Indian Spicy Lentils

Indian cuisine is vegetable heaven. A culture that has so many vegetarians has of course created some of the very best vegetable recipes. Two or three of the dishes in this chapter, combined with some saffron rice, make an exciting and satisfying meal.

You can use one of several kinds of lentils in this recipe. The more expensive French green variety retain their firm contours, yet absorb the spices well. Brown lentils or Indian red lentils cook very quickly but lose their shape. Aesthetics may be the only deciding factor.


  • 2 cups green, brown, or red lentils
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
  • cups diced onions
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon (or to taste) cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons (or to taste) minced jalapeño peppers
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons (or to taste) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper



Cover the lentils (by about 2 inches) with water and cook until just tender and still slightly al dente. 30 to 40 minutes for green lentils. 15 to 20 minutes for brown and red. Do not overcook. Set aside.

Heat the butter or oil in a large sauté or skillet pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender and sweet, about 10 minutes. Add the cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, garlic, jalapeños, lemon zest, and bay leaf and cook 5 minutes. Fold in the lentils, add lemon juice to taste, and cook 2 to 3 minutes. You may need to add a little water. Then add the cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaf before serving.