One-Pot Wonders

Crispy Lentils with Ground Lamb

February 19, 2013
5 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Adapted from "The Essential New York Times Cookbook"; original recipe by Mark Bittman. —Amanda Hesser

What You'll Need
  • 3/4 pound ground lamb
  • 4 cups freshly cooked French green lentils, 1 cup cooking liquid reserved
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 dried ancho or chipotle, soaked in warm water, stemmed, seeded, and minced (or 1 teaspoon pure chile powder)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Minced cilantro, for serving
  • Greek-style yogurt, for serving
  • Cooked rice or pita, for serving
  1. Turn the heat to high under a large deep skillet and add the lamb a little at a time, breaking it into small pieces as you do. Stir and break up the meat a bit more, then add the cooked lentils. Keep the high heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils begin to brown and pop, 5 to 10 minutes. Don't worry if the mixture sticks a bit, but if it begins to scorch, lower the heat slightly.
  2. Add the cumin, chile, and garlic and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the reserved lentil liquid and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Season with salt and pepper, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook until the mixture is no longer soupy but not dry.
  3. Stir in the olive oil, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with cilantro if you like, and serve immediately, with yogurt and rice or pita bread.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • healthierkitchen
  • Jordan1324
  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • Dima Haddad
    Dima Haddad
  • chefbonandee
Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

49 Reviews

EileenP May 3, 2020
This dish was very tasty and not too spicy. I used Chili powder and was intrigued that the spices I normally use for Mexican food was transformed with lamb and Greek Yogurt into a Mediterranean tasting meal.
I thought that I followed the recipe by using 4 cups of dried lentils but I see a review that was answered asking about the amount of dried lentils (2 1/2 cups) not 4. Should have been given that information in the recipe. Anyway, I don't think it ruined the dish and we have more leftovers.
I will make this again, my husband loved it.
healthierkitchen April 19, 2016
I often deconstruct this to make it both vegetarian for my daughter and as written for meat eaters. For hers, I'm basically spicing up some lentils but she likes it! The cumin is great.
Robert April 5, 2016
Terrific -- I hardly ever use that word, but this is a swell (ha!) dish. Puzzled about the complaints of "blandness" in some of the comments. I thought the recipe as written was flavorful. I kept the recipe as is, except I toasted whole cumin seed (with some coriander seed), before grinding it and adding it where indicated. I especially like the proportion of lentils to lamb.
Jordan1324 January 11, 2016
Just finished supper. This was a big hit. The teenager pronounced it "delicious"! Noting the comments to season the lentils - I used Judy Rogers method for braising lentils in red wine ( omitting the thyme. Doesn't take much longer and really infuses them with flavor.
LeBec F. December 16, 2015
Likely thanks to 52, I have been tinkering with Persian elements lately, to much satisfaction! I may tweak this hearty recipe a bit by cooking it with some Persian dried lime and a "mess of" chopped dill, parsley, cilantro.
I'm psyched, so thank you!
Amanda H. January 10, 2016
Sounds great -- let us know how it turns out!
marymary May 16, 2014
Loved this dish so much I've made it twice! I also used the recipe's main ingredients for an impromptu stew and everyone loved it. If I recreate the stew, I'll be sure to take notes and post it. Thanks for the inspiration!
Amanda H. May 16, 2014
Would love if you posted it -- thanks!
Josie M. May 14, 2014
Excellent. Simple and tasty.
Dima H. July 2, 2013
This looks yummy, although it is very hard for me to add meat to lentils, I am a Jordanian and grew up eating lentils with soups, salads Mujadara and other vegetarian dish, but the mix of meat and lentils is intriguing, I will give it a try for sure.
chefbonandee May 10, 2013
I combined this recipe with the Greek Lamb With Orzo one, using my favorite parts from each. So very tasty indeed.
Erica B. April 20, 2013
Also every palate is different -- I'm a definite flavor slut (can't get enough ;). If I make again I'll try a chili instead of powder and adding bayleaf and garlic to cooking lentils -- maybe even a preserved lemon? In the meantime I'll try the lamb with orzo. Thanks!
Baywife April 20, 2013
Erica, you're right, it's dull. Blame the recipe a much better one from this site is the Greek Lamb with Orzo.
Amanda H. April 20, 2013
Just noting that about 6 comments down, you called this "tasty." But you also made some adjustments to the recipe without trying the recipe as is, so let's be fair. Still, I agree the Greek Lamb with Orzo is great!
Erica B. April 19, 2013
I made this tonight as have been dreaming of it for weeks. It was a little bland (I blame myself, not the recipe). I used chili powder and did salt liberally with french sea salt at the end but I wonder if I missed a trick to make it have a deeper flavor?
Abakkeful April 18, 2013
So good! I'm just starting a Body Cleanse diet and need to keep dairy and red meat to a minimum. This did the trick without going cold turkey. Besides, I'm following up the two week cleanse with the Mediterranean diet. This will stay on the menu. I added a little bay leaf and garlic to the lentils while cooking to give them a little zing. The bay is a nice touch.
WoooPigSooie April 10, 2013
How many uncooked cups of lentils should I start with to be 4 cups cooked?
Amanda H. April 10, 2013
I usually do about 2 1/2 cups.
LizCo77 March 8, 2013
This was absolutely delicious as written. Thank you!
Baywife March 5, 2013
Tasty. I used 1 tsp ancho chili powder plus 1/2 tsp chipotle powder. It was spicy without too much heat. I used white wine instead of the lentil water -- it was a bit too tart, so I added some plain water (1/2 c). Still a bit dry, but the yoghurt helped ameliorate that.
Baywife March 5, 2013
Can anyone tell me how to delete a saved recipe?
Baywife March 3, 2013
Whole Foods has "French" lentils in the bulk section. They look like de Puy lentils but they're grown in Canada. They're also MUCH cheaper -- less than $3/pound. Real French lentils are about twice that.
MarionRose February 27, 2013
I made this last week after it was posted. Super tasty. However, the lentils didn't get crispy at all. Maybe if I did in batches (and over a 50000BTU stove) they would have.
butterchi February 24, 2013
I topped it off with Greek yogurt, fresh cilantro, and some jalapeno pickled raisins for some tangy sweetness... so yummy!
Amanda H. February 24, 2013
Nice! I like how everyone is taking it in their own direction.