Lentil and Basmati Salad with Tamarind, Coconut, and Cilantro

By • December 29, 2010 39 Comments

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Author Notes: About a month ago, I took a wonderful vegetarian Indian cooking class. Everything we made (lentil sambar, vegetable biryani, potato curry, tomato chutney) was delicious, but the dish that knocked my socks off in terms of subtle, yet amazing flavor was a simple mung bean salad with lemon, coconut, cilantro, black mustard, and curry leaf. Here is my version, using du Puy lentils (the mung beans still had a bite to them so I wanted to use a lentil that held its shape) and basmati rice for a complete protein. I have kept the coconut and cilantro but changed up the tempered dressing using tamarind paste and black caraway seeds for sour and nutty notes. The end result is a refreshing salad that is easy to make, flavorful, and equally delicious the next day.

Note: If refrigerating overnight, be sure to allow dish to come to room temperature before serving.
gingerroot

Food52 Review: WHO: Gingerroot is an art teacher living in Honolulu, HI.
WHAT: A hearty but refreshing Indian salad.
HOW: To make the dressing, mix black caraway seeds fried in vegetable oil with tamarind paste and water. Toss with cooked rice and lentils, then fold in cilantro, coconut, lime juice, and salt.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This salad is easy to pull together, especially if you're already stocked with Indian ingredients. While the tamarind dressing is sour, the nigella seeds gives the dressing depth, and the entire salad is lightened by the lime juice and cilantro. The resulting salad is balanced, subtle, and addicting -- we dare you to put your fork down after the first bite.
The Editors

Serves 4 to 6

For the lentil-rice salad:

  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup du Puy lentils (also known as French lentils), rinsed and picked through
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, including stems
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice

For the dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon black caraway seeds (also known as nigella seeds)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons tamarind paste (I used Neera’s brand)
  • 3 teaspoons water
  • Salt, to taste
  1. In a small saucepan, combine rice, lentils and water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender and water has evaporated, about 25 minutes. Fluff and transfer to a large bowl to cool.
  2. In a skillet, temper dressing by heating vegetable oil over medium heat. Add black caraway seeds and cook for about 1 minute. Seeds should sputter a bit. Remove from heat. Add tamarind paste and water, stirring to combine.
  3. Pour dressing over rice and fold to mix thoroughly. Fold in coconut and cilantro. Add lime juice and salt to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

More Great Recipes: Beans & Legumes|Rice & Grains|Appetizers|Salads|Side Dishes

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Comments (39) Questions (1)

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26 days ago Lizzie Renard

This is absolutely delicious. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe.

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26 days ago gingerroot

Hi Lizzie, you're welcome!! Thanks so much for letting me know. I'm thrilled you enjoyed it. Cheers!

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5 months ago NC

I am definitely going to make this later in the week but just one comment, Nigella seeds are really an onion seed more mild and different from black caraway. If you can find both and look at them, they are distinct. Nigella are used in Armenian or mid eastern string cheese which is where I first noticed the difference. I have found they are often conflated with each other but be aware they are different and have different flavors. Either would be great here I am sure!

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6 months ago CuriousH

Amazing flavor! Definitely will make this again. One complaint: the lentils were completely undercooked, though I followed the recipe precisely. What did I do wrong???

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6 months ago gingerroot

Hi CuriousH, thanks for trying this! My guess would be that your lentils might have been a little older - like with dried beans, pulses that are older can take a little longer to cook. I've made this many times and they are always cooked between the 25-30 minute mark. I hope you give it another try!

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6 months ago Vivi B.

I loved it as written (big cumin and nigella seed fan) but was thinking that the next time I make it I would add ginger and green chili peppers to the oil and nigella seeds in the pan.

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6 months ago gingerroot

Mmm...I love the idea of tempering garlic and chili with the nigella! Glad you enjoyed this, Vivi B.!

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6 months ago Regine

Hi GingerRoot, I have yet to try remaking this dish with mustard seeds, but I use mustard seeds all the time (sauteed in oil for my lentil soup and even in a rice dish) and I find it very mild. I do not like cumin either so I am not surprised I do not love caraway seeds either LOL, since I see they are "relatives."But as someone wrote (Scribbles), this is a great recipe to use as a "jumping off point." I could see myself remaking the dish but without the caraway seeds, and maybe even add some crushed garlic. Next time you make it, do try some turmeric. It does not necessary enhance flavor since turmeric is mild, but it adds a nice yellowish color to the dish; and it is supposed to be a very good spice for one's immune system.

