[RECIPE] Curried Coconut Lentils

With only an hour to spare from when I get home and when I need to leave to go to hot yoga, I am always struggling to figure out what to cook for dinner. Luckily, I decided to make this on my “off day” from yoga. That’s not to say it isn’t quick and easy – it is!!! – but I love not having to rush and actually getting the chance to enjoy the food.

However, because it was an “off day”, I decided that I still had to stay on the healthy track… so when I found this recipe for lentils, I thought it held a lot of promise: full of protein and nutrients and fairly quick to whip up! To be quite honest, what probably took the longest was putting together my mise en place (or basically getting all my ingredients together and in one place). Observe the spices:

Lentils 1

Beautiful, isn’t it? One of my favorite things to do is opening my spice cabinet (which is almost completely full) and getting that first whiff. I have quite the collection and it’s always growing…

Now, this would be my first time cooking lentils so a part of me was hoping it would turn out well, mainly because I had no idea what to expect. Is it hard to believe that I don’t ever recall eating this before? I already had the strong hunch that my BIL (brother-in-law) wouldn’t like it all that much and my husband is 50-50. However, if I didn’t like it, then that would most definitely be a major bummer, because I would be stuck eating something I made that didn’t agree with my taste buds. The thing is that lentils made this way have been on my to-do list for quite a while, so I was also pretty excited! After all, culinary adventures are awesome! Though some are rather daunting (I still haven’t made French macarons or a good souffle yet, but I imagine I should be doing it soon… ish – maybe).

I wasn’t wrong about my BIL but my husband actually liked it a bit – he liked how the lentils were soft and creamy even though curry (and Indian food in general) isn’t his favorite. Something about giving him a degree of indigestion due to the sheer amount of spices; his stomach simply isn’t used to it. In accordance with the recipe (unfortunately, I don’t have the source because I wrote it down), I also made a sauteed side of kale and tempeh to go with – and it was perfect! Kudos to the brain behind this!

Lentils 8

Curried Coconut Lentils
(serves 4… to 6)

2 TBSP of Coconut Oil
2 tsp of Cumin Seeds
2 tsp of Black Mustard Seeds
8 Bay Leaves
2 tsp of Coriander Powder
2 tsp of Cumin Powder
1 tsp of Turmeric Powder
1 tsp of Methi/Fenugreek Seed Powder
1/2 tsp of Chipotle Powder
1/4 tsp of Cayenne Powder
2 tsp of Salt, or to taste
Pepper, to taste
3 Roma Tomatoes, diced
3 cups of Red Lentils
6 cups of Water (or Vegetable Broth)
1 14.5-ounce can of Coconut Milk


  1. Heat oil over medium heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and fry for about a minute until fragrant and sizzling (they will make little popping noises). Keep a close eye on them and make sure not to let them burn.

    Lentils 2

  2. Add the tomatoes, lentils, remaining spices, salt, and pepper, and give it a stir.

    Lentils 3Then follow it up with the water/broth. Stir once more to combine and bring to a boil.

    Lentils 4Lower the heat and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. It may look like a lot of liquid but by the end of the first round of simmering, a majority of the liquid will have been soaked up by the lentils.

    Lentils 5

  3. Add the coconut milk and stir.

    Lentils 6Continue simmering on medium-low heat, stirring frequently as the lentil mixture will want to stick, for an additional 10 minutes until the lentils are soft.

    Lentils 7It will continue to thicken as it sits.

  4. Serve hot, topped with some sauteed kale and tempeh.

Note: it turns out that a serving size of red lentils is around 1/4 cup of dry lentils. I had 3 cups of dry lentils in this recipe but it was perfect for 2-1/2 (BIL had a small bowl) people, plus lunch the next day (one person got a little less). Then again, hubby tends to eat a lot… and I only had about a cup and a half of cooked lentils!

Note 2: I tend to love my spices so I added slightly more than the measurements – basically, I wouldn’t level off the spices. I also added slightly less than 3 cups of lentils, but I added about the same amount of liquid ingredients.

As for the topping of sauteed kale and tempeh, there was no recipe for it. I basically threw it together. It was essentially 2 bunches of kale along with 2 8-ounce packs of whole grain tempeh (I guess this makes it not gluten-free). I first mixed a sauce of around 3 TBSP of soy sauce, 1 to 2 TBSP of ponzu sauce, and 2 tsp of maple syrup (don’t quote me on those measurements – I just eyed it) in some olive oil. Once hot enough, I added in the tempeh and coated it with the soy sauce mixture while letting it saute, stirring occasionally, until warmed through and lightly caramelized. I set that aside in a bowl and then added a splash of water in the same skillet before throwing in the kale and letting it steam/cook until wilted and adding back the tempeh, tossing to combine.

The savory flavors of the curried lentils and the simple crispness of the kale and the light sweetness and umami flavor from the tempeh established the fact that it would be something that will be made again for another light weeknight dinner.

I do wonder though… what other foods do people eat with soft lentils?


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