This Madras Lentils recipe is so good you will want to whip up a big pot and stock your freezer with a week’s worth of lunches!
Let’s talk Tasty Bite.
Have you ever tried these delectable little packages?
I adore them. Quick, easy, and seriously delicious.
My favorite is the Tasty Bite Madras Lentils, which tastes like an India, flavor-infused hearty vegetarian chili. Which is obviously right up my alley.
While you really can’t beat one-step-one-minute convenience, you CAN make a huge batch for really cheap in just a few hours at home.
Don’t be put off by the time it takes to make this madras lentils recipe. Out of the two hours total, only about 20 minutes is active time.
There’s lots of simmering action, so feel free to go about your day while your house starts to smell completely amazing.
I decided to use a mixture of adzuki and mung beans because they perfectly replicate the texture of this dish. If you have a hard time finding adzuki beans, use regular “small red beans.” The adzuki beans are really tasty, you can find them here on Amazon.
Don’t forget to plan for time to soak the adzuki beans overnight!
Mung beans are green and very round. When cooked they retain their shape and toothiness, so they add lots of great texture.
Unlike the adzuki beans, they don’t need to be soaked so they just get thrown in halfway through the cooking time.
So…. the elephant in the room.
Madras Lentils… without any lentils?
Yep. I tried making this with regular brown lentils, red lentils, and French lentils but it just wasn’t the same.
Trust me on this one and just go with it.
If you want to get really crazy you can double this recipe in a big ol’ 6-quart pot and stock your freezer with your very own instant Madras Lentils.
If you keep frozen prepared naan in your freezer (Trader Joe’s!) you’ll be seriously ready for lunchtime nirvana.
How to Make Madras Lentils
Heat the olive oil in a 3-quart or larger pot set over medium heat on the stove top. Add the onion and jalapeno; sauté onions and jalapenos until the onion begins to soften, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the minced garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, red pepper flakes, and ground ginger. Stir well to coat the vegetables in spices. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant.
Add the soaked adzuki beans along with the vegetable broth and tomato sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cook uncovered for 45 minutes.
Add the mung beans to the pot and allow to cook for another 45 minutes.
Stir in the half-and-half, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.
Optionally garnish with cilantro.
Serve this hearty soup with rice and/or Naan flatbreads.
Check out our other Indian Recipes!
Here are some expert tips that can take your Madras Lentils to the next level, helping you achieve the best texture, flavor, and overall success with this dish.
Balanced Spices: The essence of this recipe is in the balanced use of spices. While you can adjust the spice levels according to your preference, try not to omit any of them as each brings a unique flavor to the dish.
Freshness Matters: Using fresh ingredients, especially when it comes to spices and herbs, can make a big difference in the taste of your Madras Lentils. Consider grinding your own spices if possible, or ensure that your pre-ground spices are not too old.
Slow Cooking: The flavors in this dish benefit from slow cooking, allowing all the ingredients to meld together. Don’t rush the cooking process.
Adjust Consistency: You can adjust the consistency of the dish as per your preference. If you like a thicker consistency, mash some of the cooked beans with a spoon or a potato masher before adding the mung beans.
Garnishing: Adding fresh cilantro before serving can add a fresh burst of flavor. If you’re not a fan of cilantro, you can use parsley or even mint.
Serve with Accompaniments: The Madras Lentils pair well with rice or naan, but also consider other Indian side dishes, like a cooling raita (yogurt-based side dish) or a fresh cucumber salad, for a more complete meal.
You can certainly experiment with the Madras Lentils recipe in many ways to suit your preference or just for a change. Here are a few variations:
Different Beans/Lentils: You can certainly experiment with different types of beans or lentils in this dish. Chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, or even a mixture of different lentils can all work well.
Protein Addition: If you’re not following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can add cooked chicken, lamb, or shrimp to the dish for added protein.
Vegetable Add-Ins: Feel free to add more vegetables like red bell pepper, tomatoes, zucchini, or even spinach for a nutritional boost.
