Lentil and Basmati Salad with Tamarind, Coconut, and Cilantro

December 29, 2010

Test Kitchen-Approved

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.


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
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 27 min


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
  • 1 pinch Salt, to taste
In This Recipe


  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:
Salad|Indian|Caraway|Cilantro|Coconut|Grains|Lime Juice|Tamarind|Lentil|Bean|Vegetarian|Vegan

Reviews (44) Questions (1)

44 Reviews

Sherry E. June 11, 2018
by any stretch of the imagination would pomegranate molasses sub for tamarind? or totally different flavor profile? subs suggested? also if I cannot use cilantro, whats a sub
Author Comment
gingerroot June 12, 2018
Hi Sherry E! Pomegranate molasses is quite a bit sweeter than tamarind so it would skew the flavor profile from sour to sweet. I can imagine it might work with the coconut. Italian parsley would be the closest cilantro sub that I can think of - it will give it a cleaner green flavor. Let me know if you give it a try - would love to hear your thoughts with those subs.
Sherry E. June 12, 2018
thank you gingerroot, is there a sub for tamarind?
hf December 2, 2015
This recipe has become a regular! It's so delicious, easy, healthy, and I almost always have the ingredients on-hand. I've made it about ten times already, and the eleventh is on the stove now, smelling delish. Thank you for sharing!!
Author Comment
gingerroot December 2, 2015
Hi hf,<br />You are so welcome! I'm so happy to hear that you enjoy this recipe. Cheers!
Claudia A. November 7, 2015
I live in Bali, Indonesia and du Puy lentils aren't available here, but mung beans are. Should I sub the same amount of mung beans? Also, I have a curry leaf tree in my garden. Should I simply add a small handful when cooking the rice and beans? Thank you, I'm looking forward to trying this!
Author Comment
gingerroot November 9, 2015
Hi Claudia, thanks for your note. Although I've only used lentils in this recipe, I think that subbing an equal amount of mung beans would work. You could add the curry leaves with the rice and beans, or with the black caraway seeds, before adding the tamarind paste.
Lizzie D. August 2, 2015
This is absolutely delicious. Thank you so much for sharing the recipe.
Author Comment
gingerroot August 3, 2015
Hi Lizzie, you're welcome!! Thanks so much for letting me know. I'm thrilled you enjoyed it. Cheers!
NC April 6, 2015
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!
CuriousH March 12, 2015
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???
Author Comment
gingerroot March 13, 2015
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!
Vivi B. March 6, 2015
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.
Author Comment
gingerroot March 13, 2015
Mmm...I love the idea of tempering garlic and chili with the nigella! Glad you enjoyed this, Vivi B.!
Regine March 6, 2015
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.
Scribbles March 6, 2015
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.
Author Comment
gingerroot March 6, 2015
Hi Scribbles, thanks so much for trying this and letting me know. I'd love to hear what direction you take this!
healthierkitchen March 5, 2015
Another great recipe!! congrats!
Author Comment
gingerroot March 6, 2015
Thank you, Wendy!!
Regine March 5, 2015
Correction to prior comment. I meant to write "may" not "main."
Regine March 5, 2015
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.
Author Comment
gingerroot March 6, 2015
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!
Vivi B. March 5, 2015
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!
Author Comment
gingerroot March 6, 2015
Thanks for letting me know, Vivi B.! So glad you enjoyed it.
Regine March 4, 2015
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.
Author Comment
gingerroot March 5, 2015
Aw, thank you Regine. I hope you enjoy it!
Kaitlin F. March 4, 2015
I've been looking for a recipe where I can cook the rice and lentils together, and this one looks perfect!
Author Comment
gingerroot March 5, 2015
Thanks for your comment, Kaitlin. I hope you enjoy this if you give it a try.
Trena H. March 2, 2015
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.
Author Comment
gingerroot March 5, 2015
Thank you, Trena!
EmilyC February 26, 2015
Yay Jenny! I have some tamarind languishing in my pantry -- now I'm excited to use it! Congrats!
Author Comment
gingerroot February 27, 2015
Thanks, Emily! I hope you enjoy it - let me know what you think.
Midge February 26, 2015
Congrats gingerroot! Cannot wait to give this a go.
Author Comment
gingerroot February 27, 2015
Thank you, Midge!
cookinginvictoria February 26, 2015
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. :)
Author Comment
gingerroot February 27, 2015
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.
tbrixius January 7, 2011
this is very delicious! i've made it twice already this week...thanks!
Author Comment
gingerroot March 6, 2011
Somehow I missed this...thanks so much! I'm thrilled you tried it and enjoyed it.