Red Lentils and Kale in Coconut Curry Sauce

Rustic and down-to-earth, this red lentils and kale dish surprises with intriguing flavors from ginger and curry that are tamed by the creamy equatorial flavors of coconut milk. 

This dish can be served as a side dish but carries enough weight and heartiness for it to be a meal on its own. Good quality coconut milk, which is the sauce that binds all of the flavors, will make all the difference. If you don't already have a favorite brand of coconut milk, this one is my favorite, here's another one, and is worth seeking out for its freshness and creamy finesse. Oh and don't be tempted to skip the crispy fried shallots, the textures and sweet brown caramel flavor add a nice dimension that rounds out the dish.

Red Lentils & Kale in Coconut Curry Sauce
(adapted from Farmhouse blog)
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 large shallot, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 2-3 green onions, sliced thin 
  • 1 bunch kale, washed, hard stem removed and torn into bite-sized pieces 
  • 1 14 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk (about 1 3/4 cups)*
  • 3/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • grapeseed oil or coconut oil (flavors are great w/ kale) for sauteing and frying
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Boil roughly 3 cups of water. In a heatproof bowl, use the boiled water to soak the red lentils for 15-20 minutes. 
  2. In the meantime, heat about a tablespoon of grapeseed oil in a small skillet with sides. Fry shallots a few rings spaced out in pan until lightly browned and crisp. Try to avoid overcrowding the shallot rings or risk sogginess. Using a slotted spoon or kitchen tongs remove the shallots onto a paper towel and set aside. 
  3. Drain the red lentils. In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of coconut oil or grapeseed oil until shimmering. Add ginger and spring onions and stir-fry briefly. Add kale and saute until just wilted. Remove kale, ginger and onions to a bowl and set aside. 
  4. Heat one tablespoon grapeseed oil in skillet. Add lentils and spread out in a shallow layer. Let them fry for a moment or two, then use a spatula to scrape and turn them. Spread out again and let them fry for a minute more until a golden crust begins to form. Scrape them up, toss, and add kale mixture to the skillet. Mix in the salt, sugar and curry powder and give it a quick saute. Pour in coconut milk and stir until everything is heated through. Don't worry if it looks soupy, the lentils will absorb the liquid as it cools. Salt and pepper to taste. Place in serving bowls and top with crispy shallots.
*Just an update from when I originally posted this dish. I've attempted this dish again using light coconut milk from Trader Joe's and the result was a disaster. It seems that the coconut milk was 'off' and didn't have enough fat to bring together the flavor. Moreover that 'off' flavor permeated the entire dish, which underscores the role that good quality coconut milk in this dish.


    Zoe said...

    This curry sauce is beautiful. Flavour-wise, I love your suggestion to use coconut oil to cook this dish :D

    Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

    I bought a bag of red lentils for a recipe, now can't find the recipe, so I have the bag sitting on my shelf. This recipe is so healthy and would be a wonderful way to try red lentils.

    Hope you have a wonderful 4th of July.

    T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

    I LOVE this combination of flavors. There was a time when I was seriously "kale challenged" but I've learned to love it, particularly because of the bold flavor. I'm even now growing it in my garden! Can't wait to try this.

    Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

    This dish looks both healthy and hearty!

    Belinda @zomppa said...

    Coconut curry is one of my favorite - and with lentils is even better!

    Mari Nu├▒ez said...

    Fabulous mixture of flavors. I am glad you shared the recipe.

    Have a beautiful weekend :)

    tasteofbeirut said...

    What I love about red lentils is how versatile it is! This is a dish I would try soon, just to change from the usual fare. Great flavors!

    Angie's Recipes said...

    This is my type of healthy and delicious food! I just got a pack of red lentils...this recipe comes in time.

    Sutapa said...

    Very healthy and delicious the coconuty flavor and taste!

    A Canadian Foodie said...

    I do not like the taste and texture of lentils, but love the nutrients in them so have discovered if I mill them and add them too foods they make a great thickener. The recipe looks delicious!

    Kalyan said...

    Just mouthwatering...would love to have some!

    nancy at good food matters said...

    a wonderful dish that is indeed a complete meal in itself. I love red lentils, and am happy to learn about your favorite coconut milk---organic and unsweetened! excellent. Thanks, Christine.

    bunkycooks said...

    I am always looking for good vegetarian options with great flavors and this sounds like one to try. I know what kind of food you enjoy (lunch in NYC), so I am betting this recipe is a good one. :-)

    Amy (Savory Moments) said...

    Mmmmm... I love curry, coconut, and lentils together. This addition of kale just makes it even more inviting (plus crispy shallots!).

    Sook said...

    Hi Christine! This curry recipe looks scrumptious. I love coconut curry... I can have it any day! :)

    El said...

    This is such a beautiful dish. I'm always looking for new ways to use lentils so it's perfect!

    lisa is cooking said...

    This something I would happily eat every day! I love red lentils and kale, and the curry sauce sounds fabulous with them. I can't wait to get more kale from our CSA when it cools off a bit here, and this will be on the menu.

    Sonia said...

    Hey, I got enticed by all your Superb recipes and here you get another feather in your hat ! I cant wait to try my hands on it. It is looking so good with all the lovely pictures and write up as well. I have been here after a while but enjoyed scrolling through your rest of the wonderful recipes. Have a wonderful week ahead. Enjoy. Thanks for sharing recipes. Best Regards, Sonia !!!