Grain Substitutes: Instead of serving with rice or naan, try serving the Madras Lentils over quinoa, bulgur wheat, or even cauliflower rice for a low-carb alternative.
Spice Variation: Adjust the spices based on your personal preference. For instance, you can add garam masala for a more pronounced Indian flavor or turmeric for its vibrant color and health benefits.
More Spice Heat:
If you’re looking to add more heat to the Madras Lentils, here are a few options:
- More Fresh Chili: Increase the amount of fresh jalapeno used in the recipe. You can even use a hotter variety of chili pepper if you’re up for it.
- Red Pepper Flakes: Boost the quantity of red pepper flakes to give the dish an additional kick.
- Spicy Paprika: Use hot paprika instead of regular paprika. This will not only provide extra heat but also add a deeper flavor.
- Add Cayenne: Incorporate some cayenne pepper into your spice mix. Start with a small amount and adjust to taste.
- Hot Sauce: Stir in a bit of your favorite hot sauce or chili sauce at the end of cooking, to taste.
It’s easier to add more heat than to take it away, so start small with these additions and taste as you go until you reach your desired level of spiciness.
Less Spice Heat:
If you’d like to reduce the heat in the Madras Lentils, here are a few suggestions:
- Jalapeno: Reduce or completely omit the jalapeno from the recipe. If you still want some of the flavor without as much heat, remove the seeds and membrane from the jalapeno before adding it to the dish. This is where most of the heat is stored.
- Red Pepper Flakes: You can also reduce or omit the red pepper flakes, which contribute to the dish’s spiciness.
- Spices: Some spices like ground ginger and fenugreek may bring a bit of warmth to the dish. Reducing these slightly may also help.
- Serving: Consider serving the lentils with yogurt or a yogurt-based side dish, like raita. Dairy can help neutralize the heat.
- Additional Ingredients: Add more of the non-spicy ingredients, such as the beans or the half-and-half. This will dilute the spicy elements and reduce the overall heat level.
Everyone’s spice tolerance varies, so feel free to adjust the recipe according to your preference.
- Additional Half-and-Half: You can add more half-and-half to the recipe. Begin with small increments and adjust to taste to ensure you don’t dilute the flavors too much.
- Coconut Milk: Replace half-and-half with full-fat coconut milk. This will not only make your dish creamier but will also impart a lovely, rich, and slightly sweet flavor.
- Mash the Beans: You can mash some of the cooked beans (adzuki and mung) directly in the pot using a potato masher or the back of your spoon. This will make the sauce thicker and creamier.
- Heavy Cream: If you’re not concerned about the added calories, you could replace the half-and-half with heavy cream for a truly decadent dish.
- Yogurt or Sour Cream: Stir in a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream at the end of cooking for an extra creamy finish. If using these, make sure to take the pot off the heat first to avoid curdling.
- Cashew Cream: If you want a non-dairy option that’s creamier than coconut milk, consider using cashew cream, which can be made by soaking cashews and then blending them until smooth.
Adjust the other ingredients accordingly to maintain a balanced flavor as you make the dish creamier.
Variations can make cooking more fun and personal, but they can also affect the final taste and texture of the dish. It’s always a good idea to make small adjustments first and gradually increase to your preference.
The Madras Lentils recipe is naturally gluten-free, as all of its ingredients, including lentils, spices, vegetables, and broth, do not contain gluten. However, always double-check your ingredient labels to ensure they have not been processed in a facility with wheat or other gluten-containing products, if cross-contamination is a concern for you.
To make this recipe dairy-free, replace the half-and-half with a non-dairy alternative. A full-fat coconut milk would work well in this recipe as it would provide the same creaminess as half-and-half.
The Madras Lentils recipe is already vegetarian, as it doesn’t contain any meat products.
To make this recipe vegan, replace the half-and-half with a non-dairy alternative. Again, a full-fat coconut milk is a good choice due to its similar consistency and the richness it imparts to dishes.
Also, make sure to serve the dish with vegan naan bread or rice, as traditional naan bread usually contains dairy products.
Frequently Asked Questions
I found that using a mix of adzuki and mung beans gave the best texture and taste for this recipe, which mirrors my favorite Tasty Bite Madras Lentils.
