braised cabbage with lentils


Nik Sharma

Hey Friends, I’m a multi-award-winning and best-selling cookbook author and photographer.

braised cabbage with red lentils

It’s the start of the new year with new memories to make and fresh recipes to share with you. And what better way to begin than to share one of my favorite ways to eat cabbage. Cabbage has always been one of my favorite vegetables as a child and it still holds a special place in my pyramid of food choices.  I enjoyed eating cabbage a lot, so much so that it really annoyed my mother when she would ask me what I would like to eat. She also got the same answer when it came to colors, I loved grey (I owned and still own my clothing items that are in different shades of grey) and she’d insist that grey was not really a color. Needless to say, I still love cabbages and the color grey! 
napa cabbage

There are many different ways to cook cabbage in Indian households, this perhaps holds a special place in my heart because it is the way I remember my grandmother preparing it. She served this on the side with a piping hot stew of beef, chicken or lamb and fresh loaves of bread. It was definitely a much more simple dish but an absolutely delicious meal and one of my favorites from her Goan kitchen.

red lentils

There are very few ingredients in this dish and the flavors are still wonderfully complex. The presoaked red lentils are cooked in the hot oil that is flavored with chili and they capture the heat of the peppers which provides a delicious punch when you taste the cabbage and the lentils. Although, it is not always necessary to presoak lentils before they are cooked, I find that the soaking process quickens the speed at which the lentils are cooked and they fluff up and become much more tender when cooked in the hot oil and the cabbage. Cabbage leaves also contain a large amount of water and when cooked the water is released which aids in braising the vegetables and lentils. I also prefer to use Napa cabbage in this recipe because it retains it structure against the high heat during cooking without getting mushy and too soft.

braised cabbage with lentils
braised cabbage with lentils

yields: 4-6 servings


2/3 cup red lentils
2 lbs napa cabbage
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 thai green chili pepper, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro (or flat leaf parsley) leaves, finely chopped to garnish

1. Clean and remove any stones and dirt from the lentils. Rinse the lentils under cold tap water and soak the lentils in water for 1 hour. 
2. Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage. Quarter the cabbage across its length and then cut each quarter into thin shreds. Place the cabbage in a colander and rinse the cut leaves under cold running tap water. Transfer the cabbage shreds onto a clean kitchen towel and press to absorb any excess water.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large wok with a lid and medium high flame. As soon as the oil begins to get hot, add the chili flakes and chili pepper and stir for 15 seconds. 
4. Drain the water from the soaked lentils and transfer them to the hot oil. Stir fry the lentils for 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, salt and black pepper to the wok, stir to mix and cover with the lid. Cook until the cabbage is tender with occasional stirring. This should take about 20 minutes. Remove the wok from the flame and transfer the hot cabbage to a serving dish. Garnish with the chopped cilantro (or parsley) and serve with bread or plain rice.

12 Responses

  1. Lovely recipe! Never had cabbage with lentils – I am excited to try this new version. I hated cabbage growing up but now its my new found love after trying so many varieties from farmers market this summer. Gorgeous pictures as always!

  2. Oh, this is so interesting. I absolutely love braised cabbage too, but I've never had it with lentils. Love the sound of it — and yes, aren't the simplest dishes sometimes the best? And the grandmother dishes, well, those are ALWAYS the best. 🙂 Happy new year, Nik!

  3. I never tried NAPA cabbage with lentils. Your recipe looks interesting and doable. Love it. Wish you a very happy New Year, Nik!

  4. I made this tonight, and the flavor is very delicious! Instead of nappa, I used a small head of green cabbage. Rather than a Thai green chili pepper, I just used what I had: 2 tiny little datils. Delicious! Thank you for a very simple recipe using ingredients that I already had in my cupboard!

  5. This looks great! Quick question though: How does it braise if no liquid goes into the wok? Should any liquid be added?

  6. Hi, I am glad you like this, I discuss the cooking process above briefly. The lentils hold a lot of water after the presoak and cabbage leaves naturally contain a high percentage of water. By first searing everything at high heat, the cabbage will brown and release a huge amount of water. There will be no need to add any liquid since the leaves will leave plenty behind naturally.

  7. Great! Thanks so much. I appreciate the quick response. I guess I should've read the post better. I am making this today and looking forward to it.

  8. Hi Nik, what a great recipe, I have been cooking red lentils for decades but never thought of cooking them without boiling them in water. I just made it for dinner along with small roasted potatoes and would love to share the recipe with my readers with proper attribution and link to your recipe. Would you permit me to do that? please email me to let me know. Thanks for posting this, it will become one of my favourite dishes I am sure.

  9. I love cabbage and red lentils! What could be better than this recipe?? Thank you Nik. I love your approach to cooking and your first two books are my go-to places for new things to try. I wish you continued success with your new veg Table book!

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