Curried Spinach Rice Lentil Bake

I got this curried spinach rice lentil recipe from my mother-in-law. It is one of our favorite lentil dishes. The spicy aromatic curry and rich creamy coconut flavor are completely absorbed in the lentils and rice; that makes the dish absolutely delicious with every bite. Whenever my mother-in-law has guests over who are on a vegetarian or vegan diet, she often serves this lentil dish. She always gets compliments on how good it tastes, even from the meat eaters. They never knew lentils could taste so good; even my one year old son screams with delight when he sees this dish.

with spoonI never saw dry lentils before until my husband, Brad, suggested we make lentil soup sometime for dinner. Lentils? What are they? I believe this is very new to most Chinese. I started making lentil dishes during my pregnancy and now I really like them. Lentils are very high in folic acid for prenatal care. They are also rich in iron, protein, and dietary fibers. Wow, I never knew they are so healthy. I also like it that they are easy to cook. Not like most legumes, lentils can be cooked in 30 minutes and no pre-soaking is necessary.


The original recipe uses yellow onion, frozen spinach, cooked lentils, basmati rice, and coconut milk. I substituted sweet red onions for the yellow, fresh spinach for the frozen, and brown rice for the basmati and it tasted even better yet. Oh, I have to mention that making this tasty dish is simple. Combine the cooked lentils with fried onions, spinach, and brown rice; then stir in curry powder and salt. Add coconut milk and transfer to an oven safe dish to bake at 350 ºF. After 35 to 40 minutes, you get a dish that provides essential nutrients for your body: good source of protein, dietary fibers, and carbohydrates. In addition, it offers vitamins and minerals.



mix in coconut milk


I like to keep some homemade ready-made meals in my freezer and serve them on an as-needed occasion. I call them my “emergency food”. This dish is one of them. It tastes just as good as if it were freshly made.

Curried Spinach Rice Lentil-01


*Recipe is updated on 05/20/2015

4.91 from 11 votes
Curried Spinach Rice Lentil Bake
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
35 mins
Total Time
1 hr
Tools: knife and cutting board; food processor (optional); measuring cups; strainer; two small saucepans with lids; a large skillet; oven safe baking dish
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Asian
Keyword: coconut milk, lentil, vegan dinner
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Joyce @Light Orange Bean
  • 2/3 cup raw brown lentils
  • 2 2/3 cups water
  • 1 cup chopped onion yellow or red
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach approximately 10 oz, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive or canola oil
  • 2 tsp yellow curry powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  1. Cook Lentils: Measure the lentils into a strainer, pick over and remove any stones. Rinse thoroughly under running water. Transfer rinsed lentils to a saucepan, add 1-1/3 cup of water to lentils. On a stove top, bring the water to a boil then set the heat to medium low to simmer for 25 minutes.
  2. In another saucepan, add brown rice and 1-1/3 cup of water. On a stove top, bring the water to a boil then set heat to low to simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. While lentils and rice are cooking, use knife or food processor to chop onions, garlic, and spinach into fine pieces.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 ºF. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and garlic; then stir until onions are translucent and softened. Stir in rice, curry powder, salt and pepper; cook 2 more minutes. Add chopped spinach, cooked lentils and coconut milk; cook for 1 minute.
  5. Transfer the lentil rice mixture to an oven safe dish; cover with oven safe lid or aluminum foil and bake 35 minutes.
Recipe Notes

1. For cooking lentils, the ratio of water to lentil is essential. Excess water will make the lentils too soft and break the shape of lentils. ½ cup raw lentils usually yields 1½ cups cooked lentils.
2. Keep extra top space in the oven safe dish for expansion while baking in oven. I normally leave 2 inches of unfilled space on top.
3. The assembled dish can be prepared one day before baking and stored in fridge. If the dish goes right from the fridge to the oven, an extra 10 minutes baking time is needed.
4.I have used Chinese brown rice and it takes much longer to cook. In this recipe I used American brown rice (Uncle Ben’s brand).
5. The consistency of different brands and packages of coconut milk are different. In this recipe I used full-fat coconut milk from a can.


Curried Spinach Rice Lentil  Bake


    • Joyce says:

      Yes, it will work with soy milk and almond milk. But you will not get the coconut flavor in the dish. I personally like the coconut flavor with curry the best.

  1. Ellen says:

    I’m so happy to have discovered your website! Will this recipe work with other kinds of lentils? I think I have red, yellow and green in the house.

    • Joyce says:

      April, sorry to hear that. What kind of brown rice do you use? I noticed some Asian brown rice take much longer time to cook than the American brown rice. Did you cover your dish during baking? Did your rice uncooked or dry on top but on the bottom of the dish are cooked?

    • Joyce says:

      Sorry to hear that. I guess it is the problem of coconut milk and brown rice. Let me make some modification on the recipe.

  2. Cindy B says:

    I made this tonight. It was so good, my meat eaters liked it, too, just like you said. I froze half for later, I am looking forward to leftovers for another day! Thank you!

