How to store lentils long term and maximize storage

How to Store Lentils Long Term and Maximize Shelf Life

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

If you are looking for long-lasting, gluten-free legumes packed with protein, fiber, and other nutrients, lentils are precisely what you need. Dried lentils can be stored for up to 30 years, making them an excellent food for long-term storage. By learning how to store lentils long-term, you can ensure a constant food supply for your family in an emergency scenario, as well as add greater variety to the items in your food storage.

Brown and French Lentils

What are Lentils?

Lentils were one of the first plants to be cultivated and farmed by people in the Middle East sometime around 8,000 BC (source).

Lentils are the seed of legume plants, meaning it is not a grain, but a pseudocereal, like quinoa. Lentils are complex carbohydrates, high in fiber and protein, and low in fat and calories. Adding lentils to your emergency food storage location will provide you with more variety in your diet.

There are many different types of lentils, but some of the more popular ones are:

  • Red & Yellow Lentils: Mild and sweet flavor
  • Black Lentils (Beluga Lentils): Earthy flavor
  • Green & Puy Lentils (French Lentils): Earthy Flavor 
  • Brown Lentils: Earthy Flavor

Different types of lentils

Nutrition Facts of Lentils

Lentils are a popular rice substitute because they are a good source of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber. See the nutrition facts below for 1 cup of lentils.

Nutrition Category1 Cup of Lentils

How to Store Dried lentils?

In the proper packaging, lentils can be stored for up to 30 years. However, to reach their maximum shelf life, lentils need to be sealed in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers and in a controlled environment. There are various ways to store lentils, but it largely depends on the quantity you intend to store. If you intend to store lentils long-term, it’s better to store them in 5-gallon buckets. However, if you intend to use the lentils within one year, we suggest storing them in mason jars. We will go over the two methods below.

FG 5 gallon bucket

Method 1: 5-Gallon Bucket with Mylar Bag

Using food-grade 5-gallon buckets with mylar bags will ensure your lentils last to 30 years and are well protected from environmental aggressors, pests, and other elements that can cause the lentils to spoil.

Step 1: Determine your portions

The first step is to figure out how many lentils you will need. The average American consumes about 12 pounds of legumes per year (source). The amount of lentils you store should be based on the number of people in your family. For each additional family member, you should store an additional 12 pounds of lentils. Fortunately, one 5-gallon bucket will supply 36 pounds of lentils. So a 5-gallon bucket of lentils will be enough for about three people.

Step 2: Prepare the bucket

To ensure your lentils last their maximum shelf life, you need to make sure it is stored in a good container. Here are some suggestions to help maintain the quality of the container:

  1. Make sure the bucket is BPA-Free. A BPA-free bucket ensures chemicals will not leak into the food, and it is suitable for food storage.
  2. Wash the bucket entirely in warm water and with soap. In doing so, any residue that can cause spoilage will be eliminated.
  3. Ensure the food is secured with Gamma Seal Lids. Gamma seal lids are one of the most effective tools to ensure oxygen does not enter the bucket.

Step 3: Fill the Mylar Bags

Next, you will fill the mylar bags with lentils, but leave a few inches to ensure the bag can seal completely.

Related Article: How to Store Food in Mylar Bags: A Guide for Beginners

Step 4: Place in the storage container

Place the mylar bags within the storage container. Within the storage container, it will last longer and be protected.

lentils in mason jars

Method 2: Mason Jar

Step 1: Wash the jar

Ensure that the mason jar is clean. Using a dirty mason jar can lead to your dried lentils spoiling because of exposure to bacteria. Bacteria, although invisible, can be a hazard to your long-term storage goals.

Step 2: Fill the Jar

Once the jar is clean, fill the jar with the lentils. However, make sure to leave one inch from the rim of the seal so that you can close the jar properly.

Step 3: Remove Oxygen

To remove the oxygen from the jar, add oxygen absorbers. Add about 100cc of oxygen absorbers for each quart and tightly close the lid once you add the oxygen absorbers.

Step 4: Close the jar

Once the oxygen absorbers are in the jar, seal the dry lentils in the container. This will ensure environmental factors such as oxygen, moisture, heat, and direct sunlight do not impact the lentils.

Step 5: Label the bag

Lastly, once the bag is sealed, label the bag. In doing so, you will know the contents of the bag and the date it was sealed.

Shelf life of Dried Lentils

In its original packaging, the shelf life of dried lentils is 2-3 years. However, when properly stored, lentils have a long shelf life and can last up to 30 years (source). In order to reach their maximum shelf life, lentils will need to be stored in an airtight container with oxygen absorbers. One important consideration when storing lentils long-term is that the nutrition of lentils diminishes the older the supply of lentils is. If you choose to store lentils in their original packaging, it is suggested you replace your lentils every 3 years and every 15 years if you use a proper storage method. This way, you can ensure you and your family are receiving the full nutritional benefits of lentils.

