Slow-Cooker Indian-Spiced Lentils

So this recipe is kind of almost too good to be true. I found it on Weight Watchers a few months ago and it quickly became one of my very favorite meals–it’s hearty and delicious and forgiving and quick and easy and unbelievably low fat and calories and once you track down the lentils and all the spices, you can make it again and again with very little effort.

You’ll need lentils (red ones, if you can find them–check the “natural” section of your grocery store, although your cheapest bet will be in the bulk bins or a Middle Eastern market), an onion, fresh garlic, fresh ginger, spinach (fresh or frozen), a 15-ounce can of tomatoes, cilantro, and lemon or lime juice.

Plus a bunch of spices. These can be kind of a pain to track down, but once you have them, you can make this over and over again with practically zero effort. You’ll need mustard seed, ground coriander, ground cumin, and curry powder or paste. I prefer the paste, even if it’s Thai and not Indian.

Place the lentils in the pot of a slow cooker…

And then add the spices, broth, garlic, onions, and ginger,

spinach,

and tomatoes.

Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours. You can also bring it to a boil in a large stock pot and then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour. When the lentils are done cooking, stir in a handful of chopped cilantro and the juice of 1/2 a lime or lemon. Ladle it into bowls (I like it over rice cooked with onions, garlic, and chicken broth) and enjoy!

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Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. I haven’t adjusted to the fall weather yet and I’m sleepy from the cold. A nice lentil stew with those intriguing spices sounds deeply satisfying right about now.

  2. Thank you! This looks like a perfect dish to take for lunch now that it’s getting cold and I want something warm and hearty without being high in fat or calories. I usually buy lentils at Fresh & Easy. They have a good variety and their prices are awesome. Someone mentioned basmati rice and I am currently loving the O Organics Brown Basmati rice sold at Safeway/Vons/Randall’s stores. It requires soaking before cooking, but is totally worth the extra time. It’s delish.

  3. This sounds fantastic! I’m just wondering if you’d mind sharing how you made the rice (with the onion, garlic, and chicken broth)? Thanks so much!

    1. Take a large skillet and melt about a tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat. Add 1 chopped onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic and saute. Then add 2 cups of rice (white or a white variety of Basmati/Jasmine/whatever) and saute for another minute. Add 4 cups of chicken broth, bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. And you’re done! 🙂

      1. Sounds fantastic! Thank you so much for taking the time to write all this out for me. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate you two!!!

  4. I love Indian spices! I love lentils! And I just started Weight Watchers! This is perfect timing! Thanks!

  5. Kate, have you ever tried Basmati brown rice? I’ve committed to eating only brown rice now and I like the idea of using Basmati rice with this delicious Indian recipe. I’m wondering if I could cook the Basmati rice using your fool proof brown rice oven method that posted a while ago?

    1. I haven’t tried brown Basmati, BUT I bet you could totally cook it the same way, mostly because the instructions for regular Basmati and white rice are pretty much exactly the same. If you try it, let us know! 🙂

      1. This was yummy! I cut the sugar in half. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly. I Served it over brown basmati rice. I did use the “fool-proof baked brown rice” recipe to cook the brown basmati rice. It was good, it just came out a bit crunchy, mainly just the rice on the sides and bottom of the pan. Not sure if it needs more liquid or shorter cooking time? I used chicken broth instead of water, so I wonder if that affected it?

  6. Thank you for the weight watcher recipe- keep these coming- so we know we can count on some good ones! Can you show us how you deal with the fresh ginger? My mom told me I could freeze it, but I’d love a step by step tutorial here on how you peel it and store, how long is it good, etc.
    Thanks

  7. Hi y’all, I have question about this recipe. How well would it freeze? I am the only lentil-eating person in my household, but if this freezes well, it seems like it would be easy to store in lunch-sized amounts and heat up for my lunches. I know I would love it.

    1. I’m guessing it would freeze really well. If it’s too thick when you’re reheating it, just add a little water or chicken broth until you get the texture you want.

    2. I made this recipe this weekend and can confirm it freezes well. I store it in jars so that I can take it from the freezer, remove the lid, and micro it for lunch. I don’t even have to use a bowl, so it’s less to wash, and nothing to throw away. Delicious and smart.

  8. This looks yummy! I’m always looking for more good meatless recipes, even though I love my meat. They all seem the same, so it’s nice to get something different! When you’re talking curry powder or paste, are you talking the spicy stuff? I just have the mild yellow curry powder–would that work here?

