the taste space

Tamarind Lentils

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by janet @ the taste space on January 5, 2011

I went home for the holidays, which among many other things, means I was able to cook a lot! I can try a lot of new recipes when I am feeding 4 people, instead of just me. But before I get to my tasty holiday dishes, allow me to introduce you one from the quasi-archives.

This recipe hails back to last May. I spotted the recipe for Tamarind Lentils in Veganomicon, when I borrowed it from the library. I returned the cookbook, but kept the recipe in anticipation of making it soon.

While I can bake homemade strudel and Turkish baklava, and cook spaetzle, I still struggle with rice.  Rob was very encouraging, and lent me his rice cooker for the project.

However, this recipe was filled with ingredients that I find in my pantry, so I never had a burning desire to make it. Summer came, with its bountiful produce, and it was pushed to the side.

I eventually made another recipe from Veganomicon, Chickpeas Romesco, filled with roasted red peppers, tomatoes and almonds. As I was googling to see if anyone had typed up the recipe before me, I spotted it on Google Books. Low and behold, the Tamarind Lentils and Chickpeas Romesco were on the same page! I giggled to myself, as I still had the rice cooker, months later. And while I made rice for the Chickpeas Romesco, I hadn’t yet made the Tamarind Lentils. I shared the irony with Rob, the rice cooker-lender.

Rob loves tamarind, declared the recipe to be fit for his own kitchen, and stole the rice cooker back! Thankfully, he invited me over to share in the loot – and it was delicious. Tangy tamarind with warm and savoury spices coated lentils in a soupy sauce. It was so good, he offered to make it for a potluck I was hosting at my place the following weekend. Because he wanted to serve freshly cooked rice, he brought the rice cooker back to my place. And there it remained for another few months.

November rolled around and I still have the rice cooker, without having made Tamarind Lentils myself. But lots of rice, mind you.

Trust me, Rob knew he could have his rice cooker back at any time.  After I lent him 660 Curries, he decided enough was enough. Curries demand rice. And lots of rice demands a rice cooker. He wanted his rice cooker back!

And of course, when I returned from Morocco in December, with a kitchen nearly completely devoid of produce (although lovingly stocked with some leftover soup courtesy of Rob), the first dish I made was tamarind lentils. Without a rice cooker. And while the tamarind lentils were as delicious as I remembered, the rice was not! A bit too soupy/sticky, but palatable nonetheless.

Thankfully, Rob has agreed to come over to cook my rice next time.

Although, I am still (not so secretly) pining a 3-in-1 rice cooker/pressure cooker/slow cooker.


This is my submission Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring coconut oil, and to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona. Rob also gets props for taking a better photo (top photo) of the tamarind lentils.

Tamarind Lentils

1 tbsp coconut oil (Rob uses coconut oil, but olive oil worked fine for me)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
(or replace the above spices with 2 tsp garam masala)
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/4 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
1 cup dried lentils (black or green)
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp concentrated tamarind paste (soaked in water and strained if using tamarind pulp)
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup rice, prepared how you make rice (or your favourite grain)

1. In a heavy-bottom medium-sized pot with a lid, heat oil over low medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and let sizzle for 30 seconds. Add the onion and fry until translucent and soft, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, cumin seeds and chili flakes, and stir for another 30 seconds until the spices smell fragrant.

2. Add the lentils and broth, increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir and lower the heat to medium-low. Partially cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils have absorbed most of the liquid and are very tender. The lentils will be very thick; add a few tablespoons of water if a thinner consistency is desired.

3. In a small cup or bowl, combine the tamarind, maple syrup, tomato paste and salt. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all of the mixture into the lentils; stir to completely dissolve the flavourings. Simmer the mixture for another 4-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust salt, if desired, and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

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33 Responses

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  1. kamana said, on January 5, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    this looks sooo good right now. i am going to try this tonight with parathas.

  2. Priya sreeram said, on January 5, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    this is a good one ! will go well with phulkas !!

  3. Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours said, on January 5, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    I love the Veganomicon! Excellent resource.

    I would also love a 3 in 1 rice cooker. But it you do not get on with rice cooking I really recommend a microwave steamer mine was one of the best £8 I have ever spent and consistently produces perfect rice, and importantly cooks brown rice in a fraction of the time!

