Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Karen Shinto
Total Time
45 Mins
Serves 4 (serving size: 1 cup)

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.

How to Make It

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.

Ratings & Reviews

Soul food

June 19, 2016
This recipe is amazing -- shockingly surprised at how much flavor it has. I omitted all salt and also used regular cumin (not seeds). This is a great protein source for those looking to try meatless and healthy meals. One of the best combo of new flavors I've ever tried. I hope the author makes more recipes!

Just right balance of flavors

May 20, 2015
My family really enjoyed this.  Loved the mildly sweet onions and the warmth of the spices.  I used frozen spinach and it worked really well.  

annekamarian's Review

March 12, 2013
Really good! It turned out great the first time I made it, which doesn't happen all that often. I used powdered cumin instead of cumin seeds and just stirred the oil constantly. I think it worked just fine and did give the dish lots of flavor.

TrishChapman's Review

February 17, 2013

abachhuber's Review

December 30, 2012
Awesome! Great flavor. Used French green lentils which required more water and a longer cooking time. Also added sautéed mushrooms. Would be good with more veggies, maybe carrots and cauliflower too.