    1. Nope, just the mild stuff. They yellow curry powder is what the original recipe calls for, so it definitely works, but I just like the flavor of the red or green Thai curry pastes instead. Similar, but not completely the same.

  9. Just wanted to let you know that when my doctor suggested weight watchers or some other program, I thought to myself: “If Kate, a bonafide foody extraordinaire, can do weight watchers, I bet I can too.” Surprise, surprise, it is week two and I can work it into my life and the life of my family, and ALSO eat ourbestbites food!!!!!!!!!!! Best of everything to you and thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

  10. I know that the recipe builder on ww tends to add more points especially if there are a few different vegetables or fruit. My leader always says let you weight loss be your guide. I’m taking your 2 pt value on this one. I just got a new crockpot and can’t wait to try it!

  11. This looks amazing! I assume that the nutrition info you provided is just for the lentils correct? Not with the rice? Could that be why the Weight Watchers version was higher.
    Anyway, even if the rice adds another 4 points – that would be a super satisfying dinner for 6 points!

  12. Just wondering if you could say why you prefer curry paste? I happen to have curry powder but not paste and am wondering if it makes a big difference and if so, in what way?

    Also just a tip on the ginger. I read somewhere and have found to be true that you don’t even have to peel it before freezing or using. Just grate on a fine grater. Most of the peel won’t grate anyway, and the part that does, doesn’t hurt anything.

    1. Thanks for the great recipe. This is just what I’ve been looking for…new recipes to use while my husband and I are trying to lose some pounds. It sounds really good as well, and I have every single ingredient except the lentils.

  13. This is going to be dinner tonight! Adding some chicken to the crockpot though….I have a hard time giving up on meat at dinner time 🙂 That’s MY problem though. Thanks for the variety! I like introducing my kids (and husband ha!) to different foods.

  14. I am literally so excited to see this! Just bought bulk red lentils this week and was thinking soup, until I saw this recipe, which not only combines all my favorite flavors, I ALSO HAVE THEM ALL ON HAND! Yippee, thanks so much, can’t wait to try it this weekend!

  15. Love the looks of this recipe. Even if it would add some points, I would probably stir in a can of lite coconut milk – i am partial to the smoothness the coconut milk adds.

    Hugs to both of you and your families!

    1. Ooh, good idea! I have some lite coconut milk leftover from making German chocolate cake frosting yesterday and just happen to have another pot of these lentils (yellow split peas, actually) going downstairs. Did you try it? And if yes, did the coconut flavor come through? Thanks!

  16. Since I know you gals are Costco go-ers, have you ever tried the Madras Lentils pouches that they sell there? I really like them and figured it couldn’t be tooooo hard to make at home, but I haven’t attempted it yet. It seems like it might be similar to this, so I as just wondering if you’ve tried those and how this recipe compares! (If you haven’t, I guess I’ll have to martyr myself on a side-by-side comparison sometime. 🙂 )

    1. I haven’t been to Costco in WAY too long (we don’t have one nearby). But maybe Sara has! 🙂

    2. I was wondering the very same thing! I love the Madras Lentils–just bought a box yesterday, in fact!

    3. I just made this recipe yesterday because my daughter and son-in-law (both vegetarians) were home for the weekend. I have also purchased the Madras Lentils for them in the past when I’ve made a Costco run, so when my son-in-law commented that the recipe tasted a lot like the Madras lentils from Costco, he had a good basis for comparison.

      I loved that we were hanging out at home and got to smell this recipe cook for hours. We were all very anxious for it to be done and we certainly weren’t disappointed. Yummy!

      1. Ooh, I’m so happy to hear that! I’ll have to find some red lentils to try it (might become a new pantry staple 🙂 ). Thanks for letting us know the answer, Jennifer!

  17. I am not a fan of lentils but I wanted to comment and tell you how much I appreciate that you put the nutritional info at the bottom. I am doing weight watchers and having that already calculated for me is a HUGE time saver. I hope you will be able to do this with your future recipes!!!

  18. This looks and sounds delicious! I have everything on hand except red curry paste, so I’m going to give it a go with green. 🙂 Thanks in advance for tonight’s dinner!

  19. I don’t see it listed as one of the steps but it’s important to rinse lentils really well before you cook them. This recipe looks yummy!

  20. This is great! I have all the ingredients… We eat a LOT of curries, and a lot of your recipes and I was just saying to my husband ” I wonder if the OBB girls don’t like curries since there aren’t a lot of those kinds of recipes”. Also LOVE having the nutritional info on the recipe! Please keep that up! I’ve been recording the nutritional info for my cookbook as I go through the recipes this time around.

