Coconut Curried Lentils

Coconut-Lentil-Curry-1I think lentils are the ultimate satisfying comfort food.

Adarsh, however, grew up on them and turns his nose up at them like a 3 year old refusing stinky, overcooked broccoli. Lentils and soup – two foods I love and this man hates. Deep sigh.

After years of trying, I think I’ve finally brought him over to my side of the lentil fence. I don’t know what it is about this recipe that he likes so much – maybe the fragrant coconut milk? Maybe the toasty little coconut ribbons I showered over his plate? Maybe the absence of heavy spices typical to Indian dahl curries?

I’m not going to overanalyze, I’m just excited that he enthusiastically gobbled up lentils three days in a row. They are going to be on a bi-weekly rotation now, I think…


I used split red lentils in this recipe, but you can use any lentil variety you like or have on hand. The lentils are cooked separately in boiling water before being simmered into the flavourful sauce, so you can easily adjust the cooking time.

In other news, I broke a rib. Bathing the baby. With bubbles and rubber duckies and extra-soft washcloths. BROKE a RIB.

I lost my balance and toppled ribs-first into the side of the bathtub. It really hurts, in case you were wondering what it feels like.

This is my second broken bone in 3 months (pinkie toe casualty in November). Once I regain full range of motion I’m going to bubble wrap myself.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Coconut Curried Lentils
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
I served the curry with black rice - it's super nutritious and I love the pretty contrast.
  • 2 cups dried red lentils, or any lentil variety (OR 4 cups canned)
  • ¼ cup coconut or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ tbsp finely grated ginger, packed
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds (you may substitute whole cumin seeds, or same amount ground cumin)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • 1 400-mL can coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt (or 1½ tsp table salt), or to taste
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro, plus more for serving
  • 1 cup dried coconut ribbons, optional
  1. Rinse lentils and bring to a boil in a large pot of water; reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until fully tender – 30-45 minutes depending on type and how fresh they are.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil over medium heat in another large pot or dutch oven. Add onion and cook until soft and golden, about 15 minutes – don’t rush this step; reduce heat of onions are browning too quickly.
  3. Stir in garlic and ginger, cook 1 minute. Add mustard seeds, turmeric and cayenne; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes (be careful, mustard seeds may pop). Stir in tomatoes and coconut milk; reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils are finished cooking.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread coconut ribbons on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, approximately 6 minutes (but watch closely, they burn fast!).
  5. Add fully cooked lentils to coconut sauce and give a good stir. Season with salt by pinches, then simmer on for 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro. Serve topped with toasted coconut and sprinkled with more cilantro.

  • wvanillasugar

    Lentils made like this are my FAV! Love this recipe!

  • Cooking for Keeps


  • JewelatEatDrinkShopLove

    This is one of my favorite dishes. Your photos are gorgeous!

  • foodess

    JewelatEatDrinkShopLove  Thank you!

  • bhatdixy

    im so sorry about the broken ribs – take care friend. I grew up with Daal and still love them..I like the coconut ribbon, lovely. pictures.

  • foodess

    bhatdixy  Thanks Dixya :)  I love all kinds of daal too!

  • Liz

    Thanks again for the dinner inspiration! I made this tonight and it was delicious! Mine turned out more like a soup, but that was just fine. I threw in a few handfuls of spinach and served it over basmati rice.

    • Guest

      i made it too, and it turned out more like a soup as well! Less yellow too! Delicious all the same :)

  • foodess

    @Liz  May I ask what kind of lentils you used – were they canned?  Wondering why yours turned out soupy! But glad you enjoyed!!!

  • Martha Anhalt

    Oh wow! Making these !
    I’ll let y’all know how it turns out. It must be a divine message because I have a had a bag of red lentils in pantry and didnt know what to do with them.
    Sorry about the rib, loved the bubble wrap idea!

  • Liz

    you know, I put my message in too soon. The lentils thickened when they cooled down. This dish made for FABULOUS leftovers

  • Francesca

    Oh Wow! This looks divine. Nice work :)

  • Sara Struckman

    Once again, delicious! We’ve been making dal for years, but this recipe is fantastic – a new favorite. We cheat a little and pair it with jasmine rice and tortilla chips. Seems completely inappropriate, but it’s so good!

  • Margo

    If i was making fresh coconut milk, how much do I need in this recipe?

  • lori

    I lOVE your site! The photos, writing and your beautiful baby are divine!

  • Joséphine

    I loved it! I think it will become a bi-weekly receipe as well! It’s the perfect dish for me: veggie, indian taste and conforting!

  • Diana

    This is seriously one of my favorite recipes ever. So simple, inexpensive, healthy and DELICIOUS! I make it at least once a month

    • Jennifer Pallian

      YAY! Thanks, Diana! You’ve inspired me to add it to my menu again this week, too :)

  • Wendy

    This was a restaurant worthy recipe!!! So very good and tasty! I had frozen french lentils handy and used the cumin seed, will now have to buy mustard seed for the orignal recipe. This now has a spot on the menu rota!!! GAH, now I want to eat it for breakfast!!!

  • Datura1919

    Just made this and I may never want to eat anything else- EVER again.

    • Jennifer Pallian

      Hahahah best comment ever! :)

  • Maggie Kaczor

    Sorry sorry to hear about your rib! So happy to find this wonderful lentil recipe! Thanks for sharing! :)

    • Jennifer Pallian

      Thanks, Maggie! :)

  • Jessica Weston

    I made this twice now, without having the exact ingredients on hand; i used Dijon mustard as a substitute to the mustard seeds and Chili powder instead of cayenne.

    Like Liz, mine turned out like a soup, and it wasn’t as yellow. But really delicious all the same! I will be making it a 3rd time this week :)

    • Jennifer Pallian

      I don’t know if you can tell from the photos, but the curry is actually quite loose – not quite a soup, but definitely saucy. I’m glad it was yummy! :)

  • Alyssa W

    lol! lentils and soup. My husband hates zucchini and soup. so sad.

  • Nicole

    I made this last night and my husband and I loved it. Such great flavor! Kudos for the pretty pics, too, it’s not easy to get a dish like this look so delicious!

  • Joe

    Just made this, delicious and nutritious. I used mustard oil and extra ginger. I expect it will taste better when heated up tomorrow as flavours will merge. Mine wasn’t like soup, maybe because I cooked lentils earlier in day and they were dry.

    • Jennifer Pallian

      Good to hear, Joe! :)

  • Jean

    Am planning to make this tonight. Should I drain the tomatoes if I’m using canned?

    • Jennifer Pallian

      Sorry for the delayed response, you don’t need to drain the tomatoes. :)

  • Katie

    Oh my gosh, SO good! Enjoying right. now!

    • Jennifer Pallian

      Great to hear it, Katie! Thanks for commenting :)

  • AJ

    This was SO amazing! I hate doing dishes though so I made all of it in a pressure cooker and added some spinach as well. Just cooked everything in the way stated in the recipe, then added the dried (washed) lentils fried for another minute or so, added the coconut milk and some water and cooked for 1 whistle! Turned out creamy and delicious!! Everyone in the family loved it!