YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Coconut Curry Lentils

Here’s what I love most about this recipe from Julia Turshen, a genius in the kitchen and author of a very fine cookbook, Small Victories. Julia says dried spices are just “sleeping in the cupboard,” and that a hit of hot oil is just what they need to get them to “wake up.” In her curried lentils, the spices (cumin seed, coriander, and turmeric) are roused from slumber for 10 minutes, which is a pretty long time in comparison to other recipes. That’s why she adds them right at the beginning, along with minced garlic, shallot, and ginger. Not to worry, though. This dish comes together in 30 minutes, which gives them enough time to blend with the aromatics (garlic, shallot and ginger) and make the lentils taste earthy and “deeply curried.”

Chances are good that you’ve already got everything you need in the cabinet to make this dish. If not, get a little extra when you go shopping, because I suspect you’ll want to make it again soon. Thank you, Julia!

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon peeled fresh ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot (or very small onion), minced
1/2 teaspoon coriander (ground)
1 teaspoon cumin (either seeds or ground)
1 teaspoon turmeric (ground)
1 cup French green lentils (or red lentils, which will cook in just 15-20 minutes)
1 (13.5 oz.) can full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
2 tsp. Kosher salt

Warm olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, shallot (or onion), coriander, cumin, and turmeric and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and spices are fragrant.

Add lentils, coconut milk, and salt*. Use the empty coconut-milk can to measure an equal amount o water and add it to the saucepan. The lentils will absorb much of the liquid as they cook. Stir everything together, raise heat to high, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and allow lentils to simmer 30-45 minutes, until completely soft. Keep tasting intermittently to check whether the lentils are cooked through, and add more water if necessary. Serve hot.

You can serve this dish alone, or with your choice of basmati rice, plain yogurt, chopped fresh cilantro, or naan; or you can make a feast with all of them, allowing your diners to choose their own preferred combination. It can be served over rice, with a topping each of a spoonful of yogurt, sprinkle of cilantro, and a side of naan or other flatbread. Serves 4.

Also, if you are inclined, feel free to substitute a pound of either 1) chopped vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, and potatoes work great) or 2) cubed chicken, for the lentils. These alternatives are also delicious. 

*Note: if you’re using table salt, start with just 1 teaspoon and add more to taste.

Thank you to for sharing Julia’s recipe!

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