Shelf life of Canned Lentils

Additionally, you should know canned lentils are a good option for medium-term storage. They can protect the lentils from heat, light, and air exposure. When stored properly, canned lentils last 3-5 years. Canned lentils can be kept in a cupboard or any cool, dry place. But in the instance that it is open, it should be consumed immediately or stored in an airtight container. 

14 Reasons Why Lentils are a great Prepper Food

If you are a prepper looking to store lentils long-term, there are a number of reasons why you should store lentils in your storage. Some of the reasons include:

1) Maximum Shelf life

Lentils have a maximum shelf life of 30 years when stored properly. However, in its original packaging, it lasts 2-3 years and up to 5 years if you store canned lentils.

2) Lentils are Easy to Cooks

Dried lentils can be cooked in less than 30 minutes. They also taste great and absorb spices and other flavors well. Generally, you will need 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of lentils. It cooks similar to water.

3) Lentils are high in Fiber

1 Cup of cooked lentils contains 12.5g of fiber. In a SHTF scenario, you will need high-fiber foods because they can help relieve constipation and the body process waste.

4) Lentils are High in Protein

1 Cup of cooked lentils contains 18g of protein. Proteins are essential for survival in a SHTF scenario as they help repair and build muscles. After a long day of physical labor, eating high-protein food will help your body can recover.

5) Lentils are dense in Calcium and Iron

1 Cup of cooked lentils has 38mg of Calcium and 6.6mg of Iron. These are two minerals that are important for your health as Calcium ensures healthy teeth and bones, while Iron helps your body move oxygen more effectively throughout your body (Source).

6) Lentils are good for the Heart

Lentils are high in potassium, folate, and fiber, which can help manage blood pressure and cholesterol (source). Ensure you can maintain a healthy heart in a SHTF scenario as it can add less stress to you and your family.

7) Lentils are Gluten Free

Although lentils are often grouped with grains, they are actually legumes. This means they are the seeds of plants and are a gluten-free source of carbohydrates. If you have to maintain a gluten-free diet, lentils are a good candidate for your long-term food storage pantry.

8) Dried Lentils are Easy to Store

Dried lentils can be stored in much of the same way as dried rice and beans, quinoa, oats, and other grains. If you follow the storage methods discussed above, lentils in a 5-gallon bucket can be stored in a basement and stacked on top of each other. Mason jars should not be stacked on top of each other but can be stored in a pantry or on a shelf.

9) Lentils are an affordable food source

One of the challenges of being a prepper is how costly it can be to buy foods in bulk. Fortunately, you can find all different types of lentils and buy them in bulk at an inexpensive rate.

10) Cooked Lentils are an alternative to meats

Given their high protein content, lentils are a reliable alternative to meat products in an emergency. However, it should not be seen as a replacement for meat products. Meats are much higher in protein and provide essential nutrients not typically found in lentils.

11) Make Sprouted Lentils from Uncooked Lentils

Uncooked lentils can be sprouted by soaking them in water and exposing it to light (source). After it germinates, it can be eaten for more nutrients and new flavors in your dishes.

12) Substitute for Rice

Since lentils are high in carbohydrates and pairs well with other foods, it is often used as a substitute for rice. You should consider lentils to add variety to the dishes served in a SHTF scenario.

13) Make Gluten-Free Flour from Dried Lentils

Lentil flour is a gluten-free, high-protein flour for baking and making pasta. There are a lot of benefits to using this flour, and it can be made easily. Simply ground the lentils until it becomes a fine flour (source).

14) Lentils are a Healthy Food for Diabetics

Consuming lentils can help release starch found in sugars into the bloodstream, helping reduce blood sugar levels (source). In a SHTF scenario, a diabetic will need to find creative ways to regulate blood sugar levels. By having lentils in your pantry, it will make their life easier.

How do you know if Lentils have Gone Bad?

No matter how well-dried lentils are stored, they will go bad after some time. Fortunately, the signs are obvious if you know what to look for.

When attempting to spot expired lentils, you should be mindful of discoloration, mold, and smell. If you have any suspicion they have gone bad, it’s better to dispose of them than consume expired lentils. Expired lentils have no nutritional value and could put your health at risk.

If you notice any discoloration and mold on the surface of the lentils, it will be a visual indicator the lentils have gone bad. Exposure to air allows microbes to contaminate the lentils, which will lead to mold discoloration occurring. This is why it’s important to store dried lentils in an airtight container.

However, in some instances, there are no visible signs of spoilage. When in doubt, simply sniff your lentils. If you picked up a strong yet off odor, it is an indicator that your lentils have gone bad and should be disposed of immediately.

There is no doubt that lentils are a great addition to our diet. However, we should still be careful with what we eat. Be cautious with the appearance and smell of our food to avoid health problems and discomfort.

Orange lentils


All in all, learning how to store lentils is an important skill as it can provide your family with a nutritious and secure source of food for the next 30 years. When storing dry lentils, the most important points to remember are to limit exposure to airflow, and protect the lentils from light, heat, and moisture. In doing so, you will be able to reach the maximum shelf life of the lentils by following the steps in this article.

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