Lentil Cakes Tikka Masala

June 19, 2012
3 Ratings
Photo by Tom Hirschfeld/
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

You can make these spicy hot by adding chile flakes or cayenne to the cakes or the sauce or both. —thirschfeld

What You'll Need
  • For the lentil cakes
  • 1 cup dried Lentil du Puy, rinsed and picked over for stones
  • 1/2 yellow onion, small dice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/4 cup flour, I used millet flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup or so canola oil, for frying
  • For the sauce
  • 1/2 yellow onion, small dice
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch groumd turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons fresh cilantro
  1. Place the lentils into a 3-quart pot and cover with water by two or more inches. Add the minced onion. Place the pot over medium heat. Slowly bring the lentils to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the lentils until tender adding a pinch or two of salt in the last 10 minutes of cooking. This should take approximately 30 minutes.
  2. Drain the lentils. Let them cool a bit, then puree them in a food processor while they are still warm. They will be easier to handle when warm.
  3. Add the remaining lentil cake ingredients and pulse the cakes a few more times until the rest of the ingredients are combined into the mix. Taste the lentil puree then season the puree with kosher salt and a few grinds of pepper. Taste again and adjust the seasoning.
  4. Let the cakes sit for a few minutes to hydrate the flour. Take a tablespoon of the mix and make a ball. Is it really wet or is it too stiff? You want the mix to hold its shape but not be overly stiff otherwise they can be dry when cooked. It should just hold its shape. Add more flour a tablespoon at a time if you need to letting the additional flour hydrate before testing. Divide the lentils into eight balls.
  5. Add enough oil to cover the bottom of a heavy bottomed sauté pan by an 1/8 inch. Heat the oil over medium high heat. Test the oil by dropping a pinch of lentil to the pan. It should begin to sizzle right away but not violently sizzle and pop.
  6. When the oil is ready take each lentil ball and smash it down gently forming it into 1/2 inch thick cakes and add them to the oil. Let each side brown nicely and then remove them to a tray lined with a brown bag to soak up the oil. Keep the cakes warm, either in a low, 200° F oven or in a warm place on the stove.
  7. Drain the oil from the pan, place it back on the heat and then add the remaining diced onion. Sauté until tender then add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Stir to combine, bring to a boil then reduce the heat. Let it simmer for ten minutes to come together. You can puree the sauce to make it smooth or leave the onion chunky making the sauce rustic.
  8. Serve with rice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Becca Ann Entenberg
    Becca Ann Entenberg
  • Michelle
  • Erin Aguayo
    Erin Aguayo
  • M.McAwesome
  • Rivka

29 Reviews

Puja June 19, 2019
I made this tonight and it’s delicious!! The flavors are spot on!
DocSharc June 10, 2019
We made this last night (using AP flour because that's what we had) and my whole family loved it. The batter is thinner than we expected, kinda like a pancake batter, but it fried up into neat, thick fritters that were super tasty. It's not often everyone from age 2 to 36 enjoys the same dinner, so this one is definitely a keeper. :)
emcsull February 24, 2018
would AP flour work ? I only have that and gram flour.
thirschfeld February 25, 2018
Yes it would be fine
emcsull February 25, 2018
Becca A. September 8, 2015
Just made these. Terrific! We all fought over the last cake and now I regret not doubling the recipe.
MarinA March 17, 2015
I don't even remember how many times I've made this.
Amazing dish, and we adore it.
Michelle August 21, 2014
This recipe looks so good, I can't wait to try it. I'm thinking of adding some more spices to the sauce - I'm looking to recreate my favorite Seeds of Change tikka masala sauce for this recipe. ;)
Sara L. July 27, 2014
Can any part of this recipe be easily frozen?
Erin A. April 20, 2014
the only meal every person in our family loves, every time. a miracle, albeit a very messy miracle.
M.McAwesome January 13, 2014
Going to try this tonight with some leftover lentils. I made a huge batch by mistake and need a good way to use the rest up. Think this will be a good meatless Monday dish.
M.McAwesome January 15, 2014
These were delicious! Could not have come out better. I have attempted similar recipes but never had such good results. Even the leftovers, a little mushy, are very tasty. I made no substitutions.
Chocolate B. June 13, 2013
This is a wonderful recipe! The mixture looks perfectly awful in its uncooked state, like mud, but once you have sautéed them, they have a beautiful crust, like a sausage patty. The sauce is great, too. We mostly eat vegetarian but I have served these to lots of omnivores who rave about them. You can make both the lentil mixture and the sauce ahead and store in the fridge. I have often eaten leftover already-sauteed patties the next day, just gently reheating them in a frying pan.
beejay45 May 24, 2013
Great idea, thanks for putting these two together.

