spiced lentils with poached egg on plate

I was vegetarian for a while. Did you know that? I feel like almost everyone who was vegetarian and now isn’t has had a similar experience: He couldn’t live without bacon. She couldn’t pass up any opportunity for a burger. For me, it was neither — it was simply that I had one too many bad experiences with bland, boring, uninspired vegetarian dishes, and I didn’t know how to cook any good meat-free dishes in my own home (besides a mean grilled cheese, that is. Perhaps I’ll share that recipe another day).

And so, since man and woman cannot live on grilled cheese alone (or at least I couldn’t, though I tried), I started incorporating meat back into my diet. And now, years later, I often find myself enjoying vegetarian dishes more than anything with meat. Funny how that works.

Of course, having bloggers like Erin of Naturally Ella to go to for veggie-filled inspiration helps. That girl knows her way around a vegetable, let me tell you. She’s also a cookbook author twice over. When I met her in person last summer, I quickly realized, too, that she’s a true gem of a lady. And she’s also about to become a mom to a baby boy. So what better way to celebrate her and her upcoming bundle of baby joy than with a super-quick, super-easy vegetarian recipe of celebratory proportions? ? That would be this lentil dish, FYI. Believe it.

lentils on parchment paper

This dish of spiced lentils with poached eggs is a perfect example of a vegetarian dish that I crave more than any burger or rasher of bacon — and it’s healthy, too. Lest you think I’m bluffing about how I could love a lentil dish more than bacon, let me direct you to that runny egg yolk situation above. That’s the pièce de résistance that brings this all together. And into my belly.

onions and tomatoes cooking in pan

I’m kind of a newbie to the whole lentil love thing, but guys and gals, I am officially head over heels for them. I put them in soup. I put them on salad. I have grand plans of putting them in these quesadillas ASAP with that magic green sauce that truly is magic with a capital YUM. I’m even thinking about taking our relationship to the next level with lentil hummus or lentil patties. Too much too soon? I think not.

cooking lentils in pan

Even so, I’ll probably be enjoying them most often (as in, probably weekly) in this version, all spiced with curry and cumin and garlic and mixed with sauteed veggies and topped with cool Greek yogurt and a poached egg, so you get that whole cold/hot bite at the same time thing going on. So much yes.

spiced lentils with poached egg on plate

And being a mom, having these healthy, super-quick, super-easy recipes on hand — vegetarian or not — is key. That’s why I hope Erin will find comfort and nourishment in her first few weeks of motherhood in this catalog of dishes we bloggers have prepared for her, if even from afar.

close up of poached egg

Erin, so many congrats and best wishes to you and your growing family! I know you’re going to be a fantastic mom who will raise her son in a home filled with loving, wholesome, veggie-filled foods and memories. Maybe he’ll even be a lentil lover, too? Just trying to get everybody on the bandwagon here.

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spiced lentils with poached egg on plate

Spiced Lentils with Poached Eggs

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  • Author: Adapted from Cooking Light
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 3 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large vine-ripened tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Plain Greek yogurt and chopped fresh cilantro, for topping


  1. In a large saucepan or stockpot, combine lentils, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover and cook lentils 15 to 20 minutes until tender. Drain; discard bay leaf.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat skillet. Add chopped onion and tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes until onion is softened.
  3. Add curry powder, cumin, salt, red pepper flakes and minced garlic to skillet; stir and saute 2 minutes. Add lentils and saute 1 more minute. Remove from heat. Divide lentil mixture among 4 serving plates.
  4. Fill a large saucepan 2/3 full with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat so water is just barely at a simmer. Add vinegar.
  5. Crack eggs individually into custard cups or ramekins. Carefully pour eggs, one at a time, from cups into simmering water. Poach 3 to 4 minutes until whites are cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove eggs, one at a time. Place one egg on top of lentil mixture on each serving plate.
  6. Top with salt and pepper to taste, a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of chopped fresh cilantro.

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