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

A dose of curry spice, some diced tomatoes simmered with earthy brown lentils. At the last minute, thin green spinach ribbons and crunchy fava bean shoots wilt into this savory vegan lentil spinach keema and saffron rice.

Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice

Keema—new food to me. How about you? A little research told me keema means meat, or meat dishes in India–it’s no wonder keema wasn’t on my vegetarian radar. Cooked lentils make an excellent vegan substitute for the usual minced meat in keema.

Fava Bean Sprouts for Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice

Fava bean shoots–also new to me. Have you ever tasted or even come across fava bean shoots? They were a wild card treasure in our farm share box. Green peas are common keema ingredients, and fava bean shoots have a pea-like flavor, so I decided the crunchy tender young leaves and edible blossoms of fava bean shoots needed to go in my vegan keema.

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

ingredients for Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice

When a whopping bag of spinach came in this week’s farm share box, I looked for spinach recipes in a new cookbook I’m testing– Pure Food, a cookbook by Veronica Bosgraaf. The title stems from Bosgraaf’s all natural snack business, Pure Food.

Bosgraff writes that she is not a trained chef and that wanted to share her commitment to eat clean with seasonal plant-based recipes. The recipes are what she feeds her family on a regular basis. Many recipes are vegan though others contain dairy, eggs and sugar. This recipe is adapted from the Vegan Keema recipe in her cookbook.

There’s a surprise splash of coffee in this dish. Keema with coffee? Have to say the coffee does bring a meat-like flavor depth to the meatless lentil and wilted greens curry. I wonder if Bosgraaf’s parents put coffee in their ground beef keema, or did she introduce it in her vegan rendition?

Rare and expensive saffron spice imparts lovely fragrant aroma and bright yellow color to the basmati rice. I suppose you could go without the exotic saffron, but why? Saffron rice complements lentil spinach keema ever so nicely.

Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice

Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice recipe notes: 

  • In Classic Indian Cooking, my go-to reference for Indian cuisine, author Julie Sahni offers several recipe ideas with keema, like stuffed cabbage and samosa turnovers. I bet lentil and spinach keema would make an excellent filling for samosas.

raw lentils for Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice

  • The original recipe doesn’t specify which variety of lentils. I used small brown lentils that retain their shape, forgoing the larger lentils that are more suited to lentil soup. I found the lentils in the bulk bin at Whole Foods, and you can order them online here. For small lentil cooking instructions refer to my Spinach Salad with Green Lentils recipe.
  • 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.

Besides vegan keema, I tested a couple of desserts in Pure Food–chocolate rice pudding and vegan and gluten free and paleo frozen strawberry pie.

You might want to try this Wilted Spinach and Green Lentil Salad. Or this Spinach Herb and Feta Custard.

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

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Pure Food book cover for Lentil and Spinach Keema




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

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If you like this recipe, I’d be grateful if you’d give a ✮✮✮✮✮ rating on the recipe card below.

5 from 1 vote
Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice
Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
30 mins

If you have the rice and lentils cooked ahead this protein-rich keema can be ready in 30 minutes.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten free
Keyword: lentils, saffron rice, spinach, keema
Servings: 4 servings.
Author: Letty Flatt
Saffron Rice:
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Lentil and Spinach Keema:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion , chopped
  • 2 cups cooked brown lentils (see note)
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (half of (14-ounce) can)
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • ½ cup strong coffee
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 cups spinach leaves , cut in ribbons
  • 2 cups fava bean shoots, cut in ribbons, optional (see note)
Saffron rice:
  1. Bring the water, saffron and salt to boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the rice. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed.
The Keema:
  1. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet on medium low flame. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and cook for a minute before adding the lentils, tomatoes, coffee and salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook 5 to 10 minutes, adding water if necessary to prevent sticking. Turn off the heat. Stir in the spinach and fava bean shoots. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. Serve over saffron rice.
Recipe Notes
  • I used small brown lentils that retain their shape, forgoing the larger lentils that are more suited to lentil soup. I found the lentils in the bulk bins at Whole Foods, and you can order them online. For small lentil cooking instructions refer to my Spinach Salad with Green Lentils recipe.
  • Green pea shoots, sliced snow peas, or frozen green peas can take the place of unusual fava bean shoots.


  • 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

  • […] Rice Pudding. I also tested this nostalgic vegan dessert. Definitely a repeater. Vegan Keema. See my adaptation here. Hummus Pizza Warm Potatoes and Spinach with Rosemary Dressing Buckwheat Crepes with Butterscotch […] Reply · 30 June, 2015

  • […] A little while back green fava bean shoots showed up in our farm share box. I served them with lentils and saffron rice. Recipe here. […] Reply · 12 July, 2015

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