in shape.

1. By size

Small-seeded lentils (mignon lentils)

  • Diameter 3 to 5 mm
  • Seed color: green, light red, brown to black
  • more floriferous than large-seeded varieties
  • higher seed yield
  • tastier due to the high peel content

sugar lentils

  • Diameter: 4mm
  • conspicuously pot-bellied shape

center lenses

  • Diameter: 4.5 to 6 mm

Large-seeded lentil varieties

  • Diameter: 6 to 7 mm
  • Minimum size for plate lenses
  • Main growing area: Mediterranean

by the way: Lentil seeds that have a diameter of more than seven millimeters are called giant lentils.

2. By color

Green lentils

This is the name given to the fresh, unpeeled lentil seeds with a yellowish-green core that turns brownish over time. They come in a wide variety of shades, from green slate to pale or dotted greens, to touches of blue or black.

Brown lentils

Brown lentils are usually green lentil seeds that have been stored for a long time and were still olive-green shortly after harvest. The taste hardly suffers from the natural discoloration. In some cases the cooking time may be slightly longer.

Yellow and red lentil varieties

The yellow and red lentils are not their own varieties, but peeled lentil seeds. The color of the shell can be completely different. With a diameter of three to four millimeters, the relatively small, red variants are characterized by a sweetish taste and are particularly widespread in Turkish and Indian cuisine. The yellow-colored kernels are usually slightly larger and have a creamy consistency when cooked. They quickly boil to a pulp and they lack the typical lentil aroma.

Popular lentil varieties

Over 70 different varieties of Lens culinaris are cultivated worldwide. 50 of them come from the Indian subcontinent alone. In Germany, the selection isn't that big. In the meantime, however, a colorful variety is commercially available. Their name often comes from the respective growing area.

Alb lentils (Alb Leisa)

Lentil cultivation also had a long tradition in Germany. Until the 1950s, the main growing area for legumes in the German-speaking area was Swabia. However, as the cultivation was very time-consuming and labor-intensive, it could no longer withstand the cheap exports from Turkey, India and Canada and finally died out. Around 2006, the Alb lentils were accidentally rediscovered in the Russian crop gene database.

Alb-Leisa I (Späths Alblinse 1)

  • Skin: light green to ocher
  • Core: yellow
  • Size: 4 to 5mm
  • mealy boiling
  • Taste: slightly nutty

Alb-Leisa II (Späth's Alblinse 2)

  • Colour: light green to beige, partly spotted or marbled
  • Inside color: yellow
  • Size: 3 to 4mm
  • sticky
  • Taste: aromatic to spicy

tip: In addition to the two main varieties, there is a third, small-seeded Albline variety that is marbled greenish or black and cooks very firmly.

Anicia lens

A popular variety in France is the green Alicia lentil. It is similar to the Puy lentil and is also grown in the same region, Auvergne. A characteristic of this green lentil specialty is the thin skin, which makes it taste particularly fine and tender.

  • Shell: green marbled
  • yellow to greenish yellow inside
  • Size: around 4mm
  • sticky
  • Flavor: particularly nutty

beluga lens

One of the finest types of lentils is the small-seeded beluga lentil. Because the appearance of the black lentil is reminiscent of beluga caviar, gourmets also call it vegetarian caviar or caviar lentil. The black legumes probably come from North America. Because the bushy plant requires a temperate, mildly warm climate, which is why large-scale agricultural cultivation is only possible in certain regions of the USA and Canada.

  • Shell: shiny black
  • Core: yellowish
  • Size: 2 to 3mm
  • sticky
  • Taste: delicately nutty, of roasted chestnuts

mountain lentils

There is no special type of lentil under the term mountain lentils. Berglinsen is a collective term for different varieties from the mountainous regions of the world. Therefore, the products offered can differ greatly from each other. What they all have in common is that they are cultivated at at least 700 meters above sea level. Mountain lentils are slightly smaller and are therefore considered to be more aromatic than plate lentils.

Berry Lens

These Lens culinaris seeds take their name from the Berry region near Paris where they are grown. This is why this type of lentil is often referred to as berry green lentil.

  • Skin: beige with striking dark blue to greenish markings
  • very thin, tender shell
  • Interior color: light to olive green
  • Size: 3.5 to 5mm
  • conspicuously round
  • sticky
  • Taste: aromatic to spicy, reminiscent of chestnuts

Castelluccio lens

Castelluccio is a small village in the Monti Sibillini National Park in Umbria. The lentils grown there at an altitude of around 1400 meters are considered to be the finest in Italy. Probably also because they are only traditionally cultivated on a very small scale and the harvest is only around 100 tons per year.

  • Skin: very variable (yellowish, pink, reddish brown or greenish)
  • Core: red
  • Size: 4 to 5mm
  • sticky
  • Taste: earthy to nutty

chateau lens

A special feature from the ranks of the small and therefore very aromatic lentil specialties is the chateau lentil cultivated in the French Champagne, which is therefore also on the market as Champagne lentil.

  • Skin: light brown to reddish brown
  • Inside color: red
  • Size: 4 to 5mm
  • sticky
  • Flavor: mealy-nutty

pardina lentils

Pardinal lentils have been cultivated according to ancient tradition in northern Spain for over 800 years. The name Pardino comes from the Spanish word "pardo" and means nothing other than "brown". Since the early 1980s, the pardina lens has also been cultivated in the USA because the lens is very resistant and robust. Pardinal lenses are also known to us as brown lenses and are therefore often confused with the plate lens, which looks similar.

  • Shell: light brown, reddish brown or grey-brown with black dots
  • bluish marbling
  • Core: strong yellow
  • Size: 4 to 5mm
  • sticky
  • Taste: aromatic, slightly nutty

Puy lenses

In addition to the berry and beluga lentils, the particularly exquisite lentil varieties also include the green Puy lentil, which grows on the volcanic soil of the French Auvergne. Despite the thin shell, the lentils have a very firm consistency.

  • Shell: light brown, reddish brown to brown-grey
  • Core: yellow
  • Size: 3 to 4mm
  • sticky
  • Taste: nutty, slightly peppery

by the way: Only if the lentil comes from the French Auvergne, it may bear the name "Le Puy". The same variety from a different growing area is simply called green lentil.

plate lentils

With a diameter of around seven millimeters, the plate lens, which is popular in Germany, is one of the larger types of lenses. It is suitable for all types of lentil dishes. Plate lentils are also sold commercially under the designation Green lentils or Troja lentils. Plate lentils are colored in a light olive green immediately after harvesting. After a longer storage period, they then turn yellow-brown to brown. However, the change in color does not affect taste or cooking properties.

  • Skin: greenish, yellow to brown or olive green
  • Inside color: yellow
  • Size: 6 to 7mm
  • floury consistency
  • Taste: mild to earthy


Depending on their size and color, lentil seeds have very different cooking properties. Because some varieties are rather floury and overcook quickly. However, they are excellent for soups, stews and spreads. Others, on the other hand, keep their shape and are still al dente even after a long cooking time. These are therefore good for salads. As a rule of thumb, the larger the type of lentil, the faster it will overcook. Since the flavors come mainly from the shell, unpeeled seeds are more flavorful than the bare kernels.

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