Smoky Lentils With Cinnamon

Written by Eydie Desser

Being from Texas I love all things grilled, with just a hint of smoke (not overly smoky).  When it’s raining or very, very cold, to satisfy my taste buds, we use smoked paprika and a tiny bit of liquid smoke.  If you’re like me and you like that warm, umami flavored foods, you’ll love these lentils. I used a spice mixture I learned from Chef Lior Lev Sercasz from his book, Mastering Spices. 

Scallions, cilantro and lemon juice are great accents that will brighten all of the flavors of the dish. 


For the Spice Mixture:

—blend all the ingredients together in a spice grinder: 

  • 4 tsp. granulated garlic
  • 2-1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2-¼ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon (I used Vietnamese)

Ingredients for the Lentils:

  • 1 (12 oz)  large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced into ¼” pieces
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced into ¼” pieces
  • Spice mixture (divided)
  • 2 TB no salt tomato paste
  • 2 cups organic Black Beluga Lentils, rinsed (see video below)
  • ½ cup finely sliced scallions on the bias, or more to taste
  • ½ cup cilantro, roughly chopped, or more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste (optional, not necessary if you are on a no-salt diet)
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon Juice to taste  (great alternative to the salt)


1- Dry sautè the onion:  Set a large saucepan with 2-3” sides, over medium high heat for 1-½ minutes.  Add diced onion and stir quickly so that the onion doesn’t stick to the pan. Now, lower the heat to medium low and place lid on the pan for 1 minute.  Lift the lid and stir and cover again for another minute or two, or until onion is translucent. If onion starts to stick to the pan, add a couple of tablespoons of water and scrape up browned areas on the pan.  This “fond” makes the onions even more delicious!

2- Add the minced garlic and 1-½ TB of spice mixture.  Stir to combine and cook for another minute or until the mixture becomes fragrant.

3- Add the carrot and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, until barely tender, about 3 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and lentils and stir for another minute.

4- Add 4 cups cold water, raise the heat to high, and stir in remaining spice mixture.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to maintain a low simmer, stirring occasionally until the lentils are just tender, about 30-45 minutes.  (There should be just a tiny bit of liquid left in the pan.) 

5- If using salt, add about a tsp., or to taste.

6- Remove mixture to a bowl and stir in scallions and cilantro and squeeze lemon.  Give it a stir, taste and adjust seasonings.

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