So, I have a red cast iron Dutch oven. This is one of my favourite things that I own. I feel so wholesome when I use it. I always use it for lentil dishes (my husband calls it my “lentil pot) and usually for soups and stews. I like that it’s heavy, that it’s bright red, and that it will likely last me my entire life. Although it wasn’t a hand-me-down, it certainly could have been! In fact, one of the reasons I like it is that I know that when I use that pot, I’m cooking in the exact same way that generations of women before me have cooked in their cast-iron pots. Ok, enough of this sappy sentimentality – Onward!
The other day I took a craving for something spicy and coconutty. Coconut is one of my favourite things, I like coconut baked goods, anything with coconut milk or coconut cream, and I have been known to eat entire bags of coconut chips in one sitting. I also really like lentils. At Indian restaurants dal (dahl), in its various iterations, is one of our favourite dishes. We eat lentils often, lentil tacos, lentil Bolognese, Indian dal, etc etc etc. BUT I had never made a coconut lentil dish. So employing some of the skills and ingredients I have learned from making Indian dal, I decided to experiment with making creamy coconut lentils.
HOLY COW was this ever a resounding success!!! This dish does not taste like Indian curry, so if you don’t like Indian food (you crazy person, you) – not to worry this has nothing to do with it. Instead what I’ve ended up with is a super decadent creamy lentil dish that is spicy and coconutty at the same time. It suited my craving that day, and now I’ve made it 3 times this week because we can’t get enough of it!
You can make this dish as spicy or mild as you like. We really like spice so I put in two Thai chilies (you know those super spicy little ones). If you want it milder just use one chili or none at all.
Also, I’ve tried this with both lite coconut milk and regular coconut milk. Both are just fine. The regular coconut milk is simply creamier and a bit more decadent. It tastes like a special occasion dish to me. For everyday eating, lite coconut milk is probably what I’ll use at home. You do you!
I loved employing my red pot for this dish and you’ll see in my pictures that I didn’t plate the dish, I wanted to feature my beautiful pot for all to see!
This meal makes about 4-5 cups of creamy lentils and leftovers reheat perfectly on the stove or in the microwave. I advise serving it over hot basmati rice with some crusty bread for dipping.
- 1 tbsp oil for sauteeing (I like coconut for this oil because it adds to the coconutty flavour)
- 1 onion, diced
- 1-2 chilies, minced (depending on spice preference)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced, crushed, or grated
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 medium tomatoes, grated (about 1 cup) - or sub 1 cup finely diced or crushed canned tomatoes (see note*)
- 1¼ cup red lentils, rinsed
- 1 can coconut milk (see note)
- ¾ can water
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pot over medium heat
- Add the onion and minced chili to the pot and stir. Cook until the onion beginning to soften and become translucent.
- Add the garlic and ginger to the pan. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes or until the garlic is cooked and the onion is beginning to brown.
- Stir in the spices and cook, stirring occasionally, until it becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes and the salt, be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any flavourful brown bits.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for about 3 minutes. The tomatoes should darken and it should smell amazing.
- Pour in the can of coconut milk, about ¾ of a can of water, and the lentils. Stir to combine.
- Turn up the heat to medium high to bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to medium low.
- Simmer and stir occasionally for about 15-20 minutes or until the lentils have collapsed. They should not be al dente at all - red lentils should be VERY mushy. Don't worry, you can't really overcook red lentils.
- Once the lentils are cooked if the mixture is too watery, uncover and simmer without the lid to allow some liquid to evaporate. If the mixture seems too dry (at any point during the cooking) you can add a bit more water.
- Serve with rice and bread, garnish with a small sprinkling of unsweetened shredded coconut (optional).
You can use lite or regular coconut milk. Both versions taste great - if you want your lentils to be extra creamy and decadent then use regular coconut milk.
If you make this recipe, please rate/comment below! Thanks 🙂