I am always amazed at what inspiration come from the food blog community. There are wise words of wisdom, quirky anecdotes, and most of all, tons of amazing food. Every time I check out my favorite blogs, I find myself making notes on things I want to try or ideas I have for recipes. When I saw Shanna’s Thai Chicken Curry, I knew I wanted to make something spicy and fragrant. I wanted a big dish of comfort and that’s exactly what I lentil masala. I did a bunch of searching and finally settled on adapting this Tikka Masala (without the tikka of course). This recipe has become my favorite lentil dish and the masala paste can be used for other meals, like this masala potatoes and fried egg skillet.
This flavorful dinner can satisfy even the pickiest of eater. The lentils are cooked in a creamy, rich sauce and finished with wilted spinach. Make an extra large batch of the masala paste and freeze for later use.
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 2 inch piece of ginger peeled and cut into pieces
- 1/8 to 3 teaspoons red pepper flakes see note
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons garam marsala
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil or other nut oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/3 cup packed cilantro leaves
- 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
- 1 small red onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/3 cup masala paste
- 1 cup stewed tomatoes
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 2 cups spinach packed
- 1/2 to 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
To make paste, toast cumin and coriander seeds in skillet until fragrant. Use a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder) to grind spices.
In a small food processor, add ginger and pulse until broken into small pieces. Add red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, garam marsala, and salt. Pulse a couple more times to incorporate. Next, add nut oil, tomato paste, and cilantro leaves. Pulse until paste forms and everything is well incorporated. Set aside.
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt coconut oil and add diced onion, cooking until translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add in minced garlic and cook for one more minute.
Stir in masala paste and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add stewed tomatoes and coconut milk. Stir together and bring to a boil.
Add in lentils and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring often, until lentils are tender, 20-25 minutes. If liquid has absorbed but lentils are still not tender, add 1/2 cup of vegetable broth and cook until lentils are tender. Remove from heat and fold in spinach.
Serve with your favorite grain, extra cilantro, and a dollop of plain greek yogurt.
Tips and Tricks: I recommend making this dish once with the minimum amount of red pepper flakes in the masala paste and adding more crushed red pepper before serving if desired. The paste, with 3 teaspoons of red pepper flakes, can be really spicy.
Plan ahead: Find this recipe in the Naturally Ella Real Plans upgrade
Nutrition: find information here
Red Lentil Masala
The paste definitely has a kick to it but it’s my favorite kind where you taste the spices and then the heat hits in the back of your mouth. Don’t be too intimidated with the long list of ingredients. I had everything in my cupboard, but they can be found easily in the grocery store if you don’t have something on hand.
Lentils: I’ve expressed my love of lentils before but I rarely showcase red lentils. Red lentils have a tendency to turn to mush when cooked. But for this dish, I opted to stand and check them every so often and removed from heat before my lentils disappeared. Other lentils can be used but extra liquid may be needed and the cooking time will increase.
Greens: I always have spinach on hand but kale or chard would easily work in place of the spinach (or use a mix of greens).
Use up the paste: Don’t worry if you have extra masala paste to use. You can keep for later use in another round of this dish or make something like this egg skillet with masala potatoes.
Check out the comments: Many people have made this lentil masala and there’s quite a good bit of information in the comments below!
Next to chickpeas, red lentils are the second most-used legumes in my pantry. They cook quickly, can easily be used to thicken soups, they’re a perfect addition to curry, and have a beautiful red hue. In this red lentil masala, I’m careful to not overcook the lentils but in most dishes, I let the lentils cook until falling apart. A few more of my favorite red lentil dishes include:
Recipe originally posted on November 23rd, 2012. Last updated on August 27th, 2016.