Meatless Monday: Red Lentil and Spinach Masala

Red Lentil and Spinach Masala

I’m currently participating in my own winter Olympics of sorts, so please forgive that this is not being written in real time. Camp No Counselors resumed for a crazy winter session in Vermont. Since I’m not much of a skier, I hung back at the lodge yesterday and taught cooking classes. Other activities included a Chili Cook-Off, bracelet crafting, and tarot card reading. I was charged with project managing dinner for all 100 campers last night, so my classes may have been a veiled attempt at recruiting slave labor to prep the majority of the meal. I’ll give a full report when I return.

But onto the recipe at hand…

My weekly client is always passing along interesting dishes that I might not have otherwise tried. This red lentil recipe from Naturally Ella was one of them. She’s got a beautiful aesthetic and eye towards healthy dishes. We were also both featured in Food & Wine a few months ago for our healthy takes on comfort food, so I feel an affinity there.

Red Lentil and Spinach Masala Red Lentil and Spinach Masala Red Lentil and Spinach Masala

I’m really terrible about keeping whole cumin seeds in my spice cabinet – I’ll always opt for ground versions of spices to save the extra work, even though I know they aren’t as flavorful. So my masala is kind of a bastardized version of Erin’s. But the finished dish still tastes great, so I’ll go with convenience over authenticity in this case.

Red Lentil and Spinach Masala

My jar of red lentils had gone untouched for probably a year. So I decided to remake this red lentil recipe at home to use them up. Even with the wilted spinach, the dish kept in my fridge for over a week. I ate it alongside these burgers and as a protein-rich topping for quinoa. It’s just the kind of stick-to-your ribs without clogging your heart comfort food that I love this time of year.

I hope you had a great long weekend! Send me some good vibes for the color war apache relay in the snow today.


Recipes Red Lentil and Spinach Masala

Red Lentil and Spinach Masala

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Serving Size: 4

Red Lentil and Spinach Masala

This recipe was inspired by Naturally Ella.


  • 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon coriander
  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • One 15-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 5 ounces baby spinach


  1. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Saute the onion over medium-high heat until soft, 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, serrano, cumin, garam masala, and coriander. Cook until very fragrant, 2 minutes. Carefully pour in the tomatoes, scraping up any brown bits that formed on the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the tomato chunks have softened, 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the lentils and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the lentils are tender, 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Fold in the spinach and cook until wilted, 3 minutes. Serve alongside coconut rice.


This is a great make-ahead meal and can keep in the fridge for up to week.


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62 Responses to Meatless Monday: Red Lentil and Spinach Masala

  1. Frankie says:

    You cooked for 100?! I feel faint at the idea. Great recipe btw, red lentils are the only kind of legume I can eat without, um, producing fumes.

  2. I love lentils. This looks perfect for the 100th snow storm we are in the midst of in Chicago.

  3. Lesley says:

    Yum. I just made it for breakfast! Delicious.

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  5. Helen says:

    Phoebs- this was insanely delicious! Thank you! XO

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  7. This looks like a real keeper. Looking foward to trying it. I just discovered your blog & spent the evening reading & pinning your recipes. So artfully photographed too. Love it.

  8. jamine says:

    My new favorite recipe! Hearty, fragrant, delicious and even loved by my six year old. Definitely made with love! I am now making it for a second time and I almost always just try recipes once for creative fun. Thank you!

  9. L@L says:

    Oh, my. This was so delicious. Especially reheated!

  10. naomi says:

    Can you provide the amounts if we have cumin and coriander seeds please? Thank you.

    • I’d get those from Naturally Ella’s post on spinach and lentil masala. My recipe is doubled, so just check there for the spice measurements and double them. Enjoy!

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  13. D Shazz says:

    Very delicious! I didn’t have red lentils, but it was great with green (just took longer to cook). Will be making again very soon. I even liked the left overs, and I’m very picky about leftovers. Microwave was fine for that. Thank you for sharing!

  14. Johannes says:

    absolutely delicious, just cooked it and can’t wait to re-heat it tomorrow for lunch!

  15. Racine says:

    Thank you for this fantastic recipe! I had it on my to-make list for quite a while; finally got around to making it today and it was a huge hit! We like spicy, so I added 2 teaspoons of red chili flakes in with the spices. So delicious! I will definitely be making this again.

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  17. Angela says:

    I made this for dinner tonight, it was FABULOUS! Even my picky kids ate it! This recipe will definitely be going into my dinner rotation!

  18. Michelle says:

    When you say coriander, do you mean fresh or ground?

