Speedy spinach curry with red lentils, a few quick spices, lemon, and loads of spinach is one of our most dependable dishes – and the one we have the most often. Even our rice noodles get excited by this one.
Ask any of our visitors over the past few years, ask our neighbors who probably know the aroma of curry powder and garam masala, ask our cat who’s always waiting for a dry noodle to transform into a new toy. You’ll get the same story, it’s one of our favorite dinner ‘fixes’. And any leftovers are always a welcome lunch the next day because we never tire of the flavor of this dependable comfort of life delivers.
What makes spinach curry a dependable?
Some recipes just taste good, no matter where or when. No secret ingredients here. Just red lentils, spinach, red onions, lemon, curry powder, garam masala, and some red chili flakes if you like spicy (we do). Spinach curry is dependable like that – and except for fresh spinach, I almost always have the ingredients at hand.
If I were tasked with making a list of my ‘dependable’ food. The stuff that always tastes good, that I always have in stock and that I use frequently. Split red lentils might be at the top of the list. They are my favorite, right next to chickpeas.
I usually use split red lentils for curry because I like their creaminess once they break down. They are the absolute best for making quick, creamy dahls and they play well with other ingredients. From time to time, depending on availability, I’ve also used whole red lentils. If you use those, you will get the same results. It will just take about 10-15 minutes longer to get them to break down. That time difference might also require a bit more broth or water, so check the pot as they cook.
The spinach in this curry matter
Spinach curry would just be a bowl of red lentils without the green, powerhouse of spinach. Today, I have a healthy appreciation for the words of Dr. Michael Greger that ‘Popeye was right about spinach: dark green, leafy vegetables are the healthiest food on the planet. As whole foods go, they offer the most nutrition per calorie.
But that wasn’t always the case.
Growing up, there was one thing I could depend on when it came to spinach. Popeye or not, I was running from it. For years, my opinion was tainted by my mom serving canned spinach, and my dad pouring white vinegar all over it. If you love spinach this way, rest assured, I have no experience – I never gave it a try.
And then growing up happened. I got over my irrational spinach fear and loathing. I got lured in by those lovely, deep green spinach leaves and discovered fresh spinach salads. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d been missing something special. Not only had I been denying myself all that nutrition – the iron, the vitamins, the minerals, oh my! But I’d been denying myself the opportunity for some really fabulous salad and more importantly, spinach curry!
Let’s make speedy spinach curry!
Because I make this dish often (like a lot), I have a bit of a system. I start by dicing the onions, gathering the curry powder, garam masala, and chili flakes. Before I start cooking anything, I measure out and rinse the lentils. This last step is important to remove any lentil dust and if there is a ‘bad’ lentil (I rarely see them), you can get them gone, pre-cooking.
Now start cooking. You’ll have time to chop the spinach, get the lemon juice, and chop the fresh cilantro (if using) sorted while the lentils cook. If you’re going to serve your spinach curry with rice noodles, as we do, then you can get the water started for them. I usually time it so I pour the boiling water on the rice noodles immediately before I add spinach. It’s a timing thing. The noodles need about 3-4 minutes, the spinach needs about the same.
A big pot of dependable curry
Maybe it’s the combination of lentils and spinach, maybe it’s the flavor profile when curry powder and gram masala meet lemon juice. I can’t actually tell you why this speedy curry tastes so good. But it does, it so does.
But most of the food we eat around here tastes good. So what makes this dependable?
It’s how you feel after you eat it. There’s no magic ingredient in here – just the feel-good natural high you get when you eat something and your body starts celebrating.
Whether you are a seasoned plant-based chef or you’re starting your journey toward a healthier lifestyle, success is built on a repertoire of easy, dependable recipes that you can mindlessly shop for and cook while listening to your favorite tunes while your mind declutters. It’s intuitive after you make it once, you can anticipate that mouth-watering flavor, and heck, it’s curry AND noodles. And you’ll feel great afterward. In times of turmoil or just any day, we all need something to depend on. Peace.Print
Speedy spinach curry with red lentils, a few quick spices, lemon, and loads of spinach is so delicious, even rice noodles jump on this plant-based plate.
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. curry powder
- 1 Tbsp. garam masala
- 6 cups vegetable broth (or water)
- 2 cups red lentils, rinsed (I used split, but you can also use whole red lentils)
- 8 cups (300 gms.) chopped spinach
- Juice of 2 lemons and the zest of 1.
- 1 – 2 tsp. red chili flakes (or more depending on taste)
- Salt to taste
- 1 package rice noodles (8 oz./225 gm.) cooked according to package directions
- Chopped cilantro (coriander) if desired
- Prep the onion, measure out the spices, measure out the vegetable broth, and rinse the red lentils first as this goes really quickly.
- Heat a medium pot over medium heat and add the red onion. Stir to soften it for 5 minutes. If it starts to stick, add a tablespoon of water.
- Add the curry powder, garam masala, and red chili flakes. Stir to mix them into the onions.
- Add the vegetable broth and the red lentils. Bring the pot to a low boil, then turn the heat down to simmer and cover the lentils. Cook until the lentils are tender (about 15 minutes).
- Once you get the lentils cooking, you can chop the spinach and gather the lemon juice and zest. It’s also a good time to start the rice noodles and chop the cilantro.
- Once the lentils are tender and starting to break down add the spinach. You may need to add a bit, stir, and then add the rest. You’ll only need about 2 minutes for the spinach to wilt.
- Stir in the lemon juice and zest and allow the curry to cook for another minute.
- Serve spinach curry over rice noodles (if that’s what you’re serving it with) or rice or another grain.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.
- Nutritional information includes rice noodles.
- If you use whole red lentils rather than split, you will need to increase the cooking time by about 10 minutes and increase the broth by ½ cup. You may need to add extra broth, as it cooks.
- We advise using organic lemons if you are using the zest. Be sure to thoroughly wash any citrus fruit if you are using the peels.
- Spinach curry freezes well. It reheats best (after freezing) in a pan on the stovetop so you can simmer it and allow excess moisture to dissipate.
- Category: Main courses
- Cuisine: Indian