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Legumes vs. Lentils: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 5, 2023
Legumes are a family of plants or their seeds, like peas and beans, while lentils are a specific type of small, flat, edible seed within the legume family.

Key Differences

Legumes represent a vast category of plants in the Fabaceae family. This broad category encompasses a variety of plants whose seeds grow in pods. Lentils, on the other hand, are a specific member of the legume family, recognized by their small, lens-shaped seeds.
Beans, peas, chickpeas, and even peanuts fall under the legume umbrella. These are plants that have a unique ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, enriching the soil they grow in. Lentils, while being a type of legume, are distinctly known for their quick cooking time compared to other legumes and their rich protein content.
The dietary and nutritional benefits of legumes are extensive. They offer protein, fiber, and various essential nutrients, making them a staple in vegetarian and vegan diets. Lentils, in particular, are lauded for their iron and folate content and are a key ingredient in numerous global dishes, from Indian dal to Mediterranean soups.
In culinary contexts, legumes can come in various forms, such as whole, split, or even grounded into flour. Lentils, being a subset of legumes, also have different varieties like red, green, and black, each with its unique taste and cooking application.

Comparison Chart


A family of plants with seeds in pods
Small, flat, edible seeds within the legume family


Includes beans, peas, chickpeas, peanuts, etc.
Red, green, black, brown, etc.

Nutritional Content

Protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals
Rich in protein, iron, folate

Culinary Uses

Whole, split, grounded into flour
Used in soups, stews, and dishes like dal

Agronomic Feature

Ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen
A type of legume, benefits from leguminous nitrogen-fixing

Legumes and Lentils Definitions


Plants with seeds that grow inside pods.
Green beans and chickpeas are both types of legumes.


Small, edible seeds from the legume family.
Lentils are a staple in many Indian recipes.


Plants that enrich soil by fixing nitrogen.
Farmers often plant legumes to improve soil quality.


Known for their lens shape.
The word lentil derives from its lens-like shape.


A staple in various global cuisines.
Tofu, made from soybeans, is a legume product popular in Asian dishes.


High in protein, iron, and folate.
Lentils are a nutritious addition to vegetarian diets.


The edible seeds of such plants.
Many vegetarians use legumes as a primary protein source.


Found in various colors and sizes.
Red lentils tend to cook faster and are softer than green ones.


Members of the Fabaceae family.
Peanuts are surprisingly classified as legumes, not nuts.


Quick-cooking compared to other legumes.
Lentils don't require soaking and cook faster than beans.


A plant of the pea family.


A leguminous plant (Lens culinaris) native to southwest Asia, having flat pods containing lens-shaped, edible seeds.


A pod of such a plant, which splits into two valves with the seeds attached to one edge of the valves.


The round, flattened seed of this plant.


Such a pod or seed used as food. Peas, beans, and lentils are legumes.


Plural of lentil


Plural of legume


Can you name some types of legumes?

Beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts are all legumes.

What are legumes?

Legumes are plants or seeds from the Fabaceae family, like beans and peas.

What's unique about legume plants agronomically?

Legumes can fix atmospheric nitrogen, enriching the soil.

Are lentils good for vegan diets?

Yes, lentils are a protein-rich choice suitable for vegans.

Why are lentils a nutritional choice?

Lentils are rich in protein, iron, and folate.

Do legumes cause digestive discomfort for some people?

Yes, some legumes can cause bloating or gas for certain individuals.

How should lentils be stored?

Lentils should be kept in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.

Do all legumes need soaking before cooking?

No, while many legumes benefit from soaking, lentils generally don't need it.

Are legumes gluten-free?

Yes, naturally legumes are gluten-free.

Why are legumes important in agriculture?

They enrich the soil by fixing nitrogen, aiding crop rotation.

Why are legumes and lentils popular in vegetarian diets?

They offer a plant-based protein source and are versatile in recipes.

How do lentils differ from other legumes?

Lentils are a specific type of legume, known for their small, lens-shaped seeds.

Which lentils cook the fastest?

Red lentils typically cook faster than other varieties.

Are green and red lentils interchangeable in recipes?

Not always, as they have different textures and cooking times.

What are the health benefits of consuming legumes?

Legumes offer protein, fiber, vitamins, and are heart-healthy.

Are lentils considered whole grains?

No, lentils are legumes, not grains.

Are peanuts considered legumes?

Yes, peanuts are a type of legume.

What are common dishes made with lentils?

Dishes like Indian dal and Mediterranean lentil soup are popular.

How are lentils different from beans?

Lentils are smaller, flat, and cook faster than beans.

Are lentils a carbohydrate or protein source?

Lentils are both: a good source of protein and complex carbohydrates.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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