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Spiced Red Lentils with Caramelized Onions and Spinach

Total Time
45 mins

This gently spicy dish uses a North Indian technique called tadka or chaunk: seasonings are sizzled in hot oil or clarified butter, then swirled into the lentils right before serving for a massive flavor boost.

su-Spiced Red Lentils with Caramelized Onions and Spinach

Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Karen Shinto
 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
 1 1/2 large onions, halved and cut into thin half-moons
  About 1 tsp. kosher salt
 1 cup red lentils, rinsed well and drained
 2 dried bay leaves
 1/2 serrano chile, minced
 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
 1 teaspoon ground coriander
 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
 1 bunch (10 oz.) spinach (not baby), stems finely chopped and leaves cut in half; or use thawed frozen spinach
 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
 2 garlic cloves, minced
 4 cups cooked brown basmati rice or couscous
Step 1

Heat 2 tbsp. oil over medium heat in a large nonstick frying pan. Add onions and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and very soft with crisp edges, about 30 minutes. Transfer half to a bowl and set aside.

Step 2

Meanwhile, put lentils in a saucepan with 3 cups water and the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, uncovered, and skim foam. Simmer just until tender, 5 to 10 minutes (they'll fall apart a little). Remove bay leaves and set lentils aside--don't drain.

Step 3

Stir chile, ginger, coriander, turmeric, and 1 tsp. salt into pan of onions and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add spinach and cook, stirring occasionally, until completely wilted, about 3 minutes. Stir onion-spinach mixture into pot of lentils and wipe frying pan clean.

Step 4

Heat 1 tbsp. oil in pan over medium heat. Add cumin and garlic and cook, stirring, until seeds are sizzling, about 1 minute; stir into lentils. Season with salt. Top lentils with reserved onion and serve over rice.

Nutrition Facts

Amount Per Serving
Calories 510Calories from Fat 21
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 13g20%

Saturated Fat 1.5g8%
Cholesterol 0.0mg0%
Sodium 431mg18%
Total Carbohydrate 82g28%

Dietary Fiber 8.3g34%
Protein 19g38%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.