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

A dose of curry spice, some diced tomatoes and a splash of coffee (surprise!) simmer with earthy brown lentils into this easy dinner dish. At the very last minute, wilt in thin green ribbons of spinach and crunchy fava bean shoots. Savory and simple–lentil spinach keema and saffron rice.

Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice

Keema—I’d never heard the word. It makes sense that keema wouldn’t have shown up my vegetarian kitchen radar, since keema means meat, or meat dishes in India. In this recipe cooked lentils take the place of the usual minced meat.

When a whopping bag of spinach came in this week’s CSA box, I searched for spinach recipes in a new cookbook I’m testing. This recipe is adapted from one titled Vegan Keema in Pure Food, by Veronica Bosgraaf.

Fava Bean Sprouts for Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice

Did you catch the other new food word in this post? Fava bean shoots. With tender young leaves and edible blossoms, they’re the wild card treasures in our CSA box this week. Since green peas are common keema ingredients, I figured that crunchy fava bean shoots with their pea-like flavor would be perfect in this lentil keema. You don’t need fava bean shoots for keema—it will be wonderful with spinach only, or with sliced snow peas, green pea shoots or frozen green peas.

ingredients for Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice

Pure Food cookbook stems from Bosgraaf’s all natural snack business, Pure Food. She says she is not a trained chef and that she wrote this cookbook 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.

We don’t often see coffee in savory dishes. I wonder if author Bosgraaf’s family put coffee in their ground beef keema, or did she introduce it in her vegan rendition? I like how it adds meat-like depth to this meatless lentil, tomato and wilted greens curry.

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

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 can’t wait to try this spinach and lentil keema as a filling for samosas, the Indian “empanadas.”

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 amount in half. If you prefer a lot of rice, go with the bigger ratio.

Besides vegan keema, I tested a couple of desserts in Pure Food–chocolate rice pudding and frozen strawberry pie. Look for that absolutely wonderful vegan, gluten free and paleo-friendly strawberry “ice cream” pie soon, here on Letty’s Kitchen.

P. S. Do you have more spinach? Try this Wilted Spinach and Green Lentil Salad. Or this Spinach Herb and Feta Custard.

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Pure food book cover




   I received this cookbook from Blogging for Books for this review–the thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

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Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice
Lentil Spinach Keema and Saffron Rice
Author: Letty Flatt
  • Rice:
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/4 teaspoon Real Salt
  • Keema:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion , shopped
  • 2 cups cooked brown lentils (see note)
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes (half of (14-ounce) can)
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • ½ cup coffee
  • 3/4 teaspoon Real Salt
  • 2 cups spinach leaves , cut in ribbons
  • 2 cups fava bean shoots , cut in ribbons (see note)
  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.
  2. 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
  • The 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. 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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