It's all a healthy balancing act with this creamy curry

  • Red Lentil and Nut Butter Curry can be part of your healthy eating choices for 2022.

    Red Lentil and Nut Butter Curry can be part of your healthy eating choices for 2022. M. Eileen Brown | Staff Photographer

Posted1/12/2022 6:00 AM

Like many of you, I am trying to kick-start the new year with healthy choices. Out with cookies, candy and nog -- in with fresh fruits and vegetables and all things good for me!

So, yes, it seems counterintuitive to be making a soup using coconut milk and almond butter -- both really high in fat -- as part of a plan focused on wellness.


But hear me out.

This Red Lentil Nut Butter Curry is packed with protein (lentils), offers much-needed anti-inflammatory ingredients (ginger and garlic) and is vitamin-rich (Swiss chard, lemon juice and all the other veggies).

I got the recipe from my friend Monique Costello, a functional medicine wellness coach and chef. (Check out her website for lots of great recipes).

So, yes, there's fat in this, and I wouldn't eat it every day.

Coconut oil and coconut milk have mixed reviews and research on the health front. The fat is saturated, true, but it has anti-inflammatory properties and many other healthful qualities. However, nuts (and nut butters) are generally agreed to be "good" fats -- which the body needs.

It's all a balancing act, and moderation is key here.

In any case, this recipe is a very flexible and forgiving dish. As Monique says, "Have fun, make it your own."

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And so I did. I didn't have chard on hand, so I used spinach. I also had some leftover cauliflower, mushrooms and red peppers in the fridge, so I tossed them in there, too.

Add the extra veggies in when you add the spices at the start of cooking.

The result was a rich, spicy, aromatic stew that you can serve over rice or quinoa -- or simply eat it as is.

My mouth wanted seconds, but the dish was really rich and satisfying, so I stopped at one bowl.

Best of all, my usual urge for a late-night bowl of popcorn or ice cream was nonexistent. For me, that was progress.

Here's to a healthy start for us all!

• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's vice president of sales and marketing and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at


Red Lentil Nut Butter Curry

1 tablespoon coconut oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 inches of fresh ginger, minced or grated

1 serrano pepper, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon pink salt

1 cup red lentils (soaked for 20 minutes, rinsed and drained)

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems chopped

2 cups vegetable broth

1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 13.5-ounce can full-fat coconut milk

3 tablespoons unsweetened almond butter (both creamy or chunky work)


½ a small lemon, juiced

Handful of cilantro

Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook the garlic, ginger, serrano and chard stems for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the cumin, coriander, chili powder, curry powder, and salt, cook 30 seconds.

Deglaze the pan with the broth.

Add in the lentils, torn chard leaves and crushed tomatoes and mix well. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. Stir in the coconut milk, almond butter and a turn or two of black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning and consistency as desired.

Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, until the curry has thickened and is creamy.

Finish with lemon juice, black pepper and cilantro.

Serves 6

From Monique Costello at

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