Spicy Harissa Lentils with Lemon Tahini and Sweet Onions

August  5, 2019
7 Ratings
Photo by Meike Peters
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side
Author Notes

Lentils tend to get lost and forgotten in the dark corners of my pantry for months, sometimes even years. The whole family of tiny legumes, whether red, green, yellow, or black, offers so many possibilities to create an exciting lunch. The nuttiness and glowing shades of red lentils, for example, pair beautifully with harissa, tahini sauce, and candy-sweet sautéed onions.

From "365: A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking" © 2019 by Meike Peters. Photography © 2019 by Meike Peters. Published by Prestel. —Meike Peters | eat in my kitchen

What You'll Need
  • Lentils
  • 1 cup (220 g) red lentils (no soaking required)
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (510 ml) homemade or quality store-bought unsalted vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon harissa paste, plus more to taste
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • Topping & Tahini Sauce
  • 1 splash olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 pinch coarsely ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 12 fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light tahini
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (up to 2 teaspoons, to taste)
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 pinch finely ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  1. For the lentils, in a medium saucepan, bring the lentils and broth to a boil then lower the heat and simmer, adding more water if necessary, for 8 minutes or until tender (or follow the package instructions). There should be almost no cooking liquid left when the lentils are done. Add the olive oil and harissa, stir, and season to taste with salt, finely ground pepper, and additional harissa.
  2. For the topping, in a medium, heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, for about 12 minutes or until golden brown and soft. Add the sugar, stir, and caramelize the onions for 1 minute.
  3. For the tahini sauce, heat the olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat for about 2 minutes or until the garlic is golden. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool for 2 minutes. Add the tahini and 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice and whisk until combined then season to taste with salt, finely ground pepper, and additional lemon juice.
  4. Divide the lentils among bowls and drizzle with the tahini sauce and a little harissa. Sprinkle with coarsely ground pepper and parsley and serve.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Megan Sanguinetti
    Megan Sanguinetti
  • SophieO
  • Tiffany
  • Jane

4 Reviews

SophieO June 25, 2023
Made this today & loved it! As other commenters have mentioned, it needs more harissa and more lemon juice than is called for - and I also added a couple finely diced chilli’s to the lentils for some extra heat.

Where the recipe says to cook lentils for 8 minutes OR per package instructions I’d suggest going with package instructions as the stock that was called for was nowhere near enough for mine & I had to top it up twice just to get them cooked.
Tiffany September 13, 2021
Made this for the first time today. Absolutely LOVE this recipe! Will definitely make again. Perfect as is.
Jane November 10, 2019
We have made this several times and we love it. It is quick enough for a weeknight. We have found that our harissa doesn't have a strong enough flavour for us, so we add A LOT more harissa. The tahini sauce is delicious and I think I will make extra next time for a salad dressing.
Megan S. October 13, 2019
Made this as written and it was quick to prepare and quite tasty. To cook the lentils, I used freezer stock leftover from cooking a fish and it didn't overpower the final dish. I like that the tahini sauce uses sautéed garlic, as I always find similar sauces with raw garlic to be too pungent. I did end up adding quite a bit more lemon than called for, in order to make a balanced sauce. Would recommend as a quick, nourishing meal (breakfast in my case).