Healthy Homemade: Spiced Lentil Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

Every year for New Year’s my mother insists on making lentils. Now, my sister and I could not be more different, but one thing we do share is our utter dislike for lentils. Yet mom believes that eating lentils will bring good luck in the New Year, and so everyone in my family – my sister and I included – is required to eat some. Every year we have the same argument, trying to convince mom not to make the oh-so-dreaded lentils, but ultimately the struggle ends with the two of us conceding to eat the tiniest forkful imaginable.

Studying abroad in Israel and doing my best to stick to my budget, I’ve taken stock of which foods are the most economical at the shuk, or market, here in Israel. So what’s one of the cheapest goods at the shuk? You guessed it – lentils. I guess there wasn’t enough luck in my tiny forkful of lentils this New Year’s. Such a pity. And yet, I bought a kilo of red lentils and decided to be cultural if not a bit adventurous in my cooking.

Nicknamed the “poor man’s food,” lentils are rich in fiber, vitamins and protein and are surprisingly filling. For these reasons, lentils have been a major component of Middle Eastern cooking for centuries. Paired with sweet potatoes, spinach and a very healthy dosage of Middle Eastern spices, the lentil stew I made was shockingly delicious. So Mom, I may not hate lentils as much as a I thought I did–but maybe we should try a new recipe next New Year’s!

Sarah McAnaw is a junior at American University where she studies International Relations and Biology. After cooking (and eating!) her way through a semester in Florence, Italy last fall, she’s in Haifa, Israel this spring to study the Arab-Israeli conflict and experience the culinary flavors of the Middle East first hand.


Spiced Lentil Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach
Modified from Healthy Food For Living
Serves 4


For the spice-roasted sweet potatoes:
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

For the stew:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small or ½ a medium yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup red lentils
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
spice roasted sweet potatoes
a large handful of spinach leaves, washed and roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil and spices and lay out in an even layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until the potatoes are soft and lightly browned. Set aside.

Heat the oil for the stew in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and sauté for an additional 30 seconds. Add in the lentils and cook for one minute to lightly toast the lentils. Pour in the broth and bring the mixture to a boil; reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the roasted sweet potatoes and spinach. Cook the stew for an additional 10 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with pita or naan bread, or even top the stew with a dollop of greek yogurt if you’d like.


Originally posted on Monday, February 13th, 2012

One Response to “Healthy Homemade: Spiced Lentil Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach”

  1. Valentine’s Dinner :: My Blog

    January 18th, 2016

    [...] we made a spiced lentil stew with sweet potatoes and spinach from Small Kitchen College. This stew was amazingly flavorful and hearty.  We ate a teacup’s worth as part of our [...]

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