I was thinking these reminded me of falafels and wondering how they would taste with your tikka sauce. Then again, these lentil burgers would probably also be stellar with tahini dressing, the lemon, garlic and sesame paste one. I always have trouble between tahine and tahini. Also chile and chili. ;)
Lemoni March 16, 2013
I have about 2.5 cups of cooked chickpeas that have been languishing in my fridge for a few days. I wonder if I could employ this recipe to use them up? Thoughts?
thirschfeld March 16, 2013
Chickpeas make great fritters. You might need to add some sort of flour to make the mix bind. It all depends on how wet the peas are after you grind them.
LloJo July 24, 2012
I made these last night. I only had kamut flour, so I used that. I thought at first that I had too much flour, but I left the mix for around 40 minutes before cooking and it was pretty perfect texture wise. I added a lot more, and different spices though (cumin, coriander, a hint of hot chilli as well as a small pinch of chilli flakes). They were really delicious and I will def make them again. question - for the sauce when you say tomato sauce do you mean homemade tomato sauce or ??? I used tomato purée and yoghurt and left out the cream. Thanks for the inspiration and the recipe - really tasty.
bewler June 30, 2012
Did anyone else have trouble with the sauce curdling after adding the yogurt? Any advice on how to prevent that?
beejay45 May 24, 2013
Not sure this is it, but if the heat is too high or you stir/agitate too vigorously, almost any sauce with dairy in it will break or curdle.
Rivka June 26, 2012
Made them tonight. Fantastic. In case others want to do the same, I made the batter - cilantro and all - in advance, formed balls, and packed them between layers of parchment in a loaf pan. Fried them up tonight, and they were really stellar. One comment, though, which is that I had a hard time getting the cilantro in the sauce to blend smooth, even after ten minutes of cooking. After everal attempts, i ettled for rustic, but no less tasty. Thanks, Tom.
gingerroot June 25, 2012
I love food52 most when it provides exactly what I am looking for at just the right moment. Today's mention of this recipe is an example of this - I made this tonight and it was just what we all needed. Delicious and will definitely go into the rotation. I used a combination of sorghum and quinoa flour because I did not have millet. Thanks for the recipe, Tom.
Rivka June 24, 2012
Planning to make these for dinner this week - very excited. Do you think I can make and shape the burger dough in advance and cook them a couple days later?
thirschfeld June 24, 2012
Rivka, I would make them ahead, they for easier, but I wouldn't add the spices till you get ready to make them. Reason being cilantro a it sits in food sometimes gets soapy tasting.
Demington June 20, 2012
Do you think I can make the cakes with masoor daal?
thirschfeld June 20, 2012
I am guessing yes just don't overcook them or the cakes might be really wet.
meganvt01 June 20, 2012
I am currently trying with some regular green lentils and I'd say I have lentil pancakes rather than the beautiful burger shape in your pictures. Tasty pancakes - but next time I make this I'll have to get some du puys
thirschfeld June 20, 2012
Sorry to hear that meganvto1. Runny pancakes or stiff pancakes? Just wondering if you could have added more flour?
meganvt01 June 22, 2012
They were very wet - so I just added flour to thicken - I didn't want to overdo it so I had more of a thick pancake batter rather than a dough like ball. BUT - it was SOO delicious! The sauce was divine. I'll be making this again very soon with the proper lentils and a bit of heat. Thanks for the recipe!
farmmommy June 19, 2012
This recipe sounds delicious! definitely going to try it. also, I LOVE the "tray lined with a brown bag" idea. I never buy paper towels but I'm stuck with what to do with cooked bacon or other oily things at that need to drain into something. I don't want to ruin a dishtowel and I usually have a brown paper bag around. Thanks for the great tip!