Curried Lentil Meatballs

This Indian-Style Curried Lentil Meatballs recipe is a vegetarian meal that you can make for your family.
Lentil “Meatballs” cooked in a homemade curry and tomato sauce and served over bulgur pilaf.

Curried Lentil Meatballs: A vegetarian meal that will impress. From #sevenspoonscookbook.

So far my favorite part of living in the suburbs of Philadelphia is our morning walks. The autumn here is simply stunning. It is certainly a welcome change after 4 years of non-stop summer. The last couple of days has been incredibly nice, with temperatures in the seventies, which allowed us to spend most of our time outdoors taking photographs, eating, and strolling through the streets of our neighborhood. Though my body is still adjusting to the temperature change and feeling cold most of the time, I am enjoying the beautiful fall and the last warmer days of the year immensely. Slowly but surely things are getting back to normal and we are getting used to the new norm of our lives. Yesterday, I even cooked and photographed a recipe (one that I will share next week) for the first time after almost 2 months. None of my own props are here yet, but I am doing my best with whatever we have here in the house. Talk about getting out of my comfort zone.

Curried Lentil Meatballs: A vegetarian meal that will impress. From #sevenspoonscookbook.

Before leaving the island, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to cook for a while, I cooked and photographed a couple of recipes so as not to abandon you for a long time. And this curried lentil meatballs is the final recipe of those dishes. If you are an Indian food lover, you need to give this recipe a try. As most spice-heavy dishes, this one has a long list of ingredients (mostly spices), but if you cook at home regularly I am pretty sure you have most of them in your spice cabinet. If you are missing a couple, a quick trip to the supermarket would fix the problem.

Curried Lentil Meatballs: A vegetarian meal that will impress. From #sevenspoonscookbook.

Curried Lentil Meatballs: A vegetarian meal that will impress. From #sevenspoonscookbook.

About this Curried Lentils Meatball Recipe

Like the ingredients list, the cooking process looks and sounds like it would take a long time, but please do not be alarmed. Because if you have all your ingredients ready to go before you start, it all comes together in less than 2 hours. The process is pretty simple. Like in most curry recipes it is all about building flavor with spices and vegetables as you cook. But for this recipe, you have to do it twice, first for the lentil meatballs and then for the sauce. For the lentils I used French du puy lentils, but green lentils would work too.

Curried Lentil Meatballs: A vegetarian meal that will impress. From #sevenspoonscookbook.

This recipe serves lentil meatballs in a curried tomato sauce, but I think they would make a nice appetizer for a dinner party if serve them on a toothpick with the garlic-yogurt sauce (or any other favorite sauce). If you are short on time, you can make the lentil meatballs and freeze them in advance. Finally, in the recipe below I used whole spices, toasted them, and ground them in a spice grinder. But if you are short on time or prefer to use already ground spices, feel free to do so.

Other Recipes You Might Like With Lentils

Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Lentils, Dates and Tahini Dressing
Sorghum Pilaf with Lentils, Feta, and Grapes
Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Lentil Stew
Near & Far’s Harira
French Lentil Soup
Lentil Salad with Olives and Cheese


Curried Lentil Meatballs

Curried Lentil Meatballs

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  • Author: Aysegul Sanford
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Category: Vegetarian Main Dish
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: Indian


For Lentil Meatballs

  • 1 1/2 cups French green lentils, rinsed and picked over for stones
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 slices of white sandwich bread, cut (or torn) into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, for brushing

For the Curry Sauce

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup + 2 cups of water, divided
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cups of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon garam marsala
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 (15 oz.) can of diced tomatoes
  • For the Yogurt Sauce
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

To serve:

  • Bulgur Pilaf (or brown rice or basmati rice)
  • Fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, sliced


