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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

Click here to PIN Lentil Spinach Keema with Saffron Rice!


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.

PS If you make this recipe and love it, please consider leaving a blog post comment. Your comments help other readers learn more about the recipe. If you’d also give the recipe a ✮✮✮✮✮ rating, I’d be delighted!

5 from 3 votes
Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice
Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
30 mins

A delicious vegan and gluten free main dish. If you have the rice and lentils cooked ahead this protein-rich keema can be ready in 30 minutes. It's particularly delicious when served with rhubarb chutney and plain whole milk yogurt.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten free
Keyword: lentils, saffron rice, spinach, keema
Servings: 4 servings.
Calories: 376 kcal
Saffron Rice:
  • 1 cup basmati rice (I used brown 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, optional cut in ribbons, (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
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, apple cider vinegar, and fava bean shoots, if using. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. Serve with 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 the unusual fava bean shoots. Or just leave them out altogether.
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.


  • 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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