    • Saveur said, on January 5, 2011 at 7:23 PM

      ooh.. thanks for the tip, Helen! I will have to investigate that microwave steamer.. it won’t help for slow cooking or pressure cooking, though, but it sounds like it could help with my rice woes! :)

  4. Rob said, on January 5, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    When I made it, I made a few revisions. I didn’t have maple syrup, so I just used honey. I didn’t use all of those individual spices (cardomom, cumin, etc.) but used some premade garam malasa, instead. Right now, I have a really nice tin of garam masala from Arvindas (http://www.arvindas.com/). And, as you can see from the photo, I ate my tamarind lentils with parathas instead of rice. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, Kamana.

    Thanks for using my photo, Saveur. Yours look good, too! :)

  5. kimberleyblue said, on January 5, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    I’m not the biggest tamarind fan, but I do love lentils and I adore the sound of all the other ingredients in here, so I think I’m sold! Sounds like a good dish to start the new year off with, nice and healthy!

  6. Priya said, on January 5, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    Wat a healthy and nutritious lentils..

  7. Joanne said, on January 5, 2011 at 9:03 PM

    I adore the sweet tangy flavor of tamarind so I know I would LOVE this dish! Rob certainly is a nice guy…does he have a rice cooker he wants to lend me?

  8. tea_austen said, on January 5, 2011 at 10:24 PM

    Thanks for the pumpkin soup comment Janet–just wanted to warn you not to use butternut squash. I tried it already and it was too sweet for the recipe. Had to add tons more miso/lemon to cover up the flavor of the butternut (mentioned this in the recipe but you probably didn’t read all the way through).

    Just wanted to head you off at the pass :-)

  9. Kim @ Affairs of Living said, on January 6, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    Oh my goodness, this looks so delish! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story and recipe. I back and forth of the rice cooker cracks me up! I am happy to see your submission to this month’s challenge, you always have such ROCKIN recipes. xo Kim

  10. Kim @ Affairs of Living said, on January 6, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    Oh yeah, and 660 Curries is one of my favorite cookbooks ever!!!!! Amazing. Totally inspiring. Yummo!

  11. Ricki said, on January 6, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    Wow, does this ever look fantastic. I adore lentils to begin with, but in this preparation. . . whoah! Wishing I could eat tamarind!!

  12. Cara said, on January 6, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    tamarind: aka, something I need to put on my to-try list this year. Keep it comin’!

  13. Soma said, on January 6, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    The lentils are going to do really well with the parathas :-) So good!

  14. BeyondRiceandTofu said, on January 7, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Yum! This is going on the list!

  15. Simona said, on January 15, 2011 at 1:39 AM

    The comings and goings of the rice cooker make a really nice story. And the lentils sound excellent. I have seen coconut oil in the store, but never tried it: now I am starting to get curious. Thanks for your contribution to MLLA!

  16. Ashley said, on March 16, 2011 at 12:24 AM

    What an interesting lentil dish! And I’m always looking for lentil dishes. I have Veganomicon but I rarely feel inspired to cook from it. :/ I hope you share photos from Morocco! (Maybe you have and I haven’t gotten to the post yet.)

  17. Ashley said, on March 16, 2011 at 12:25 AM

    Oh and while I don’t have a 3 in 1 pressure cooker/rice cooker/slow cooker, I think my rice cooker can also be a slow cooker (though for some reason I’m scared of using it as one) and can also steam cakes! Though I haven’t made any cakes in it..

  18. Maija Haavisto said, on May 30, 2011 at 2:38 AM

    I always used to make rice in the microwave. Never had any problems. Nowadays I rarely eat it: it’s very low in nutrients, ecologically terrible, and not very flavourful either. I just can’t justify eating it (except for in sushi sometimes…). If I want a grain, I’ll go for bulgur or quinoa. But I’m not supposed to eat even those any more and I rather eat some real food in place of them (like broccoli or green beans or something).

    I still haven’t got around to making either recipe from Veganomicon. But I like tamarind, so maybe I should fix that.

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  27. Savory Spiced Tamarind Lentils said, on April 22, 2013 at 4:27 PM

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  30. […] I have enough fore-thought and energy to make my snacks at the end of the week. Rob makes us tamarind lentils to go. In theory, this should give us more time so we can leave earlier Saturday morning. In […]

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