These Masala Spiced Lentils are a vegan, flavorful, and incredibly simple way to prepare red lentils.
Have you tried cooking lentils? Maybe you’ve seen them at the grocery store and thought, “Are those beans? Are those a type of rice? Are those tiny pebbles that someone put in a bag to trick me? Is this some kind of food fraud?” Well, my friends, they’re a legume. And they’re quite tasty. They work wonderfully as a ‘meaty’ component in soup, but also can stand on their own. They also come in a rainbow of colors, each of which has its own taste and cooking time. (Check out this guide for lentil cook times at IndiaPhile).
This recipe for Masala Spiced Lentils uses either red lentils OR split pigeon peas (toor dal). Red lentils should be stocked at most grocery stores. If you want to try split pigeon peas, they’re easy to find at Middle Eastern or Indian grocery stores (or at Jungle Jim’s). If you decide to use brown or green lentils, the cook time and seasoning will probably be a little off, so proceed at your own risk (and then tell me how it went!).
This lentil dish is seasoned with a tandoori masala spice mix. Normally, I just buy my spices separately and mix them myself as I go, but I really love Whole Food’s Tandoori Masala spice mix. If you’ve got a different pre-made tandoori spice, you can use that, or check the notes below the recipe for spice mix substitutions.
Masala Spiced Lentils are delicious on their own, or served over rice. Serve it as a side dish or as a lighter main course. If I’m eating dinner alone- this is plenty for me. If the husband is with me- he needs rice with this to get full. Adjust your menu according to your appetites.. and enjoy
Looking for more Indian inspired meals? Try these:
Masala Spiced Lentils
Serves 4 as main dish, 8 as side dish
- 2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
- 1 TB minced garlic
- 1 1/2 TB tandoori masala spice mix (I use Whole Food's Tandoori Masala, see substitution note below)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 TB olive oil OR coconut oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 15oz can fire roasted tomatoes OR 1-2 tomatoes diced
- 1 cup red lentils OR split pigeon peas (wash, drain, and check for pebbles)
- 3 1/2 cups water
- ~1 tsp salt (to taste)
- 4-5 sprigs cilantro leaves (optional)
- jasmine rice (to serve with, optional)
To Substitute Homemade Tandoori Spice Mix:
- Blend 2 TB cumin, 2 TB garlic powder, 2 TB paprika, 4 tsp ginger, 1 TB coriander, 2 tsp cardamom, and use 1 and 1/2 TB of mixture in place of pre-made spice mix
Dry roast spices- put pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and tandoori spice mix in a small nonstick pan and set heat to low. Roast 4-5 minutes, or until spices become fragrant.
Meanwhile, pour oil into a large heavy pan or wok, and set heat to medium. When oil begins to ripple, add onions and cook on medium about 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir. Next, remove spice mixture from heat and pour in with the onions. Stir for a minute or two.
Add tomatoes and cook another 4-5 minutes. Add lentils and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover pan and reduce heat to medium low. Cook until most (but not all) of the water has absorbed and the lentils are soft, about 45 minutes. Add turmeric. Salt to taste.
If you're serving lentils over rice, make the rice while the lentils are cooking.
Allow to lentils to cool slightly before serving. Top with cilantro leaves.
Serve alone or with rice.