Get in My Belly: Red Lentils, Kale and Rice

I know, that’s a really dreary-looking title for a recipe, but it’s not nearly as plain as it sounds. I have been trying incorporate more spinach and kale into my diet, mainly because they are some of the few vegetables my 8-year-old daughter likes rather than only tolerates. How a kid can love spinach and hate corn, I do not know, but here we are. This is the first time I ever made this particular recipe, and it turned out pretty well.

Red Lentils, Kale, Basmati Rice
Hooray for natural light making my food photography less crappy.

Originally, I saw this recipe on The Well Daily, which calls for quinoa and French lentils, instead. I only had about a 1/2 cup of quinoa in the house instead of the cup I needed, so I decided to use rice instead. The original recipe also called for three separate pots to cook everything, and screw that. Very rarely do I use more than two eyes on the stove. White basmati rice and red lentils have the same cook time, so they could go in the pot together. Here are all the specifics:


  • 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed (fine mesh strainers are where it’s at)
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled and minced, divided
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped (or 1/2 cup-ish? I had 1/4 of an onion in my fridge, is what I’m saying)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup white basmati rice
  • 1 bunch of kale, rinsed
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • salt and pepper
  1. In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute half the minced garlic and the onion for a couple of minutes. Add 3 cups of water and the thyme and bring to a boil. Stir in the lentils and rice. Cover and reduce to low heat, then let it do its thing for 20″“25 minutes, or until the water is absorbed.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the other 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and saute the shallots and remaining garlic for a few minutes until they start to soften.
  3. Tip for the kale: I rinsed it in the colander and then just let the leaves sit there while I started everything else. This recipe does not call for patting the kale dry, so letting it sit in the colander lets only the excess water drip off.
  4. Tear small chunks of the kale from the stems and add it to the frying pan. Avoid any large stems. This seemed a lot easier than chopping the kale from the stems. Stir it together with the shallots and garlic, add salt and pepper, then cover. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring every once in awhile.
  5. Toss everything together in a large bowl, then taste to see if it needs any more salt and pepper. I added Parmesan cheese to my portion, but if you’re looking to make it vegan, it’s good without it, too.
Result? It was pretty good. I wasn’t absolutely in love, but it was fairly easy and it’s definitely healthy. I suppose for more flavor, you could cook the rice and lentils in vegetable broth instead of water, and I might try that next time. If you wanted to further increase the health benefits, the original call for quinoa would certainly work (and also has a similar cook time to the lentils), or you could break out the third pot and cook up some brown rice, which takes 45″“50 minutes. My favorite part was definitely the garlicky kale, and I’m thinking I should try making kale chips with garlic some time. Gotta get more vegetables into these kids (and myself) somehow!

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Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

7 thoughts on “Get in My Belly: Red Lentils, Kale and Rice”

    1. Surprisingly filling, but it would be even more filling if you did brown rice or quinoa, I bet. Or I’m sure it’d make a good side and you could do something with chicken to go along with it, if you eat chicken. This recipe makes quite a bit too. 3 adults and 2 kids ate this, and there was still a soup-sized bowl left over (if that makes sense? I’m shit at guessing serving sizes.)

    1. Yeah, my vegetarian cooking lately has been more out of “I forgot to thaw any meat” or “I don’t feel like the extra step of cooking meat,” so it’s good that I’ve found so many dishes to…. well, healthily encourage my laziness. ;)

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