  1. To make the lentil meatballs: Place the lentils and water in a large saucepan. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes. Once cooked, drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the yogurt and milk in a bowl. Stir in the bread and mix. Let it soak for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
  4. Place the cashews, garlic, and cilantro in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 30-40 seconds. Add in the lentils, soaked bread, salt and pepper. Pulse until it turns into a coarse puree. You may have to scrape down the bowl a couple of times.
  5. Roll 2 tablespoons of the lentil mixture into a ball. Arrange them on a baking sheet as they are rolled. Lightly brush each ball with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until crusted and dark brown. Set aside to cool.
  6. To make the sauce: Place the cumin and coriander seeds in a large heavy bottom pan and toast for 1 minute or until fragrant. Transfer into a spice grinder (or using a mortar or pestle) and process into a powder. Set aside.
  7. Back in the pan, dry roast the onions while stirring regularly until they turn lightly browned or 7-8 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup water. Transfer the now-cooked onions, garlic, ginger, cilantro, and salt to the bowl of a food processor (or a blender). Process until it is completely pureed or 45-50 seconds.
  8. Heat olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add in the onion puree and cook, stirring constantly, for 6-8 minutes or until browned. Add the cumin and coriander mixture, cinnamon stick, garam marsala, turmeric, cardamom pods, and cayenne pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  9. Stir the tomatoes into the sauce and mix, scraping to bottom of the pan, until they are all incorporated. Stir in the remaining 2 cups of water. Let it come to a boil, turn down the heat to low and let it simmer. Cook uncovered until it is reduced, 20-30 minutes. Carefully drop in the lentil balls one by one. Gently shake so that they will sink in the sauce. Let them warm for 5-7 minutes.
  10. Make the yogurt sauce by whisking together the yogurt, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.
  11. To serve: Place a cup of bulgur pilaf (or any other grain of your choice) on a plate. Place 3-4 lentil balls on top. Spoon some of the curry sauce over the lentil balls. Drizzle it with the garlic-yogurt sauce. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve with lime wedges.


  • The calorie information below does not include the calories coming from the bulgur pilaf. If you need that information, please check this bulgur pilaf recipe.


  • Serving Size: 4 people

Recipe is adapted from Tara Powell O’Brady’s cookbook Seven Spoons: My Favorite Recipes for Any and Every Day.

Curried Lentil Meatballs: A vegetarian meal that will impress. From #sevenspoonscookbook.
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  • Miranda - THis is a very interesting idea!! I love meatballs of the traditional kind, but I also adore lentils, so I must give these a try!!

    • Aysegul Sanford - I know, right? They ended up being healthy and delicious. This dish is my new favorite go-to dish now. Thanks dear!ReplyCancel

  • Laura&Nora @Our Food Stories - totally in love with this recipe, the lentil balls look amazing and so do the pictures <3ReplyCancel

  • Beeta @ Mon Petit Four - Yummyy! I’m salivating over these! I love the idea of using them as an appetizer with the garlic yogurt – delish!! Also, the entire concept of cooking with spices is one I appreciate and love. It just adds such complexity and depth to food. It’s amazing just what ONE spice can do, nevertheless a multitude of them! <3ReplyCancel

    • Aysegul Sanford - So true.. Spices are the best way to elevate a dish. Especially when it comes to healthy cooking..
      Thank you Beeta. XOXOReplyCancel

  • Pang - I would definitely try these lentil meatballs sometimes soon. It sounds fantastic for any occasion, esp. Thanksgiving. And yes, I am drooling over your photos.


  • traci | vanilla and bean - I love this recipe! I’m totally drooling, wishing I had a plate of this in front of me. I adore veggie meatballs. You’ve packed so much flavor and texture into these little rounds I can only imagine the flavor they impart. I’ve never toasted and ground my own seeds before, but I am learning more and more that the flavor is so much more intense or fresh. I love this idea. I’m wondering of I can grind the spices up in my coffee grinder? Anyway, so happy your getting settled in. Thank you my dear!ReplyCancel

    • Aysegul Sanford - Yes, you can BUT your spices may smell (or even taste) like coffee. Most chefs usually have 2 grinders, one for spices and another one for coffee. Another thing you can do – I have tried this and it works – is to use rice (or kosher salt) to clean your grinder. Simply use half a cup of rice to throughly clean your coffee grinder. Perhaps a couple of times to make sure that it is free of the oils of coffee. Also, you may have to repeat this process when you are switching back to coffee.
      Hope this helps. Cheers!ReplyCancel

  • Alp - Nice idea. Looks very tastey and homey. Best part is you can freeze the (non)meatballs for later use.

    But i want to ask… how should i thaw them? Should i let it thaw in refrigerator overnight or should i put them in the oven and heat right away?ReplyCancel

  • Amy - Made these for dinner tonight and it was delicious! Even my 8 year old ate it! I did tone down the cayenne in the sauce since I was feeding two kids, and I can totally see where more spice would up the ante for the adults. It took me the better part of two hours start to finish to do this recipe, and by the time we ate I think my husband was about to chew his arm off. It was worth it, though! Thanks Aysegul for sharing this one!ReplyCancel

    • Aysegul Sanford - Ha ha.. I am so glad to hear that he liked it. My husband is the same way, he loves these lentil meatballs and pretty much anything with curry. 🙂

      Thanks for letting me know Amy.ReplyCancel

Hi There!

I am so glad you stopped by and I hope you are enjoying my adventures in cooking, photography, and life. 
I am Aysegul: the photographer, writer, designer, recipe creator, and dishwasher behind this blog. This website is a journal of my favorite seasonal and healthy recipes. Click around and let me know if I can help in any way. 
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