Hearty simmered curried lentils with bacon and browned cabbage is perfect for weeknights made in a Crock Pot, Instant Pot or stove top. Serve with naan and a salad for a healthy meal with terrific flavor. Easily made vegetarian, too.
I'm pretty sure I can say with certainty that I never ate lentils growing up. I'm sure I didn't even know what they were. And other beans? I only remember eating them as sugar-laden baked beans!
However, as I started trying out more international foods as an adult, I came across varieties of Indian Dal made with red or brown lentils and salads made with French green lentils. I always loved them no matter what the preparation, though I leaned towards the spicy end of the scale.
Little did I know what nutritional powerhouses lentils were then - I guess that's the best way to discover something, isn't it?
Are lentils good for you?
Lentils are grouped with beans and peas as part of the legume family and are high in protein and fiber and low in fat, which makes them a healthy substitute for meat. They're also packed with folate, iron (1/2 cup = 15% of our daily needs!), phosphorus, and potassium. (source)
So of course I decided to make them a part of my cooking, since they were good tasting and good for you.
I also loved that they cook fairly quickly without needing to be soaked like other beans and are pretty economical, too, especially as a protein source.
As a result, we eat the best sausage and lentil stew ever often at our house, and fast and easy curried red lentil soup a bit less - but only because it's harder to find red lentils and they're a bit more expensive.
I've been wanting to make a curried lentil dish for awhile - one that had added turmeric (because you know I pretty much think it's a wonder, right?) and something a bit different, too - hello, bacon.
I'm sure I don't need to repeat that saying about bacon we all know and love, but even Indian curry-flavored dishes can benefit from a bit of bacon, don't you think?
And since I was cooking up a few slices of bacon, why not brown things like onions, garlic, and cabbage in the pan afterwards, scraping up all the browned bits?
The recipe turned out so amazing, with all the flavors mingling together so wonderfully! My whole family was impressed that such a humble looking dish could taste so great.
Curried Lentils with Bacon & Browned Cabbage
- brown lentils
- water or chicken broth
- curry powder, turmeric, cumin, red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- bacon (optional - brown cabbage in olive, avocado or coconut oil instead)
- parsley or chives
Leaving out the bacon to make this a vegetarian curry really does work well since there is enough flavor from everything else to not miss it (much, lol).
- Slow cooker, Instant Pot or stock pot
- Cutting board & chef's knife
Cook the lentils first, in your choice of a slow cooker, Instant Pot or on the stove. You've got choices here!
- The slow cooker only takes about 2-4 hours, so you'd need to be home during the day, but you don't need to watch the pot like you do on the stove.
- The stove top takes about 45 minutes, though, so it's easy to do on a weeknight.
- The Instant Pot takes the least amount of time - about 30 minutes, counting the time to come up to pressure.
- During the last 20-30 minutes of the lentils cooking, cook the bacon, if using and make the vegetable mixture: sauté the onions, garlic, and cabbage, and then cook, covered, until the cabbage is tender.
- Mix the vegetables with the cooked lentils, and taste for seasoning.
- Transfer to a bowl and top with chopped tomatoes, optional reserved bacon, and chives or parsley.
I use hot curry in addition to red pepper flakes - we like things spicy - so topping the lentil mixture with fresh chopped tomatoes adds a nice cool/hot aspect to the dish that many Indian foods have.
Yogurt is the traditional way to do this and I often serve a garlic-yogurt sauce along side, too (mix one cup of yogurt with the juice from half a lemon and one teaspoon minced garlic - so good!).
Add flatbread and a green salad, you've got a wonderfully rounded dinner, though it also works as a nice side dish, especially taken to potlucks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lentils to do not require soaking like other beans. Simply rinse lentils with fresh water before boiling to remove any dust or debris. They will double or triple in size, so make sure your container for cooking is big enough.
Both! Lentils are an inexpensive, healthy source of protein, potassium, and complex carbohydrates, including dietary fiber. One cup of lentils contain 18 grams of protein (about 2-3 times more protein than wheat and rice) and 40 grams of carbohydrates.
No, lentils are good for gut health, as well as lowering blood sugar and fighting heart disease. Because lentils are a source of prebiotic fiber, which is the type your gut bacteria prefers, they can help improve gut health.
Americans don't get enough fiber in our diets, which is what our guts need and 1/2 cup of lentils provides 8 grams of fiber, a quarter of our daily needs. (source)
Did you grow up eating lentils? Do you cook with them now?
Curried Lentils with Bacon & Browned Cabbage
- Slow cooker OR Instant Pot OR Stock pot
- Cutting board and chef's knife
- 1-1/4 cups brown lentils, rinsed and picked over as needed
- 4 cups water or chicken broth
- 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons curry powder (use the smaller amount with a hot curry, larger amount if mild)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoon salt, less if using a salted chicken broth instead of water
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
Bacon Browned Cabbage
- 4 pieces bacon*
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups roughly chopped cabbage (about 1/4 large head)
- 1 or 2 tomatoes, diced
- Chopped parsley or chives garnish, optional
- yogurt, optional
- Slow Cooker Method:Add all lentil ingredients to the bowl of a slow cooker, stirring to mix. Cook on Low for 4 hours or High for 2 hours until most of the liquid evaporates.
- Stove Top Method:Add all lentil ingredients to a large stockpot, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on medium-low heat, covered, for 40-50 minutes, until lentils are done.
- Instant Pot Method:Add all lentil ingredients to the Instant Pot insert. Secure the lid, select Manual button and set for 10 minutes on high pressure (will take about 15 minutes to come up to pressure). Natural pressure release for 5 minutes and then turn to quick release pressure. Open and continue with the recipe.
- In a large skillet cook bacon until crisp (if using); drain on paper towels, crumble and set aside.
- Saute chopped onion in bacon grease(or oil of choice) over medium heat 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cabbage. Raise heat to medium-high and cook 3-5 minutes to brown cabbage.
- Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until cabbage is tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a couple tablespoons of water towards the end of cooking to deglaze the pan.
- Scrape the vegetables into the lentil pot and stir well to combine. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, as desired.
- Top lentil mixture with chopped tomatoes, crumbled bacon if using, and optional chives or parsley for garnish. Serve with yogurt and flatbread.