Easy Vegan Thai Sweet Basil & Coconut Lentils

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2017

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Lentils are cheap, versatile, comforting & good for you.   These can be made thick & served over a grain (like Basmati rice) or made a bit thinner & served as a soup.  They freeze well, too, so why not make a fuckton – like I did – and freeze a bunch for lazy days in the future?

I used sweet basil from Bangluck Thai market in Hollywood but hot basil or regular basil will do.  Were I to make this again – I would double the basil quantity.  I used a small amount of coconut milk in this so keep it lighter & less fattening but more coconut milk would make this creamier & yummier.  I also used a combination of lentils & dal & mung beans – seen below.  You can use all one kind or any combo you have handy.




Easy Vegan Thai Sweet Basil & Coconut Lentils

Makes a large pot full


Coconut oil

5 cups lentils (or dal or mung beans)

1 onion – diced

2 jalapenos – chopped (optional)

1-8 garlic cloves (to taste) – minced

1-2 TBS minced ginger

5 ounces (or more) coconut milk (a 15 oz can would not be too much – I just kept it light)

2 TBS rice vinegar

6 TBS liquid aminos (or soy sauce or tamari)

8 or more cups vegetable stock

1-2 cups fresh basil

GARNISH – cooked rice & more basil





Melt 1 or more TBS of coconut oil (or other cooking oil) in a large stock pot.  Add the onions & jalapenos & saute until soft.  Stir in the garlic & ginger for a minute & then add everything else – (except the fresh basil) – starting with only about 6 cups of the stock.  Bring to a boil & reduced heat to low.  Cover & simmer for 30-60 minutes or until your lentils are soft.  I used & immersion blender & mashed about 25% of the lentils.  Not necessary.  Add more stock for a thinner dish or a soup.  Heat it down if it is too thin.

Stir in the fresh basil & serve with additional basil as garnish.  Serve as it is or over cooked rice.







Vegan Spicy Green Coconut Curry with Vegetables & Split Lentils for the Slow Cooker

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Slow cooker recipes.  Is anything better than just dumping a bunch of ingredients into a slow cooker, going away for hours and then coming home to dinner – warm & waiting?  I think not!

I used yellow split lentils or urad dal – but any variety of lentils will work just fine.  I added a ton of random vegetables – because I had them.  You can add or omit any veggies you like.

I had a big bag of English peas & some fresh spinach that were going to spoil before I could cook them – so – I froze them.


It was about 2 cups of peas & make 4 cups of spinach but the spinach wilted in the freezer – down to about 4 cups.  If you use frozen veggies in yours – add them at the very end or they will just disintegrate.


Vegan Spicy Green Coconut Curry with Vegetables & Split Lentils for the Slow Cooker

Makes a lot – likely enough to feed 6 well if served with rice

INGREDIENTS (very flexible)

2 cups lentils

2 potatoes – cubed

1 small onion – diced

1-4 cloves garlic – minced

1 small head cauliflower – cut into small florets

1-5 jalapenos – seeded & diced (use less or omit – if you do not like heat)

3-5 carrots – sliced

3 TBS ginger – minced

1 (5.5 oz) can coconut milk (use more for a richer curry)

3 TBS green curry paste

1 TBS garam masala

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp turmeric

6 cups vegetable stock

4 cups fresh spinach or 2 cups frozen

2 cups peas


GARNISH – hot sauce (like sriracha), cilantro & cooked rice (I used basmati)







Put everything except peas, spinach & any frozen vegetables you might be using into the slow cooker.  If using anything frozen – all them to thaw.  Ignore my photos showing the spinach & peas being added with the other ingredients at the start.  They disintegrated & I had to add more of each at the end.  I also added the cauliflower after the curry had been cooking for hours – hence the different-looking imagery below.







Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.  If it is too thick, add stock or water.  If it is too thin – cook a bit longer with the lid off – or mash some of the curry with a masher or immersion blender to create a thicker gravy.

15 minutes before serving – add peas, spinach & any frozen vegetables you selected.  Season with S&P.

Serve with rice & garnish with cilantro & hot sauce.



