Tofu, Aubergine, and Beluga Lentils with Pomegranate Molasses

June 12, 2016
5 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

Its sweet and sour with a little bit of heat from the chili. Let's make tofu seductive, I thought (realising that this might be a contradiction in terms). Serve with rice or flatbread. —morning glory

Test Kitchen Notes

I really enjoyed this dish and was surprised by the mix of flavors. The only thing that would have made this dish better would be the added spiciness: The sauce thickened in about 8 minutes, which didn't leave much time for the chilis to infuse their flavor. The pomegranate molasses added a really nice sweetness to the dish and the five-spice balanced it out. I would definitely make this dish again, though I'd simmer it for longer to get more heat out of the chilis, and sub chicken for tofu. —Angela

What You'll Need
  • 300 grams tofu [Editors' note: We used firm tofu.)
  • 1 aubergine
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 125 grams cooked beluga (black) lentils
  • 400 grams tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons five-spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 3 bird's eye chilis
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Mint or coriander (cilantro) leaves to garnish
  1. Heat the oven to 180° C (356° F).
  2. Chop the aubergine into small chunks and place on a non-stick oven tray. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons oil and toss the aubergine until coated.
  3. Bake aubergine in the oven for 20 to 25 mins until softened and slightly crispy.
  4. Drain the tofu (it usually comes in a pack with liquid) and press with paper kitchen towels until as dry as possible. Cut into chunks.
  5. Fry the tofu pieces gently in 1 tablespoon oil, turning as required, until slightly golden on all sides.
  6. Put the pomegranate molasses, soy sauce, and chili powder into a bowl and mix. Add the tofu pieces and turn them in the marinade. Leave to soak while you prepare the sauce.
  7. Gently fry the chopped onion in 1 tablespoon of oil until it is softened. Add the spices and fry gently for a few minutes, adding a little water if necessary.
  8. Add the tinned tomatoes and the whole chilis, pierced with a sharp knife to release their flavor. Cook for ten minutes on a medium heat to reduce and thicken the sauce. Check for seasoning and add salt if required. Add the lentils and heat through.
  9. Add the eggplant and tofu to the sauce and then heat through over low heat for 10 minutes.
  10. Sprinkle shredded mint or chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves to garnish.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • epicharis
  • Adeline Eaton
    Adeline Eaton
  • Kristin Hatfield
    Kristin Hatfield
  • Fille de la Foret
    Fille de la Foret
  • morning glory
    morning glory

19 Reviews

epicharis June 13, 2020
Really, really liked this one. We omitted the lentils (125g didn't seem like enough to be worthwhile), added more tofu instead and increased the spices. The end product was excellent and it'd be fast enough for a weeknight. Highly recommend.
morning G. June 14, 2020
Hi epicharis,

Thank you for your feedback. I'm so pleased you liked it - the lentils are an unusual ingredient here I think. They add an element of 'earthiness' but I'm glad the recipe worked without.

Adeline E. February 5, 2018
So at the risk of going against the grain... We (myself and 2 children 1 and 5) really enjoyed it for lunch. I did however used smoked tofu because that's what I had and removed the chillies (replaced the powder with same amount of sweet paprika). It was tangy and spicy but not hot... Lovely. I would (and did in the end) add more lentils as 125g was not enough for our taste... They seemed a bit lost in the mix. Maybe I read the recipe wrong and it was 125g to be cooked?
morning G. February 5, 2018
I'm so pleased you tried it. I would think that smoked tofu would enhance this dish! The lentils I used were already cooked - so it means 125g cooked weight. It isn't supposed to be a predominantly lentil dish but there is no harm in adding more lentils if you wish. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I certainly hadn't imagined kids eating it - so I'm surprised and pleased.
Kristin H. February 7, 2017
Very poorly written recipe. I expect more from Food52. this was disappointing at best.
morning G. February 7, 2017
Thanks for your feedback, Kirsten. I am so sorry you thought my recipe was poorly written. I've now added 'when to add the lentils'. I really don't know how I missed that out! I have published this recipe elsewhere and the step was included! But please let me know what else you felt was poorly written. I love feedback and will amend things if I can.
susan G. February 21, 2017
As I read through this recipe, after reading the article about recipe writing, I was admiring your careful explanations, especially 'gently fry' in step 7. I'm looking forward to trying it.
morning G. February 27, 2017
Thank you! I hope you enjoy it and that it works out. Don't be afraid to adjust the amount of pomegranate molasses (brands can vary in strength) or the amount of chilli. Its always think its best to taste & trust your own tastebuds whilst cooking!
Brian M. February 3, 2017
We had high hopes for this recipe and we were disappointed. While we found it plenty hot enough, there was something missing. We sprinkled on lemon juice and that helped the brightness. Some people found tomatoes and tofu an odd combination after years of eating Asian food without tomatoes.

I wish they'd fix the recipe and add the step to add the beluga lentils. We added them after Step 9.

For those like me which thought substituting other lentils would be ok, don't The black lentils are smaller and have a unique flavor that lets your taste buds enjoy this dish rather than comparing it to the many green lentil stews and dishes. We also added green beans which added another texture and contrast to the lentils. All was served over brown basamati rice.
morning G. February 7, 2017
Firstly, I'm delighted that you tried out this recipe and I love to get feedback. I'm not sure how I missed out adding the lentils but I've now corrected this. I am wondering if the fact that you thought the dish lacked 'brightness' could be down to the pomegranate molasses you used. The sour pomegranate should have added that taste - and I would have been inclined to add more of it (rather then lemon juice) if the taste wasn't sour enough.

I am using a brand of pomegranate molasses sold in the UK and its quite possible that brands vary considerably.
Brian M. February 8, 2017
We used carlo pomegranate molasses distributes by carlo enterprises of glendale,ca. Contains p molasses, citric acid, caramel, sodium benzoate. Thoughts?
morning G. February 9, 2017
I'm using a brand from a UK supermarket. Strangely, it doesn't have an ingredient list on the label so we can't compare. It is pretty sour tasting, though. I can't obtain the Carlo brand here - otherwise I would try it!
susan G. February 21, 2017
I have found a wide range of ingredients in pomegranate molasses brands. Some add sugar, which I avoid. I wonder if it's there to cover the tang of the tart pomegranate, or in some way to cheapen the product?
Fille D. November 3, 2016
Did you mention in the instructions when to add the lentils?
morning G. February 7, 2017
Now corrected! Thanks!
morning G. July 3, 2016
Yes, the chilli powder I used was extra hot! But you can always add more if your chilli powder is milder. Regarding the pierced birds-eye chillies, the tester commented that there wasn't enough time in the sauce to exude the heat. You could cook the sauce for longer before adding the lentils and tofu (say 20 mins).
morning G. June 17, 2016
I feel I should point out that I left out a simple step - which is that you add the aubergine and tofu to the cooked sauce and heat through. Ny mistake - although you could probably work that out! I'd love someone to test it!
Alexandra G. June 17, 2016
This sounds amazing! I hope someone tests it out: I'd love to read the notes! :)
susan G. July 2, 2016
Note mentions not enough heat. This may be because 'chili powder' in the US is usually a not-very-spicy blend of ingredients. I assume that what is meant is the pure powdered form of chiles. Making this!