  19. LaVina Proctor says:

    Thank you, thank you. You already know this is a great receipe but let me tell you why it is one of the best. I have Multiple Scerosis which, as i’m sure you know, affects my body (hands specifically) and my short term memory. So No i don’t have a stove but i do have an electric wok. This is a perfect receipe for the wok. I buy my veggies cut up and everything else is a staple in my pantry with the exception of the coconut milk. No problem it will be from now on. I can’t remember the last time i actually cooked something so thank you for that. I hope to see more receipes that i can make….my children will be so greatfull.

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  21. Laura says:

    Would it be possible to make this in the slow cooker?

  22. Lisa says:

    I made this exactly as you prescribed and it was completely delicious! Thank you so much. It is going to become a staple! I have the idea to substitute the coconut milk which is highly calorific for almond milk for a change and up the spice a bit. I want to make it more often and can’t face the coconut milk calories every single time even though it is fabulous! Ha….. I am looking forward to making it with almond milk later. Thank you so much for a gorgeous recipe and photos!

    • I’m so glad you liked it Lisa! One of my favorite red lentil recipes. Coconut has lots of benefits to make up for the calories, but I’m sure this would be interesting with almond milk too. Let me know how it goes! xo

  23. Brodie says:

    This looks so yummy! I’m planning on trying it this week 😀

    Can I substitute the dry lentils for canned lentils? Or does it need that longer cooking time for the liquids/flavours to thicken/absorb?

    • Absolutely! I would let some of the sauce thicken though before adding them. Simmer it without the lentils for at least half the time mentioned or it will be too soupy. Good luck!

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  25. Sarah O. says:

    I, too, made this with green lentils tonight. (It took 35 minutes to cook – not bad at all.) And it was great! I actually use a half a can of tomato paste instead of diced tomatoes out of necessity, and it was still very tasty and filling.

  26. Karley says:

    Something I have been curious about: when a recipe calls for lentils, do they expect them to have been soaked overnight? I never know when cooking with lentils, and I can never seem to get my lentils soft enough, even when following recipes. Is there something I should be doing to prepare lentils before cooking with them?


    • not usually, but you certainly can! if you soak they will cook slightly faster and require a bit less liquid. I didn’t soak mine for this one. To get them soft you might just have to simmer a little longer. Lentils are tough to judge – you’ll always want to cook to taste.

  27. Jillian says:

    This was amazingly delicious! Will be making it again for sure! Thanks for the recipe

  28. Charity Smith says:

    I have a go-to red lentil recipe, but it was getting a little stale. Found this on Pinterest and made it last night. I increased the amount of spices a bit and used a jalepeno pepper instead of a serrano because that’s what I had. Served it with a garnish of cilantro and avocado. It was delicious. I set the sriracha on the table because it wasn’t very hot (and we like to breathe fire), but it was so delicious that we didn’t even use any sriracha! One of your commenters mentioned that they added red chili flakes, which I might do next time, but like I said, it’s delicious without the heat! And I think the best part is that I always have all of the ingredients on hand, so I can make it without a special trip to the grocery store or additional line item on the grocery list!

    • THanks for the feedback Charity! Serranos are usually a lot spicier than jalapeno, so I’m not surprised you needed a little extra kick. Love sriracha on everything, so totally approve :)

  29. Hannah says:

    This recipe is ridiculously delicious, thanks Phoebe!

  30. Good morning Phoebe, i’m making this wonderful recipe again. Thought you might like to know of some changes i made this time. Since frozen veggies seem to be the order of the month, both inside and outside, i added frozen california blend. It might need to cook a little longer. I have also put in some tumeric. If it tastes as good as it looks it should be outstanding. I’ll let you know how it goes. Stay warm.

  31. Anne says:

    Looks beautiful, dying to make, but was wondering about using dried lentils… I’m not that experienced with lentils & just wanted to know if they should be pre-cooked or just added dried?

    Thanks in advance :)

  32. I am single and living in HOT SW Florida. This will freeze won’t it?
    I make any kind of recipe. Doesn’t have to be for cold weather.

  33. Amanda k. says:

    so glad I stumbled upon this recipe. I have already made it twice and we love it! I used half and half the first time and just 2% milk the second time and each time was very good. I love the creaminess of the recipe and the spice combination! Thanks for sharing!

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  35. Lenore says:

    I loved this dish! I took a shortcut by using an already made Ginger & Garlic paste (mine was by Smith & Jones product of India). It saves a lot of time when I prepare Indian dishes! This is the 2nd time I’m making this dish in a week. The coconut gives great flavors. I covered the dish the entire cooking time which made the steam give softness to the tomatoes and then the spinach. Bravo on such a great dish!

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