With hearty lentils, kidney beans, and a crazy good creamy tomato sauce, this Madras Lentils recipe is the perfect weeknight dinner or meal prep main! Inspired by the Tasty Bite Madras Lentils pouches, this recipe is incredibly easy, nourishing, and so delicious.
Get ready to spice up your weeknight dinners with this mouthwatering Madras Lentils recipe.
Inspired by the Tasty Bite lentil pouches I always pick up at Costco, it brings together hearty lentils and kidney beans in a rich, creamy tomato sauce.
Why you’ll love These Lentils
- They’re packed to the brim with flavor
- They’re ready in one pot on the stove
- They’re incredibly filling (thanks to all that protein and fiber!)
- They’re great for meal prepping
Madras Lentil Ingredients
The ingredients for this recipe are mostly pantry staples, and they all come together into pure lentil bliss.
- Unsalted Butter: We’ve reduced the butter compared to many dishes for Madras lentils you may see online, using just enough to saute our aromatics!
- Aromatics: Yellow onion, bell pepper, garlic, and ginger lay a delicious flavor base for these lentils.
- Tomato Paste: Gives a concentrated, umami-rich flavor. I like to freeze tomato paste in small portions so I always have the right amount on hand!
- Smoked Paprika, Cumin, Ground Coriander Seed, Cayenne Pepper: These spices collectively create the signature Madras flavor profile, offering smokiness, warmth, and a hint of citrusy zest.
- Vegetable Broth: Serves as the base liquid, infusing the lentils with flavor and ensuring they cook to perfection (here’s how to make your own vegetable broth!)
- Black Lentils: Provide a hearty, protein-rich component that’s quintessential to the dish.
- Kidney Beans: Offer additional texture and protein, making the dish even heartier.
- Half and Half: Creates a creamy, luscious texture that beautifully balances the spices. Replace it with canned coconut milk for a vegan option!
Which type of lentil is best?
For this Madras Lentils recipe, black lentils are the star. They hold their shape well, providing a hearty texture that complements the creamy tomato sauce. While brown lentils can be a substitute, they tend to become softer and might not offer the same robust bite (more on lentil varieties here!)
How to make Madras Lentils
Grab a pot and a spatula and prepare to have your house smelling amazing. It takes under 45 minutes (and most of that time is hands-off). To make these lentils you’ll basically just:
- Cook the aromatics until the smells wafting from your kitchen attract all your neighbors
- Cook the flavor makers (tomato paste and spices) to help reduce the sourness of the tomato paste
- Add the broth and lentils, letting those simmer until soft
- Get your rice going, basmati or jasmine are great here
- Finish it off with a can of kidney beans and half & half
Meal Prep It
These Madras lentils make amazing meal prep thanks to the sturdy black lentils. This recipe makes 4 to 5 servings, which last for about 5 days in the fridge. To meal prep this recipe:
- Cook according to these instructions
- Cool on the counter until no longer piping hot
- Portion into individual serving sizes and transfer to airtight containers
- Refrigerate until ready to enjoy
- Microwave for 1 to 2 minutes to heat it back up, making sure to bring along some rice, cilantro, and naan for maximum meal prep yum!
How does this recipe compare to Tasty Bite Madras Lentils?
I love the convenience of the Tasty Bite Madras Lentil pouches! In making this recipe, I studied the ingredients listed on the pouch as inspiration for the ingredients in this homemade version. Here’s how this recipe compares to the store bought version:
- Flavor: The flavor is very similar between the store bought and homemade version, although we found that the store bought version tasted a bit more like refried beans.
- Texture: The texture of the store bought version is much more soft, while the homemade version has more bite to it. I prefer to more textured version, but to replicate the soft texture, you could blend the kidney beans with the half and half before adding them to the pot.
Are Madras lentils spicy?
The cayenne pepper adds a subtle kick, but it’s not overly spicy. Adjust the amount to suit your taste preferences.
Can I prepare this in advance?
Yes, this recipe reheats well. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days, and reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
What are some optional toppings?
Besides cilantro, you can sprinkle some chopped green onions, a squeeze of lime juice, or a dollop of yogurt for extra flavor.
Serve It With
Like many of our Indian-inspired recipes, these Madras lentils are great with:
- Homemade Naan – so pillowy and soft!
- Cauliflower Rice – for a lower carb option
- Mango Lassi – for a refreshing treat
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter 28 g
- 1 yellow onion finely diced
- 1 red bell pepper finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
- ¼ cup tomato paste 60 g
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- ¾ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground coriander seed
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 4 cups vegetable broth 1 L
- 1 cup dry black lentils can sub brown lentils, 180 g
- 1 15-oz can kidney beans drained, 425 g
- ½ cup half and half use canned coconut milk for vegan option, 120 mL
- To serve: cilantro, naan, rice
- Aromatics: Heat 2 Tbsp unsalted butter in a large pot or skillet over medium/high heat. Add 1 yellow onion, 1 red bell pepper, 4 cloves garlic, and 2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger. Cook until onions are soft and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Flavor It Up: Stir in ¼ cup tomato paste, 2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp cumin, ¾ tsp salt, ½ tsp ground coriander seed, and ½ tsp cayenne pepper. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes (this will transform the tomato flavor from sour to savory).
- Lentils: Add 4 cups vegetable broth and 1 cup dry black lentils. Cover and let gently simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
- Rice: If serving with rice, get that cooking now according to the instructions on the package.
- Finishing Touches: Remove from heat and stir in 1 15-oz can kidney beans and ½ cup half and half. Serve warm over rice, topped with cilantro and served with naan.