‘Tis the season for warming, soupy goodness! Enter: lentil curry. At the risk of playing favorites, lentils are a great go-to pulse when you want a quick meal because they cook up quickly, no soaking necessary.
Something about the combination of lentils, onions, carrots, ginger, garlic, and kale just has ‘chilly weather recipe’ written all over it. Of course, that is not to say you can’t make this any time of year. But not enjoying this dish at least a couple times during the colder months of fall and winter would be a shame.
Warming Lentil CurryCourse: Meals, SoupsDifficulty: Easy
This is a great staple any time of year, but there is something especially satisfying about a steaming bowl of lentil curry when it’s cold outside.
1.5 cups dry (uncooked) red lentils
1 medium yellow onion – full disclosure though, I adore onions and have been known to add more
1/2 – 1 jalapeño, or to taste
1 Tbs neutral oil, to sauté
2-5 garlic cloves, or to taste – similar to onions, I am rather obsessed with garlic (must be an allium thing) and may or may not have added an entire head to this
1 knob (~2-inches) ginger
2 Tbs curry powder
4 cups vegetable broth
1 15-oz. can coconut milk
1 15-oz. can tomatoes – I highly recommend fire-roasted tomatoes if you can easily find them
2-3 cups chopped kale – or just go all in on the leafy greens and use a whole bunch of kale
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cilantro, to taste
Plain yogurt, for topping (optional)
- Rinse the lentils, removing any debris or visibly damaged lentils. Don’t stress about getting rid of all the lentils with the tiniest imperfections. Life is imperfect, we can embrace that here, too. What we don’t want to embrace, however, are any stones that may be lurking in your lentils. Not super likely, but I would argue it is worth taking 30 seconds to double-check!
- Clean and chop carrots and onion, and dice your desired amount of jalapeño. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté carrots, onion, and jalapeño with the oil and a pinch of salt until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally.
- While waiting for the vegetables to soften, cut the ginger into thin slices, mince the garlic, and clean and finely chop cilantro stems. If you have kale stems, you can chop these to add during the next step, too.
- Add the ginger (you can remove the slices later), garlic, cilantro stems, kale stems (if using), and curry powder. Sauté briefly, until fragrant. This will likely only take about 1 minute – you do not want the curry powder to stick or burn to the pot, so just sauté until you notice a nice aroma.
- Add in the lentils, broth, and coconut milk. Cook at a simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until lentils have softened. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking to the pot.
- After the lentils are cooked through, add the tomatoes and chopped kale, stirring to incorporate. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until kale reaches your desired texture. At this point, you can remove slices of ginger you find while stirring, or leave them in, according to your preference. If you leave them in, just let people know there are slices of ginger. If the curry looks thicker than desired, add a splash of water to thin it.
- Add the juice of 1 lime and taste for seasoning, adjusting as necessary.
- Serve with fresh slices of lime or a squeeze of lime, chopped cilantro, and yogurt if using.
- You can likely find red lentils at the grocery store with dried beans and other pulses. You can also order them online. Bob’s Red Mill has delightful red lentils.
- In this recipe and others, cilantro stems pack a huge punch of flavor. I recommend not tossing them and instead making the most of them by using them in your cooking. Yes, I know some of you hate cilantro (the gene that makes it taste like soap). Don’t panic, this comment is not addressed to you. Feel free to continue omitting cilantro if it causes you to grimace.
- I love using kale stems in cooking because it is sad to throw them out! Just add them earlier than you do the leafy parts to allow them time to soften.
- You can use 100% water instead of the vegetable broth, or a mix of water and vegetable broth (50-50, 25-75…whatever floats your lentil curry boat). Make sure to adjust seasonings accordingly. For instance, add more salt and potentially other spices/herbs normally found in vegetable broth to boost flavor if you use only water.
- Wondering why I waited to add the acidic ingredients like tomato and lime? I think it gives them a brighter flavor, but ALSO – acidity can slow down (or even prevent) pulses from softening. So, I like to wait for good measure. A little acidity is fine early on, but if using lots of acidic ingredients, consider holding off until close to the end.
- Control how strong the garlic flavor is by adding more or less (duh, you say) but also with timing. Add garlic earlier on for a milder flavor, or add it closer to the end of the recipe for a sharper garlic note.
Want to explore lentils in a different but still delicious way? Try this quick lentil pasta!