Soaking the adzuki beans overnight helps to reduce the cooking time.
A good dairy-free substitute for half-and-half is full-fat coconut milk.
You can substitute red wine vinegar with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.
You can leave it out if you don’t have it.
Yes, feel free to use any type of onion you have on hand. Each type will bring a slightly different flavor profile.
Yes, you can make this in a slow cooker. However, the sautéing steps should be done on the stovetop before transferring everything to the slow cooker.
This dish pairs well with naan bread and/or rice. You can also serve it with a side of yogurt or a simple salad.
Mung beans cook faster than adzuki beans, so they’re added later to prevent them from becoming too mushy.
Yes, you can use any sweetener you prefer or have on hand. Just be sure to adjust the amount to taste.
A small amount of sugar is used to balance the acidity of the tomato sauce and red wine vinegar, and enhance the overall flavor of the dish.
Basmati rice is an excellent choice to serve with this Madras Lentils dish. Its long grains and fragrant aroma make it a popular choice in Indian cuisine. It cooks up light and fluffy, providing a perfect contrast to the rich, creamy lentils.
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, brown basmati rice is also a great option. It has a nuttier flavor and a more substantial texture due to the bran layer, which is removed in white rice.
Another choice could be jasmine rice, known for its fragrant, slightly sweet flavor, which would pair well with the spices in the Madras Lentils.
Remember to rinse your rice under cold water before cooking. This removes excess starch and helps prevent the grains from clumping together.
Storing and Reheating Info
Storing in the Refrigerator
After cooking, allow the Madras Lentils to cool to room temperature. Transfer them into airtight containers or resealable plastic bags, leaving some space at the top to allow for expansion. Store them in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Freezing the Leftovers
For longer storage, you can freeze the Madras Lentils. Make sure they’ve cooled completely before transferring to freezer-safe containers or heavy-duty freezer bags. Be sure to leave about half an inch of headspace to allow for expansion. Properly stored, the lentils will maintain their best quality in the freezer for about 2 to 3 months.
Thawing Frozen Leftovers
When you’re ready to eat the frozen Madras Lentils, the best way to thaw them is in the refrigerator. It can take anywhere from several hours to overnight for the lentils to fully defrost, so plan ahead.
If you’re in a hurry, you can use the defrost function on your microwave. Be sure to stir the lentils periodically to promote even defrosting.
There are three common ways to reheat your Madras Lentils: in the oven, on the stovetop, and in the microwave.
Oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Transfer the lentils to an oven-safe dish and cover with aluminum foil. Heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until hot throughout.
Stovetop: Transfer the lentils to a saucepan. Warm them over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they’re heated through. If the lentils have dried out a bit in the fridge, add a splash of water or broth to loosen them up.
Microwave: Place the lentils in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a microwave-safe lid or plate, leaving a small gap to allow steam to escape. Heat on high for 1-2 minutes, then stir. Continue to heat in 30-second increments, stirring in between, until hot throughout.
Of these options, I recommend reheating on the stovetop, as it allows for the most control over the heat and consistency. The microwave is a great quick option, while the oven is best if you’re reheating a large amount for a crowd. In any case, be sure to stir your lentils well before serving, to ensure they’re heated evenly. Enjoy!
Madras Lentils Recipe
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 jalapeno - seeded, stemmed, and diced
- 3 cloves garlic - minced
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 cup dry adzuki beans - soaked overnight
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 1/3 cup mung beans
- 1/2 cup half-and-half*
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Optional garnish with cilantro
- Heat the olive oil in a 3-quart or larger pot set over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeno; saute until onion begins to soften, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the minced garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, red pepper flakes, and ground ginger. Stir well to coat the vegetables in spices. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant.
- Add the soaked adzuki beans along with the vegetable broth and tomato sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cook uncovered for 45 minutes.
- Add the mung beans to the pot and allow to cook for another 45 minutes.
- Stir in the half-and-half, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.
- Optionally garnish with cilantro.
- Serve with rice and/or Naan bread.