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6 months ago Scribbles

This was an interesting dish. While I enjoyed the flavors, I'd never had the black caraway seeds, I'm not sure I would make this specific dish again but rather use it as a jumping off point.

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6 months ago gingerroot

Hi Scribbles, thanks so much for trying this and letting me know. I'd love to hear what direction you take this!

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6 months ago healthierkitchen

Another great recipe!! congrats!

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6 months ago gingerroot

Thank you, Wendy!!

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6 months ago Regine

Correction to prior comment. I meant to write "may" not "main."

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6 months ago Regine

This was very easy and quick to make. But I confess I am not fond of the flavor of caraway seeds. Next time I main replace it with mustard seeds whose flavor I find much milder. I also added some turneric to brighten color of the dish.

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6 months ago gingerroot

Hi Regine, I'd love to hear your thoughts if you try it with mustard. To my palate, black caraway (also know as kalonji, nigella, black cumin) tastes slightly milder than mustard seeds and very different from regular caraway seeds. Thanks for trying it!

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6 months ago Vivi B.

I happened to have all the ingredients on hand and made it this morning when I got up. It is quick and easy. Having it now for breakfast and it is delish!

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6 months ago gingerroot

Thanks for letting me know, Vivi B.! So glad you enjoyed it.

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6 months ago Regine

Congrats! Looks like you are now sending me to the supermarket so that I can buy the ingredients and prepare for dinner tonight or sometime this week.

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6 months ago gingerroot

Aw, thank you Regine. I hope you enjoy it!

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6 months ago Kaitlin Forster

I've been looking for a recipe where I can cook the rice and lentils together, and this one looks perfect!

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6 months ago gingerroot

Thanks for your comment, Kaitlin. I hope you enjoy this if you give it a try.

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6 months ago Trena Heinrich

Congratulations, gingerroot! Thank you for sharing your recipe. I really enjoy the flavour of tamarind. I'm currently travelling throughout Southeast Asia and I had fresh tamarind with breakfast the other day. It was sweet and tasty.

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6 months ago gingerroot

Thank you, Trena!

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6 months ago EmilyC

Yay Jenny! I have some tamarind languishing in my pantry -- now I'm excited to use it! Congrats!

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6 months ago gingerroot

Thanks, Emily! I hope you enjoy it - let me know what you think.

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6 months ago Midge

Congrats gingerroot! Cannot wait to give this a go.

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6 months ago gingerroot

Thank you, Midge!

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6 months ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Yay, congratulations. The salad sounds amazing. Must make it!!

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6 months ago gingerroot

Thanks, Suzanne!! I hope you enjoy it if you give it a try.

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6 months ago cookinginvictoria

Yay, Jenny!! Congrats on being a finalist! This recipe looks so delicious and features ingredients that I love -- coconut, tamarind, and lentils. Am putting this on my Must Make Immediately list. :)

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6 months ago gingerroot

Thanks so much Paula! It was a lovely surprise to wake up to. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you give it a try.

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over 4 years ago tbrixius

this is very delicious! i've made it twice already this week...thanks!

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over 4 years ago gingerroot

Somehow I missed this...thanks so much! I'm thrilled you tried it and enjoyed it.

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over 4 years ago Sagegreen

This sounds delicious. Love du Puy lentils. I had forgotten all about black caraway. A friend of mine will visit the market in Istanbul next month and has offered to bring me back spices. This will be on the list!

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over 4 years ago gingerroot

Thanks, Sagegreen. Let me know what you think if you try it!

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over 4 years ago gingerroot

Thanks, hardlikearmour and Shaya! It is incredibly light, with a lovely subtle contrast of flavor from the sweet coconut, sour tamarind, citrusy cilantro and nutty caraway. I would love to know your thoughts if you try it.

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over 4 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I've got this on my list for the next time I cook for my vegan friend. I'll let you know how it goes.