Vegan Creamy Dal Makhani Punjabi-Style (Black Gram/Urad Dal & Rajma) – for the Slow Cooker



All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2016

To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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I love Indian food.  I always have.  I also love cooking with dry beans & lentils because they are so inexpensive & yield many servings for pennies per serving.  The only issue with Indian recipes is acquiring the exotic spices – which can be expensive if you do not buy them from an Indian market.  Ethnic markets are always the best place to buy spices because each will typically carry all you need for recipes from that area of the world and at greatly reduced prices.  If you do not live in an area with much diversity – Amazon is wonderful.  You can typically omit a few spices from most recipes with little loss of flavor but it is really satisfying to be as authentically true to a regional recipe as possible.   With Thai food, for example, getting fresh kaffir lime leaves & Thai basil makes an enormous difference.  You just open the packages of these things and are transported to your favorite Thai restaurant.  Indian food has a few staples that are hrd to get around – garam masala, for example.  But it is stuff like cardamom & fenugreek (methi) that add authenticity.  Fenugreek is an herb – pictured below – both fresh & dried.  It also comes in seed form & as a powder and it is ubiquitous in Indian recipes in one form or another.  It might be a good idea to research a few Indian recipes & stock up on the critical spices sif you want to experiment with this wonderful cuisine.  HERE is a list of the most used spices – garam masala being the most commonly used and that list omitted the kasoori (or kasuri) methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and I would add that to your list as well as amchoor (mango powder).

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I made a version of mahkani in July – seen above – my Spicy Vegan Dal Makhani (Beluga or Black Lentils) for the Slow Cooker.   That dish used beluga lentils & is not as authentic as today’s recipe. In today’s recipe I used whole black lentils (also called urad dal or black gram) and red kidney beans (rajma).    I not only soaked these beans overnight but I also cooked them in my slow cooker for 5 hours on high AND left them overnight to let the flavors meld.  I recommend this (though it is not necessary) to let the beans really soften & the flavors blend – so – if you are making this dish it takes two days before you are eating it.  Again, you definitely could eat it after the 5 hours but like many stew-type dishes – it gets better over time.  The good news is – there is no prep cooking for this dish so, except for cutting up an onion & 2 peppers – the slow cooker does all the work (except the smoking process – explained below).  The lentils & beans I used are below – dry – and as they looked after soaking them – separately – overnight.  As you can see – they changed color considerably.   This dish is traditionally very rich using varied amounts of butter & heavy cream.  I used only 2 TBS of vegan butter & 1/2 cup vegan sour cream – so this dish is not quite so heavy.

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As to smoking your dal makhani – it is VERY easy & I recommend it very highly.  It just requires a chunk of a natural charcoal & a small metal bowl.  You simply heat the coal over a burner until it is red hot, place it in a metal bowl & drizzle olive oil on it & place it atop your dal & put the lid on the slow cooker.  In ten minutes – you will have authentically, smoky goodness!  (The photo of the smoking charcoal is from my Smoked & Spicy Indian Eggplant Curry (Vegan – Vegetarian) – seen below.)





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Vegan Creamy Dal Makhani Punjabi-Style (Black Gram/Urad Dal & Rajma) – for the Slow Cooker

Serves 6+ with rice


 1 cup dry black urad dal – soaked overnight

1/2 cup dry red kidney beans – soaked overnight

1 onion – diced

2 serrano (or jalapeno) peppers – seeded & diced

2 TBS vegan butter

4 cups water (or vegetable stock)

1 cup tomato puree

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 TBS garam masala

1/2 tsp amchoor

2 TBS dry methi leaves

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp chili powder

2 green cardamom pods

1 TBS fresh or jarred ginger (I used jarred)

4 garlic cloves – minced

1/2 cup vegan sour cream

Steamed rice

GARNISH – more sour cream, cilantro or fresh fenugreek leaves

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Soak the beans overnight.

Put everything except the sour cream into a slow cooker & cook on high for at least 5 hours – maybe more.  If you are going for the overnight uber-cooking (as I did) – leave it covered overnight.  I left my cooker off as there was nothing in there that would spoil but – if you are not comfortable with that – add some water & leave it on warm overnight.


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Either way – the next step is the smoking (which you can skip but I recommend trying it because it is amazing.  Heat the coal over a burner until it is red hot, place it in a metal bowl & drizzle olive oil on it & place it atop your dal & put the lid on the slow cooker.  In ten minutes – you will have authentically, smoky goodness!

Now – stir in the sour cream.   If it is too thin – add water or vegan milk to thin it.  If it is too thin – cook it on high with the lid off until it thickens.

Garnish with a dollop of sour cream & serve with rice.

