This dish of cumin-spiced lentils & rice couldn’t be easier or quicker to make! It’s a one-skillet meal that’s flavorful, nutritious, and plant-based.
This recipe showcases one of my all-time favorite food pairings: lentils and rice.
While I was doing the SNAP challenge for grad school, a reader shared one of her favorite, inexpensive meals with me. It was a stir fry of rice and lentils with peanut butter sauce. It sounded simple and delicious, and it became the inspiration for this dish.
The suggestion had a domino affect. Skillet-warmed rice and lentil dinners have become a staple in my home. And this cumin-spiced lentils & rice dish is one of my favorite ways to cook this nutrient-dense combo.
This cumin-spiced lentils & rice dish is a variation on the bean, grain, and green meal template. Here, lentils are the bean.
Longtime readers of the blog know that I’m big on macronutrient balance within meals. In fact, I wrote a whole cookbook with the intention of sharing recipes that show a balance of protein, healthful fat, and complex carbs.
I use this principle of balance—not a specific ratio, just the intention of representing each macronutrient on my plate—to plan a lot of my meals. As many as possible.
And the cumin-spiced lentils & rice are a great example. Protein? Lentils (the greens add a little, too). Complex carbs? Lentils and rice. Healthful fat? Tahini and olive oil.
This is recipe isn’t mujaddara, since it doesn’t come close to having that dish’s deeply caramelized onions or socarrat (the delightfully crispy rice at the bottom of the pan). But mujaddara is a very loose source of inspiration for the meal. I don’t caramelize the onions that go into the recipe, but I do brown them a bit.
Otherwise, I add plenty of cumin, as the recipe title suggests. And I like to top the cumin-spiced lentils & rice with a bright, tart dressing. Here’s a roundup of the main ingredients you’ll need:
You can use brown, green, black, or pardina lentils in the recipe. I don’t recommend red lentils, which are a little too mushy to keep their shape in s a skillet meal like this one.
The lentils are cooked ahead of time, so you can prepare them at any point before whipping together the recipe. Canned lentils work nicely in the dish, too—I’m a big fan of those when I’m in a rush!
I love using all types of rice in my recipes. For this particular recipe, I like a long-grained brown rice. But short-grained brown rice works, too. The dish would also work with farro, barley, bulgur, or even millet.
I lean on kale—probably too heavily—as my go-to green of choice. But you can make the greens collards, chard, broccoli rabe, mustard greens, spinach, or beet greens. Broccoli florets, zucchini, cauliflower, and other vegetables make a nice add-in.
The dressing that gets more love than any other in Power Plates is my Everyday Lemon Tahini Dressing. The title is a slight exaggeration, but not a big one.
I make a batch of this dressing nearly every week. Once it’s made, I use it almost daily. Here, it adds just the right creaminess and acidity to balance the savoriness of onions and spices. And as an added bonus, it can be whisked together in minutes.
As far as serving goes, you can enjoy the cumin-spiced lentils & rice in many ways. I sometimes add a few wedges of whole wheat pita to the plate so that I can scoop up every last bite of the mixture (and whatever dressing is on the plate!).
You can serve the lentils and rice as a side dish, along with a big salad and some grilled or baked tofu or tempeh. Or you could make it a main dish along with some veggies: roasted beets, broccoli, and cauliflower all work really nicely with it.
The recipe is also lovely with a cup of soup at this time of year; I especially like to have it with this carrot soup (chickpeas optional, since there’s plenty of legume action going on here already).
As you’ll see, the lentils and rice here are pre-cooked. This means that the cumin-spiced lentils & rice is a good opportunity to practice batch cooking and make ahead skills! Cook the rice and boil the lentils when your schedule allows for it. When it comes time to make this meal, you’ll have a fast and flavorful dinner on the table in less than twenty minutes.
The cumin-spiced lentils & rice were a dependable favorite when I was in graduate school. I’d make the tahini dressing, rice, and lentils over the weekend, and when I got home from class, it was easy to have a nutrient-dense supper ready quickly.
An added bonus? The leftovers are great either hot or cold.
I hope you’ll find it easy and appealing, too—and I’m wishing you all a great week ahead.