  3. Ema C says:

    This recipe looks delicious. I’m curious, though, have you ever tried to replace the rice with something else like freekeh or bulgur wheat? I’m looking forward to trying it. 🙂

    • Joyce says:

      Thanks Ema! Because my family are gluten-free, we avoid anything that is made of wheat or wheat itself. Definitely, you can try the non-glutenfree version. Let me know how it tastes so I can recommend to my friends who eat wheat.

      • Ema C says:

        Hi Joyce. I finally had a chance to try out your recipe and it’s delicious. Thank you!!

        I ended up replacing the rice with quinoa and added some grated sweet potato and zucchini (trying to use up extra veggies at home). I think it came out great. Very yummy. Thank you again.

  4. Agne says:

    This is amazing! I had some cooked rice and steamed lentils, so I reduced the time in the oven to 20 min. It came out fantastic. Will definitely make it again. Thank you!

  5. Lorraine says:

    Hi Joyce
    I love love love this recipe and look forward to it at least once (or twice) a week. I have used half vegetable stock and half coconut milk to cut back the richness, but either way, still delicious. When by myself I have reduced all the ingredients and just simmered in saucepan on stove and it still works! Thank you very much

    • Joyce says:

      Thanks Adrienne for asking the question. The coconut milk I used is probably a little runnier than the yogurt. The coconut flavor is quite a key flavor for the dish so it’s better to keep it in the ingredient lists.

  6. Val says:

    What an awesome recipe! Made this for my pioneering vegan family and everyone just loves it sooo much! We served it with a green salad and it was the best thing we have eaten in a while. Not that our vegan dinners aren’t great, this was just so outstanding. A winner that I will make time and time again

  7. Quinn says:

    It’s unclear to me what “coconut milk” means in the recipe. Do you use the coconut milk that comes in a can, the kind that you cook with; or the coconut beverages that come in cartons, the think liquid that you can drink or put in cereal.

    • Joyce says:

      I used coconut milk in a can. It definitely has more flavors than the carton ones. The one in cartons are too thin for this recipe, I think. 🙂

  8. Lulu says:

    Uncle Bens rice is Parboiled and requires a shorter cooking time -this may be why some people have had problems with their rice.

    • Joyce says:

      Thanks for mentioning that. I updated the recipe a while back. In the recipe, I added cooking brown rice in water for 10 minutes before adding to the lentil/spinach mixture.

    • Joyce says:

      Yes, it will work with white rice. You don’t have to precook (like boil the rice in a saucepan) the white rice because it cooks faster than brown rice. The baking time is the same.

  9. Steve says:

    This is really delish. It’s even better as leftovers the next day. I had to cook it an extra 10 minutes, but all good. Thanks for the recipe.

  10. Danielle Makris says:

    Thank you for this nice recipe! I followed it with one exception – I used low fat coconut milk. It was excellent. I also freeze portions of food and call them “emergency food”! So funny. Bon Appétit!

  11. The Student-turned-Doctor @ Food for Dissertating says:

    I made this and it was SO GOOD! I wasn’t sure which brown lentils to get so I used pardina lentils, and my can of coconut milk only had 1 3/4 cups so I added about a 1/4 cup of soy milk so it would have enough liquid. I froze half in containers for homemade TV dinners for later and I look forward to having it again soon. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Joyce says:

      Yes, absolutely. If you are using instant pot, you can add less water into the pot since it seals and evaporation loss of liquid than baking method. Otherwise the dish will be too soupy.

  12. Michelle says:

    I followed the recipe exactly, but the flavor is pretty bland…should I add more curry powder? Lemon juice? More salt?

    • Joyce says:

      Hi Michelle, I think you could do that. I have found that using a good quality curry powder can really enhance the flavor. As powdered spices tend to go bland after 3 months, you may want to check to see if your spices are not fresh and don’t have strong flavors. I hope this will help.

  13. Claire says:

    Hi there, I love this recipe and make it often. I would like to make one to freeze. Can you tell me how you do it? Do you bake completely and then freeze or freeze before baking? How much time to bake from frozen? Thank you!

    • Joyce says:

      You can completely bake it and then freeze it. Or prepare it without baking and then freeze it till you need to serve it. In that case, you should add 15 more minutes to the baking time.

  14. Beth Ballou says:

    really wish you would have specified in the recipe that the rice is not to be fully cooked before going in the oven. Brown rices cook at different times depending on the type.

  15. Pam in Sacramento says:

    I already had enough precooked lentils and brown rice in the fridge. Used a bag of thawed frozen spinach and added two shredded carrots (because, well, more vegetables!). I also omitted the oil, and sauteed the onion in water, since there is already so much fat in the coconut milk. Turned out excellent! Thanks for a great recipe.

  16. Mary Martin says:

    I added 3# of brown ground turkey. Added another 1.5cups if coconut milk and 2 more tap of curry, more pepper, salt and garlic to turkey then mixed it all with the casserole mixture. Baked it for an addition 5 mins and wallah hearty, savory and oh so yummy!

  17. Saskia B. says:

    I make this again and again, usually when I have either rice or lentil leftovers or a bag of spinach that is about to spoil. Perfect recipe for that. And very tasty. I never get tired of it. Thank you!

  18. Julia says:

    Raw brown rice always takes 40 minutes to cook (unless you use a pressure cooker, as I do.) Uncle Ben’s is parboiled, same as their white rice, which is why it takes less time.

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