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Spicy Vegan Dal Makhani (Beluga or Black Lentils) for the Slow Cooker

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To see images of my past posts & get links to the recipes – look on my Pinterest board – HERE.

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Inspired by these gorgeous photos & the recipe HERE from Petit World Citizen – I created this adaptation of that recipe.

My understanding is that Dal Makhani translates to “buttery lentils” – but this dish used no butter.  You can opt to use vegan butter (or real butter – if you are not vegan) in place of the olive oil – and you will be making this in the more traditional way.  I also understand that it typicaally includes red beans but this version does not.  I used Beluga or black lentils that I bought HERE on Amazon.  The original recipe called for 5-6 cups of water to one cup of lentils and I doubled the recipe.  After a full day of cooking in the slow cooker, it was still a very thin soup – so – I added the rest of the black lentils – the full 2lbs.  As a result – I have a fuckton of Dal Makhani – enough to fill THIS 6 QT Crock-Pot to the brim.  But – it is healthy & light & freezes well & I’m OK eating the same thing for lunch every day for a week – so I will deal.  You might want to consider cutting the recipe at least in half.

Also – I radically increased the spices of the original recipe & it came out fiery hot.  I added sugar & some potato slices to modify that & it worked wonders.

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Spicy Vegan Dal Makhani (Beluga or Black Lentils) for the Slow Cooker

Make 3-6 quarts (your call) – enough to feed 8-20 – especially if served with rice.

You can cut this recipe in half – by simply reducing the lentils & water by half but keep the other ingredients complete as listed here.  I made it as listed below but with half the lentils but it was too watery.  I then doubled the lentil portion without adding anything else.  So – you have two options below.


for 3 quarts use:

1 lb (2 cups) black beluga lentils, sorted and rinsed
6 cups water – plus more if necessary


for 6 quarts use:

2 lbs (4 cups) black beluga lentils, sorted and rinsed
12 cups water – plus more if necessary

Either way – the rest of the ingredients remain the SAME:

26 oz tomato purée/sauce
4 teaspoons salt
1 TBS sweet paprika or chili powder (I used chili powder)
2 TBS ground garam masala
1 TBS ground turmeric
1 tsp (or more, to taste) cayenne pepper or 2 finely chopped green jalapeño pepper (I used BOTH)
dash of ground cinnamon
1-4 TBS olive oil, vegetable oil or butter (I used 1 TBS olive oil)
4 teaspoons toasted cumin seeds (toasted in a dry pan for a few minutes until brown & fragrant – and ground up with a mortar & pestle – the grinding part being optional)
2 TBS ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4-6 green onions, sliced thinly, plus more for garnish
1 (15 oz) can coconut milk for a vegan version (I used lite)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (plus more for garnish)

Up to 1 TBS sugar – optional addition for if your dal comes out too spicy

1 large potato – peeled & diced – optional addition for if your dal comes out too spicy

Avocado slices or lime wedges – for garnish

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Place rinsed lentils into a 6-quart Crock-Pot with water.  Add tomato sauce, salt, paprika or chili powder, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon.

Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan a few minutes until just beginning to brown & they become fragrant.  Be careful not to burn them.  Grind them in a mortar & pestle (grinding not strictly necessary).  Then, in small saucepan, heat oil on medium high heat, add toasted cumin seeds and ginger.  Sauté for 3-5 minutes and then add garlic & green onions and sauté for a few more minutes. Add the sautéed mixture to the crockpot and give everything a good mixing up to incorporate things.

Set the timer for 6 hours on HIGH.   If you are home while it cooks – stir it once in a while for a creamier texture.

After the cooking time is done, the dal should be very soft. Add the coconut milk & stir it in.   Taste, adjust seasoning.  If it is too spicy – add the sugar & potato.  Continue cooking for 15 or so minutes or until the potato is soft.  If the dal is too thick, add some hot water until preferred consistency is achieved.  If it’s too thin, uncover and cook longer until it thickens.

When done, mix in chopped cilantro. Top with avocados, if using, and garnish with cilantro and green onions or lime wedges. Serve hot with rice, roti or naan.

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Indian Lentil Soup with Fresh Fenugreek & Harissa Spiced Tomatoes

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012

Yeah – it’s 95 degrees outside here today – and so, of course, I decide to make comfort food.  Still, this comes together very easily & is very flavorful – and makes a big pot that you can serve – or freeze for another day.  Like – an actually cold day when eating a nice thick bowl of hot lentil soup would sound appealing, perhaps.

