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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
- Bulgur Pilaf (or brown rice or basmati rice)
- Fresh cilantro
- 1 lime, sliced
- 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.
- Meanwhile, mix the yogurt and milk in a bowl. Stir in the bread and mix. Let it soak for 5-10 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Make the yogurt sauce by whisking together the yogurt, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.
- 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.