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Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice {vegan, gluten free}

A dose of curry spice simmered with earthy brown lentils, tomatoes and thin green spinach ribbons–that would be this savory vegan lentil spinach keema and saffron rice. There is one ingredient in the simmer that I didn’t say–it’s a surprise!

Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice plated ready to enjoy

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When a whopping bag of spinach came in this week’s farm share box, I looked for spinach recipes in one of my cookbooks, Pure Food by Veronica Bosgraaf. Spinach in the index led me to Vegan Keema.

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Keema, what’s keema?

It’s a new food to me, how ’bout for you? I looked up keema in my go-to reference for Indian cuisine, Classic Indian Cooking. No wonder keema wasn’t on my radar, vegetarian me learned that keema means meat, or meat dishes in India! Author Julie Sahni explains keema and offers several recipe ideas with keema, like stuffed cabbage and samosa turnovers.

Earthy brown lentils substitute for keema’s usual minced meat in this vegetarian keema.

ingredients for Lentil Spinach Keema in bowls ready to cook

There’s another something in this dish– a splash of coffee! Keema with coffee? I must say the coffee does bring a meat-like flavor depth to this meatless curry.

Bosgraff’s lentil and spinach keema is her vegan interpretation of a recipe she grew up eating. I wonder if Bosgraaf’s parents put coffee in their ground beef keema.

raw brown lentils, rinsed in strainer
Saffron rice complements this lentil spinach keema ever so nicely. Rare and expensive saffron spice imparts lovely fragrant aroma and bright yellow color to the basmati rice. You can use either brown or white basmati. The brown rice will take more time to cook.

We often serve this curry keema dish with the classic condiments of chutney and yogurt. Use plain whole milk or Greek yogurt and Spiced Honey Rhubarb Chutney!

Fava Bean Sprouts

About fava bean shoots:

Have you ever tasted or even come across fava bean shoots? They were the wild card treasure in our farm share box this week. Fava bean shoots are the tasty tips cut from young fava bean plants with a fresh fava bean or pea-like flavor. Green peas are common keema ingredients, and I decided the crunchy tender young leaves and edible blossoms of fava bean shoots needed to go in my version of vegan keema.

You don’t need fava bean shoots to make lentil spinach keema–it’s awesome with just the spinach! You could add sliced snow peas, or green pea shoots, or frozen thawed green peas instead of the fava bean shoots.

Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice, a horizontal shot of half of the plate

Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice recipe notes: 

  • The original recipe calls for 2 cups of basmati rice to 4 cups of water. Robbie and I thought that was way too much to go with the lentil spinach keema so I cut the rice amount down to the 1 cup rice: 2 cups water. If you prefer plenty of rice, go with 2 cups rice.
  • In the spring, I include sliced garlic scapes, sautéed along with the onions for a bright but mellow garlic flavor.
  • Other leafy greens can substitute for the spinach. Kale and beet greens need to cook longer than spinach, stir them at the same time you add the lentils and tomatoes to the pan.

Besides vegan keema, I tested a couple of desserts in Pure Food. You absolutely must make the vegan and gluten free and paleo Frozen Strawberry Pie! –it’s so good I posted a separate recipe here on the blog!

Other recipes with spinach:

Make it a fabulous week–get in the kitchen and cook something good!

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*** I received a review copy of Pure Food cookbook from Blogging for Books–the thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.This post contains affiliate links.


*** This is an update of the vegan Lentil Spinach Keema recipe I posted way back in 2015! 

When you purchase products via my links, it doesn’t cost you anything and I earn a tiny commission, which helps defray the costs of Letty’s Kitchen blog. Thank you for supporting Letty’s Kitchen.

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Nutrition Facts
Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice
Amount Per Serving
Calories 376 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 612mg27%
Potassium 693mg20%
Carbohydrates 63g21%
Fiber 10g42%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 14g28%
Vitamin A 1490IU30%
Vitamin C 13.3mg16%
Calcium 82mg8%
Iron 5.1mg28%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

7 comments

  • I haven’t seen fava shoots before. Or maybe I just haven’t looked close enough. They do resemble pea shoots it seems from these pics. GREG Reply · 22 June, 2015

    • Letty

      Greg–they were new to me too. Farmers using the whole plant these days! Reply · 22 June, 2015

      • Some version of nose to tail I guess, like “fruit to root”. GREG Reply · 22 June, 2015

  • Judy

    Whew! A bit hot for my taste, but I woke up this morning feeling unusually well. I’m going to try halving the curry powder, adding more greens, raisins, or coconut milk, etc. I also,ordered the Indian food cookbook-thanks for the tip! Reply · 24 June, 2015

    • Letty

      Thanks for the feedback. Possibly it depends on how hot your curry spice powder is. I have 2 different bottles and one is hotter than the other. I used half of each one when testing the recipe. For us it was not super hot–in fact Robbie added hot sauce to his–but he does that to a lot of our food. I think he has blown out his taste buds. 😉 Reply · 24 June, 2015

  • Marcy youker

    love your recipes,love lentils so I am going to try this one, it sounds delicious, thanks for sharing. Reply · 14 June, 2019

    • Thanks so much Marcy. Serve this one with chutney and plain yogurt if you eat dairy–they complement the curry so well. Reply · 14 June, 2019

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