Indian Lentil Pilaf Recipe | Vegetarian Times Skip to main content

Indian Lentil Pilaf

Ginger and garam masala, a traditional Indian spice blend, give this zesty rice dish authentic flavor. If you're not a lentil lover, try the recipe with 2 cups cooked chickpeas.



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1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and sorted
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2 Tbs. canola oil
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1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1⅓ cups)
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2 large carrots, diced (about 2 cups)
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1 cup basmati rice
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3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbs.)
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1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
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1½ tsp. Garam Masala
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1 14.5-oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
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1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
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Cilantro for garnish, optional


1. Bring lentils and 4 cups water to a boil in large pot or Dutch oven. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes, or until lentils are firm-tender. Drain, reserving ¾ cup cooking water, and transfer lentils to bowl.

2. Wipe out pot; heat oil over medium high. Sauté onion in oil 4 minutes, or until just golden. Add carrots and rice, and cook 3 minutes, or until rice is toasted and fragrant, stirring constantly. Add garlic, ginger, and garam masala, and cook 1 minute more.

3. Stir in tomatoes, broth, reserved lentil cooking water, and lentils, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with fork, then spoon pilaf into shallow bowls, and garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serve hot.

Nutrition Information: 

13 g
Total Fat: 
4 g
Saturated Fat: 
2 g
54 g
11 mg
624 mg
7 g
7 g
Serves 6

Comments on this Recipe

Made it tonight for my husband and me and we both really enjoyed it. The only thing I changed, I used brown basmati rice, added extra liquid, and cooked it about 15 minutes longer.

I really enjoy this recipe. I used brown basmati rice and cooked for 50 minutes, did not increase liquid. I like the spices, warm and sweet without being sugary. This also reheats and travels well for potlucks!

Excellent dish, but not as "zesty" as thought it would be. The flavors were more subtle. Perhaps I cooked it a little too long to try and soften the rice.

Can this recipe be made with out Garam Masala?

I wont use canola oil because it is a gmo so I only use olive oil

Why add 240 calories of any fat (oil) to sauté the onion, just use water or broth! Looks great, I will try this recipe.

Looked on Google to make my own Garam Masala as we didn't have any, and I added more broth towards the end to soften the rice. It made a much bigger batch than I thought, and it was good!

I was reviewing your nutritional information and was wondering how much is one serving?

Nice recipe! I never use white rice, so the brown basmati required a longer cooking time in the last step. Other than that, and being generous with the garlic and ginger, I made it as written. I wouldn't change anything about the fundamental recipe, but I wonder about wilting some spinach or even kale into it? I'll bet this will freeze nicely.