Spice in the Kitchen: Savory Rhubarb Lentil Curry

Lentils on top of fabric from Lithuania.
Rhubarb is in season right now. Poor rhubarb; it's been so typecast. You must be good in something other than strawberry pie. A main dish, perhaps?

This dish melds earthy French lentils, the astringent woodsy flavor rhubarb with the dark, nutty flavor of mustard seeds. To bring in sweetness, I added sweet potatoes, red pepper and a touch brown sugar. If you want heat, double the red pepper flakes. It turned out pretty delish and it's super healthy to boot!

Savory Rhubarb Lentil Curry with Spinach and Red Peppers Recipe (vegan)
serves 2 as an entree or 4 as a side


  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 cup French lentils
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 stalk (or 2) of rhubarb (diced into small pieces)
  • 1/2 of 1 red bell pepper (diced into small pieces)
  • 2 cups frozen spinach or 2 cups cooked spinach, chopped finely
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/2 TB of mustard seeds
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 TB minced ginger
  • 1 TB cumin powder
  • 1 TB brown sugar
  • salt to taste

  1. Pour 3 cups of water in a saucepan. Add lentils and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes or until lentils are soft, but not falling apart. Drain excess water.
  2. Cook sweet potato. My favorite method is baking: Wrap sweet potato in foil and bake at 425 for about 20 minutes or until the skin pulls away from the flesh and the potato is soft. Baking caramelizes the sugar and brings a nice deep flavor to the potato. You can also just peel and cube the sweet potato and steam it. 
  3. While lentils are simmering, cut your vegetables.
  4. In a large sauté pan, heat oil and then stir in mustard seeds. Once they start popping, add red pepper flakes and fennel. Add ginger (careful here, this may lead to a minor explosion. Have a lid handy just in case or you will have mustard seeds all over your floor.) Add cumin.
  5. Add red peppers and rhubarb to the pan. Sauté for a few minutes. Add spinach and sautée until fully cooked. Add cooked lentils, cooked sweet potato and brown sugar and stir. Add salt to taste.
  6. Serve alone or with a grain like rice or quinoa.


  1. Oo, this looks delish. I've been getting really into lentils at the moment but need to branch out from my usual dahl, might have to try this!

  2. AnonymousJune 11, 2011

    Just wondering..... Is the sweet potato portion of the recipe accidentally omitted? Thanks.

    1. AnonymousJune 02, 2016

      No - it is on the next-to-last line.

  3. Why yes it is! I need a proof reader. Or at least a babysitter to play with my kids while I jot down my recipes! ;) Thanks for the heads up!

  4. I love lentil salad. this looks good.

  5. Just made this. Holy cats, very tasty. The rhubarb is a total winner in this recipe. Thanks!

  6. I had some rhubarb left over from a rhubarb crisp and this recipe put it to perfect use! The rhubarb and curry work really well together. It's not a flavour combination I would have come up with myself but I really liked it. Thank you!!

  7. Thank you for sharing this recipe. I just made it and enjoyed it with a side of black rice. I thought I'd post a few remarks for anyone else who might want to try it and runs into the same pitfalls I did. I recommend upping the amount of rhubarb to at least twice as much. I followed the recipe exactly, and had a really hard time tasting it in the finished product (although note the caveat in the last sentence of this paragraph). The main things that I was able to taste were the sweet potato and lentils, and to a lesser extent, red bell peppers and spinach. I am not sure if the issue was the rhubarb that I had, but I was hoping for more of a "rhubarby" and savory flavor. I suggest keeping the pan on low and adding at least 2 tbs of olive oil when sauteing the spices, they burn really easily (as I found out the first time around). As per my taste, this definitely needed at least 1/2-3/4 tsp of salt at the end to offset the sweetness from the sweet potato and brown sugar, and I wish I added more spinach (I added a full bunch of fresh spinach and it was hard to know into what amount of cooked spinach that would translate, it turned out to only be 1/2 cup of sauteed spinach). I cooked the lentils on low, slightly over an hour, because I thought they were supposed to absorb all of the water. In retrospect, that was probably not a good idea. I still had to drain them before sauteing and they mashed further during sauteing and mixing on the pan. Although the lentils tasted good in the end product, perhaps this slight lentil overcooking is what contributed to masking some of the other flavors, including rhubarb?

    I did try to bake the potato as the recipe calls for, did it for 25 mins at 425F on the top shelf of my oven. In the end, it was only half way cooked, so I wound up microwaving it for an additional 5 mins in the end and then having to wait until it cooled to peel the potato and slice. It would have probably been good to bake for at least 35-40 mins and check more carefully. My favorite things about this recipe were the unique and flavorful combination of spices and veggies, the fact that it's so insanely healthy, and that it keeps well as leftovers, thanks!

  8. To the lengthy commenter: I wonder if you were using regular brown lentils. instead of french lentils? They get mushy, french lentils shouldn't unless massively overcooked. Although I can't remember how long french should cook for...I always just test with my mouth. As far as the sweet potato goes, I have always cooked mine at 350, no foil, for OVER an hour (sometimes as much as an hour and a half) till soft to the touch.

  9. AnonymousMay 06, 2015

    This recipe is amazing! I had to alter the ingredients on what I had around. Tsp of mustard instead of seeds, cherry tomatoes instead of the pepper. I had a huuuge amount of rhubarb fresh from the garden so used a good 5 stalks. Resulted in a really sharp and spicy taste which I really enjoyed. The use of cherry tomatoes also caused the recipe to make a nice amount of sauce resulting in more of atypical curry consistency. I think this is going to make a staple of mine! 10/10!

  10. Since I just baked a sweet potato, I'll share my tip.

    Unless the sw. potato is small, it's best to cut it into wedges, or small pieces. Then brush or drizzle with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350º for 20 - 30 minutes, in the middle of the oven.


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