Coconut Curried Lentils

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I 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.

  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 6Servings


  • 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.