Middle Eastern Lentils with Caramelized Onions

by Gavan on November 5, 2009

Middle Eastern Lentils

I got a call yesterday from my friend and celebrity trainer, Valerie Waters, asking if I had any lentil recipes. As fate would have it, I not only had a bag of lentils sitting on my counter, I had a recipe in mind which I was planning to whip up this week. Looks like great minds think alike. (If you saw my FB post yesterday this would most definitely make sense!)

I’ve made this dish before using bulgur wheat, which also turned out great. Val wanted a gluten-free option so I omitted the bulgur and added eggplant. Come to think of it, adding garbanzo beans (chick peas) or even peas would be smashing like.

Serves 6ish

1 1lb bag of lentils – picked through and rinsed
4 cups low-sodium chicken or veg stock
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp allspice
3/4 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp sun-dried or regular tomato paste
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large red onions, sliced
1 – 2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1 medium eggplant – diced
dash of cinnamon


Begin with caramelizing the onions. Heat a large saute pan on medium heat then add in 2 – 3 tbsp oil. Saute the onions for about 30 minutes, stirring often, until they are very brown, raising the heat towards the end to caramelize them.

Caramelizing Onions Sauteed Eggplant Making Middle Eastern Lentils

When the onions are done, transfer to a plate until needed. Add the eggplant to the same pan with 2 tbsps of olive oil and a dash of cinnamon and a tsp of salt. By using the same pan, you’ll get hints of the sweet caramelized onion flavour in the eggplant. Saute on medium heat for 15 mins approx, or longer if necessary, until the eggplant is soft and cooked through.

TIP: If the eggplant has soaked up all the olive oil, add a another drizzle to keep from sticking. (Eggplant tends to soak up oil right away.)

While the eggplant is cooking, bring the stock to a boil. Add in the bay leaf, allspice, ground chili powder and tomato paste. Stir well and taste–you can add in more spices if you prefer. Add in the lentils and reduce to a simmer covered, for 15 mins approx, or until the lentils are nearly tender.
Add 1 tsp salt and pepper.

NOTE: This is where you’d add in the bulgur wheat, if using.

Continue to simmer the lentils for an additional 20 mins approx, with the lid on, adding a little water if they become too dry. You want the lentils to be soft but not mushy so keep an eye on them. When done, stir in 4 tbsp of olive oil to prevent clumping.

Fold in the eggplant. Spoon individual portions and top with the caramelized onions.

This Syrian and Lebanese dish can be served hot or cold and is usually accompanied with yogurt, though I’ve never tried it that way. I’m quite happy with them hot, especially with the sweet caramelized onions on top! Tasty!

NOTE: As I was typing about the peas, I realized I had some frozen peas in the freezer so I thought I’d try it out. I sauteed them in a little stock, drained them then added them into the lentils. Added a lovely bit of colour wouldn’t you say?

Middle Eastern Lentils with Garden Peas

All recipes are made with the finest quality farmers market whole foods, natural and non-processed ingredients.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott January 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I just made this recipe tonight. Fantastic! Lentils and eggplant are two of my favorite foods and this is a perfect combination of both. Thanks for the great recipe.

Gavan January 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Hey Scott, thanks a lot for the feedback. I really do appreciate it. I’m delighted you not only made it but you enjoyed it too.
Cheers man.

Meredith McClanen November 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I am so delighted to find your website. I am going to use this recipe as dish for our Thanksgiving dinner (instead of stuffing). I might play a little with it, I’ll let you know what I come up with. Thanks.

Gavan November 29, 2011 at 11:44 am

Hey Meredith, I love that idea of using this instead of stuffing. How did it turn out?

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