My first note on this recipe is that you should not be thrown by the fresh fenugreek or the harissa.  You can use chili powder instead of harissa & I will get into the fenugreek thing below.  Basically – fenugreek in all forms – is optional in this recipe.    I just liked the exotic title those two ingredients presented.


I made this because I had a bunch of fresh fenugreek from my Indian market & wanted to use it before it got more wilted than it had already become.  Fenugreek looks like this


photo credit

And here is what I found online about it:

Fenugreek leaves  = holba = methi leaves   Pronunciation:  FEHN-yoo-greek   Notes:   This mildly bitter herb is believed to have medicinal properties.   Dried leaves, either whole or ground, are called kasuri methi, and they’re a good substitute for fresh.  Look for fresh or dried leaves in Indian markets.  Substitutes:  celery leaves.

I also saw someone suggest watercress as a substitute.  Watercress sounded closer to me.  Anyway – don’t be thrown by its inclusion here.  If you cannot find it – blow it off.  There is plenty of other flavor going on here.  Also – I used lots more carrots than your typical lentil soup recipe – basically to make it more filling for fewer calories.  And – I used ghee (clarified butter) but you can use olive oil, vegetable oil or a mix of these with butter.  Also – I used MASOOR DAL here –


masoor dal = masar dal  = mussoor dal = masur dal = pink lentil   Notes:   These are skinned and split masoor lentils.  They’re salmon-colored, cook quickly, and turn golden and mushy when cooked.   Substitutes:  red lentils OR yellow lentils OR green lentils (hold their shape better when cooked)  

but any lentil will do.  Also – I use a lot of spice – more than most other recipes you will find.  Feel free to start with less & add more to your own taste.



Indian Lentil Soup with Fresh Fenugreek & Tomatoes


2 1/2 cups lentils

1 medium onion – diced

8 carrots – sliced

3 celery stalks – sliced

3 inch piece of fresh ginger – peeled & diced fine – or several TBS of jarred minced ginger

2 tomatoes diced

2 large jalapenos – seeded & diced (less or none if you don’t like spicy food)

1 bunch fresh fenugreek (optional) – leaves removed & chopped (alternative – use celery leaves or watercress – or none of them)

6 garlic cloves (or less) – diced fine

2 tsp salt

1 TBS ground pepper

2 TBS curry powder (I used red curry powder but any variation is fine)

1 TBS turmeric

1 TBS Harissa (spicy!) or 1 TBS ground red chili powder (or less if you hate spice)

3 TBS Ghee or oil or butter or combination

1 tsp asafetida (optional) or 1 tsp either garlic or onion powder or a combo

1 TBS cumin SEEDS

1 TBS fenugreek SEEDS (optional)

1 tsp harissa OR 1 tsp red chili powder (yes, in addition)

fresh cilantro



Rinse the lentils pick out any bits or twigs or foreign matter you may see.   I used 7 cups of water to my 2.5 cups lentils – but you might be using a lentil that needs more – or less.  Just add water as needed to keep them covered in moisture.  Bring to a boil then lower the flame, add the chopped FRESH fenugreek leaves (or watercress or celery leaves) – if using – cover & simmer for as long as your lentil packaging suggests for doneness.  Stir occasionally & be sure your water doesn’t boil away.

While the lentils simmer – chop & dice & prepare all the ingredients that require that.

Heat 3 TBS of ghee or oil or butter & add onion, garlic, ginger, celery, jalapenos, curry powder, turmeric & 1 TBS harissa or red chili powder.  Stir for a minute then add carrots.  Stir another minute.  Add all this to your simmering lentils and return the empty pan to the heat.  Add 2 more TBS of ghee (or oil or butter) and when hot add the cumin seeds & the asafetida & fenugreek SEEDS (if using) and 1 tsp of additional harissa/red chili powder (if using).  Once the cumin starts popping (this happens pretty fast – less than a minute) – add the chopped tomatoes.  Be careful – as the oil will spit at you when you add the wet tomatoes.  Saute these for 2-3 minutes – until the tomatoes soften.  Add all this to the simmering lentils.


Add the S&P (more or less to taste).

Simmer just until the carrots & lentils are tender.  Add more water if needed throughout this recipe or cook off broth you feel may be in excess.  Serve with fresh chopped cilantro.