Red Curry Lentils with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

Adapted from Lidey Heuck in New York Times Cooking

In this vegetarian main inspired by Indian dal, lentils are cooked with an aromatic blend of Thai spices — fresh ginger, turmeric, red curry paste and chile — then simmered in coconut milk until fall-apart tender. Browning the sweet potatoes before cooking them with the lentils brings out their sweetness, balancing the heat from the chile and curry paste, while baby spinach tossed in just before serving adds fresh flavor.


Yield:4 to 6 servings

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes (about 2 medium sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (to taste and depending on amount of stock used)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1(1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 red chile, such as Fresno or serrano, halved, seeds and ribs removed, then minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 cup split red lentils, rinsed
  • 3-4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock (amount will make the soup more or less brothy)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 (13-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 (4- to 5-ounce) bag baby spinach
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
  • Toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, for serving (optional)


 Step 1 In a Dutch oven or pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high. Add the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the browned sweet potatoes to a plate and set aside. Alternatively – roast sweet potatoes in oven at 400 for 15 min.

Step 2 Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pot and set the heat to medium-low. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the curry paste, garlic, ginger, chile and turmeric, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Step 3 Add the stock, salt and browned sweet potatoes to the pot and bring to a boil over high. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Step 4 Add the lentils and coconut milk and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the lentils are creamy and falling apart, 15 to 20 minutes. Optional – to thicken the soup, use an immersion blender to break up some of the sweet potatoes.

Step 5 Add the spinach and stir until just wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the lime juice and season with salt to taste.

Step 6 Divide among shallow bowls and top with cilantro and coconut flakes, if using. Options – serve over steamed white or brown rice, or with toasted flatbread on the side.

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