  21. This recipe looks delicious and I will be making it soon. I love it that you found it in a Weight Watchers cookbook. I found 2 Weight Watchers cookbooks at our Church’s Picnic. One is the daily recipes and one is the cookbook with recipes for entertaining. I love both of these books!! Neither has a recipe like this one and since my husband is diabetic, I love new recipes that are good for him to eat. He is the kind of guy who thinks if he hasn’t had red meat and potatoes, then he hasn’t eaten. So I always try to find something that will satisfy that hunger for the things he can have only in limited quantities. Thanks for sharing this recipe!!

  22. This is very similar to another lentil recipe I make, I put it over rice but could never make it without making homemade naan bread! Spread with a little garlic butter, it is SO good. You can definitely adjust the spices to make it hot or not, I don’t make it hot at all and it’s still very flavorful with the other spices in it.

  23. This might sounds like a silly question but would it we ok to use green lentils? I have some at home and was wondering if I could use that. I’m not very familiar yet with all the kinds of lentils / difference in texture

    1. I *imagine* they’d be totally fine–this recipe is SUPER forgiving! 🙂

      1. Thank you! I’ll try it over the week-end. Experimenting in cooking is half the fun so… 🙂

        1. Cool! I was wondering the same thing because I have a random bag of green lentils in my pantry and have no idea what to do with them. If it ever stops raining/snowing I’m headed to the store for the rest of the ingredients.

      2. Actually, green lentils may taste fine but they won’t ever cook down into the rich, wonderful stew that red lentils so happily disintegrate into. Red lentils are truly worth looking for. Try Bob’s Red Mill on-line (or local if you live in the Pacific Northwest).

  24. Well, speaking as someone who grew up in India I can say that real Indian food has neither curry powder nor paste. Most Indians in India will have no clue what you mean if you mention curry powder to them. That being said, this does look like a good recipe, although closer to Middle Eastern-style lentils (which are yummy!). I could be more nit-picky about the ingredients, but I’ll stop there because this does actually look tasty, and, like I said, sort of Middle Eastern. We’re lentils lovers in our house, so I’ll have to give this a try!

    1. Because curry powder is a mix of many spices adopted by British cooks who loved the tastes introduced to them in India – primarily: tumeric, fenugreek, coriander, cumin. Kind of like a Garam masala without so much masala. Mix your own if you can’t find a curry mix that suits.

  25. This might sound silly, but what do you do with the ginger? I have bought fresh ginger more than once, but I’ve ended up wasting it each time because I don’t know what to do with it. Do you guys have any tips or tricks? Also, you have mentioned that you’ve been losing weight recently so I would like to share that, with LOTS of recipes from you two, I am down 75 lbs! Please keep healthy recipes like this coming!!

    1. Amy – When I buy fresh ginger, I peel the whole piece and then keep it in my freezer. Then, when I need it, I just grab it, grate the amount necessary and stick it back in the freezer when I’m through with it. I just store it in a freezer ziploc bag.

      1. I do the same thing with my ginger! Peeling, then freezing, it makes grating SO easy, plus the ginger doesn’t go to waste if you forget about it in the fridge! 😀

      2. I PEEL IT AND PUT IT IN A ZIP LOC BAG AND FREEZE IT UNTIL I NEED IT. ALWAYS GRATE IT FROZEN; IT IS SO MUCH EASIER. IT WILL LAST A LONG TIME IN THE FREEZER.

    2. Amy you can put the fresh ginger in a ziplock Baggie at put it in the freezer. Then when you need it just take it out (no thawing) use a peeler to take off the skin on the area you think you will need and the grate what you need with a fine grater or micro plane. I use ginger just on occasion so I just break off a smaller piece of ginger at the store or if you ask your produce manager they will cut you a piece. Hope this helps.

    3. Personally I break off about exactly what I need while at the store and do not buy the whole ridiculously large pieces they have set out. I think quite a few people do this because you can see the breaks on the ginger.

      However, if you’re not comfortable doing that you can put your remaining ginger in a ziploc baggie and close it up and pop it into the freezer and it will last you a good long time and be ready for you whenever you next need some ginger. HTH!

    4. Personally, I enjoy a few thin slices of ginger in my green tea. I also enjoy mixing it with cucumber slices and carbonated water, so I have a healthy fizzy alternative to soda. It also goes great if you are doing a stir fry.

  26. Looks delicious! Is it spicy? My mom is crazy for lentils but cannot handle any spiciness whatsoever.

    1. The cayenne adds the heat, so you could either omit it or cut way back on it.