What's the Difference Between Split Peas and Lentils?

What's the Difference Between Split Peas and Lentils?

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Christine Gallary
Oct 16, 2016
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

I remember this one time I didn't label my purchases from the bulk bin, and I couldn't remember what was in the bag. Were they split peas or lentils? These cute little dried legumes are both healthy and delicious, but it's worth knowing their varieties and differences. Read on to find out more.

The Difference Between Split Peas and Lentils

While both are legumes, split peas and lentils come from different varieties of legumes. Split peas are a type of field pea, which is a pea grown specifically for drying, while lentils are their own type of legume, harvested as the seed of the plant and dried.

Green Split Peas
(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Split Peas

Split peas are field peas, which are a variety of yellow or green peas grown specifically for drying. When these peas are hulled and then split in half along the natural seam, they become split peas, which encourages faster cooking and eliminates the need to presoak. Split peas can be stored in an airtight container for up to one year.

Split peas are high in protein and fiber, and low in fat. There is no need to soak split peas before cooking, and they turn very creamy when cooked through.

There are two types of split peas: green and yellow. Green split peas are sweeter and less starchy than the milder yellow split peas.

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Lentils

Lentils are pulses, which are the dried seeds of legumes. There are two main groups: the large ones with flat seeds, and the smaller, more rounded ones. Like split peas, they are good sources of fiber and protein and also contain high amounts of calcium and vitamins A and B. Depending on the variety and color, lentils can be sold with or without the seed coat and whole or split. They can be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

While there are many types of lentils varying in shape, color, and size, there are three main varieties. The most common lentils, brown or green lentils, have a seed coat on the outside and a yellowish interior. French green lentils, also known as Puy lentils, are highly valued for their stronger flavor and the fact that they hold together better in the cooking process even though they take longer to cook. Red or Egyptian lentils are smaller, rounder, and are sold without the seed coat. Yellow lentils are commonly used in the Indian dish dal.

Lentils are cooked around the world and are great meat substitutes. They also do not need to be soaked before cooking. Cooked lentils can be puréed into dips and spreads, but they can also be cooked until tender yet still firm and used as a base for salads or simmered into soups. Since they have an earthy flavor, lentils pair well with sharper, brighter flavors from acid and fresh herbs.

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