How to Cook Lentils: Beluga Lentil Curry

beluga lentil curry

These small, pearly black lentils earned their name for their resemblance to caviar, although unfortunately they lose their striking color after they are cooked. Hearty and satisfying, their flavor benefits from the thickening power of Ginger Peanut Garlic Paste and the earthy addition of Malabar spinach. This handsome and robust plant is not a true spinach but a heat-loving, eager Asian vine that appreciates a sturdy trellis on which to grow. Harvest its succulent leaves when young and keep the flower buds pinched back to encourage vigorous growth. At the end of the growing season, you can let it go to seed, harvest the young pods for quick pickling, and garnish the dish with them. If you do not grow or cannot source Malabar spinach, substitute a common cooking leaf, such as Swiss chard or regular spinach, or the more exotic callaloo or sweet potato leaves. 

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beluga lentil curry

Beluga Lentil Curry

How to cook lentils:

Hearty and satisfying this lentil curry benefits from the thickening power of Ginger Peanut Garlic Paste and the earthy addition of Malabar spinach.

  • Total Time: 35 minutes


For the curry

  • 2 tablespoons Clarified Butter or coconut oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Ginger Peanut Garlic Paste
  • 5 cups Vegetable Broth, or Chicken Broth
  • 1 ½ cups dry beluga lentils
  • 2 large handfuls Malabar spinach leaves, Swiss chard or spinach

For the Garnish

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream or coconut milk
  • 1 large handful of fresh cilantro leaves
  • Handful of Baked Root Chips

For the Ginger Peanut Garlic Sauce

  • 1 ½ cups sliced fresh young ginger
  • 5 plump cloves garlic
  • 2 to 3 Thai chilies, to taste, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons honey
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar of your choice (optional)

For the Baked Root Chips

  • 12 ounces taro root or ube
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Clarified Butter, coconut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon fine salt


For the Beluga Lentil Curry

  1. Heat the butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 6 to 7 minutes.
  2. Stir in the ginger peanut garlic paste, broth, and lentils, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer, partially cover, and cook for about 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
  3. Stir in the Malabar spinach leaves until wilted. Ladle into bowls and garnish as you like.

For the Ginger Peanut Garlic Sauce

  1. Place the ginger, garlic, and chilies in the bowl of a mortar and pestle and pound to a thick paste. Stir in the remaining ingredients and transfer to a jar, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

For the Baked Root Chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer skin of the taro or ube and slice the flesh using a mandoline or sharp knife as thinly as possible for crisp chips. Place in a bowl and toss with the butter and salt.
  3. Place the slices on two prepared pans in a single layer. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn them over and bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Taro chips are done when a toasted brown halo forms around the edges, and ube will darken considerably to a deep purple color. Remove from the oven and cool (they will crisp up as they sit). If any of the chips remain soft, return them to the oven for a few more minutes before serving. These chips can be prepared up to 2 days in advance; store in a paper bag in a cool, dry place.


heirloom book cover

Reprinted with permission from Heirloom: Time-Honored Techniques, Nourishing Traditions, and Modern Recipes by Sarah Owens. © 2019 Roost Books.

Photos by Ngoc Minh Ngo

  • Author: Sarah Owens
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Category: Curry
  • Cuisine: California


  • Serving Size: 4

Keywords: beluga lentil, curry