Red Lentil Curry

Lentils are a great source of protein. They need no pre-soaking and cook much more quickly than other dried legumes.  Red lentils are one of the most common types of lentil. They are a lovely salmon pink color, but turn golden when cooked. If you are unable to find red lentils, you can substitute yellow split peas.  This dish is delicious with rice or couscous, but I love to eat it served up all by itself.


Medium Pot
Small Skillet


1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp each turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground ginger
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)


  1. Sort through the red lentils and pick out any small pebbles, then rinse and put them in a pot along with the water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until completely tender, 15 to 20 minutes. (45 minutes if using yellow split peas.)
  2. Begin heating the oil in a small skillet, then add all the spices and cook over medium heat until the mustard seeds begin to pop.
  3. Add the spice mixture to the cooked lentils in the pot and stir to mix.  Simmer gently, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add salt to taste.  Serve over rice, quinoa or couscous if desired.

Note: For an oil free version, toast the spices in a dry skillet (be careful not to inhale the fumes) until mustard seeds begin to pop.   Add toasted spices to the cooked lentils. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Add salt to taste.

from “Food for Life” by Neal Barnard, M.D.


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