How to make healthy choices every day

Meatless Mondays with Martha Stewart – Rhubarb-Lentil-Sweet Potato Stew

I love that with each new season comes fresh and exciting produce to play with. You’d think that I would have run out of fruits and veggies to try by now, but this is not the case! A trip to the market always reveals something that has not graced my plate and serves as inspiration to use an old favorite in a totally new way.

This spring, I took it upon myself to become better friends with rhubarb. Yes, I have tried it before in pies and jams snuggled with strawberries, but when I started seeing it in shops this season, I realized I didn’t really know how it tasted on its own. This got me experimenting and using rhubarb in slightly less conventional ways. My grilled rhubarb was a hit, but it never left the sweet dish arena, and I knew there was room to push the envelope.

After trolling through my cookbooks looking for some off-the-wall rhubarb inspiration, I found just what I was looking for in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Not even a recipe, but a mere suggestion at the conclusion of one, was to add rhubarb to his lentil stew. Bingo.

Being a huge fan of lentils and daals, I set out to make my own rhubarb lentil stew, with a few tweaks here and there. I can’t believe how good it tastes! It’s almost as if rhubarb is that missing link: it imparts a fantastic acidity where I would usually turn to lemon or vinegar. And the texture is lovely, too. In this recipe the rhubarb melts into the lentils, almost disappearing, leaving behind its signature tang. The whole dish is tasty, unfussy, and satisfying!

I hope this recipe inspires you to break out of the strawberry-rhubarb rut and try this seasonal vegetable (yes, it’s a vegetable) in a totally new way.

While the stew was simmering on the stove, I whipped up Cilantro Oil to give the tangy-spiciness of the lentils a bright flavor. It’s totally optional, but really does elevate the dish, like most chutneys that accompany Indian cuisine. You can also use the cilantro oil on pasta, eggs, or as a sandwich spread.

Fantastic Fiber
This whole meal is a major, major wealth of fiber, which spells a-w-e-s-o-m-e for your digestion! Fiber is exclusively a plant nutrient, as plants need fiber for structural support. Animals have bones and muscles instead, so fiber is not a significant part of their composition. Increasing our dietary intake of plants in comparison to animal-based foods means an increase in our fiber intake. Makes sense, right? Countries with the most food processing and highest percentage of animal food intake also have the lowest consumption of dietary fiber— as little as 10 to 15 grams per day, whereas some African countries put us to shame with daily intakes as high as 75 to 100 grams! Low-fiber diets are associated with constipation, gastrointestinal disorders, diverticulosis, and colon cancer, while a high-fiber diet may prevent these problems.

So much of our nourishment depends on the healthy passage of food through our digestive tracts. Without fiber, balanced digestion is impossible. Imbalanced digestion brings on the risk of poor nutrient absorption, which can then spur poor metabolism and health protection. The risk of most chronic diseases is lowest when whole plant foods, like a simple serving of this Rhubarb-Lentil Sweet Potato Stew, are plentiful in the diet. Ideally, one should aim for at least 35 grams of fiber a day, and with a healthy, whole-foods diet, this is an easy goal to reach.

Rhubarb and Sweet Potato Lentil Stew

1 cup red lentils
2 Tbsp ghee or coconut oil
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
5 cardamom pods
1 star anise
1 tsp cayenne (or to your taste)
1 ½ cups diced onions
2 Tbsp tamari
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 large sweet potato, cut into bite-size pieces
7 stalks rhubarb, cut into bite-size pieces
5 cups water
1 to 2 Tbsp honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Steamed brown rice, quinoa, millet, or toasted whole-grain pita, for serving

1. Wash lentils well by covering them with water in a large bowl and swishing around until the water is murky. Drain and repeat until water is clear (usually 3 to 4 times). Set aside.

2. Melt the ghee or coconut oil in a large pot on the stove. Add the dried spices and stir constantly, ensuring that they do not burn. When the spices smell fragrant, add onions and tamari and cook for about 5 minutes until the onions have softened. Add the garlic and ginger. If the mixture is too dry, add a little water to prevent burning.
3. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer until lentils are cooked, about 30 minutes. Stir in the honey and season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Serve over steamed brown rice, quinoa, millet, or with whole-grain pitas. Drizzle with Cilantro Oil (below).

Cilantro Oil
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp honey
Pinch sea salt

1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend in high until the sauce is relatively smooth. Season to taste. Serve over stew. Store leftovers in the fridge.

27 thoughts on “Meatless Mondays with Martha Stewart – Rhubarb-Lentil-Sweet Potato Stew”

  • This was a fantastic article, and it was quite useful! I’m only getting started in this, but I’m getting a better understanding of it! Thanks a bunch, and keep doing what you’re doing!

  • I’m envious of your recipes, your blog, and your photographs! I’d like to work as your apprentice! I’m extremely glad I came upon your website. It gives me hope that one day I will be ready for delectable delicacies like you!

  • Hi Sarah,

    I had never cooked with Rhubarb before. I tried your recipe yesterday, not knowing what taste to expect in the final dish. I was totally blown away! What a fantastic mix of flavors! I’m vegan and it’s very difficult to find recipes that don’t use coconut milk. This one was outstanding!
    Thanks a lot for sharing!
    I’m looking forward to explore other recipes on your blog 🙂

  • I made your dish twice in the past few weeks and it is absolutely amazing!
    My housemates and my dinner guest loved it and it is the first savoury thing I know of to make from rhubarb. I wish there were more recipes like this =)

  • AMAZING. Thank you so much for sharing an awesome recipe, once again. I just made it and I really enjoyed the results. I didn’t have enough mustard seeds (about a tsp

    • * I pressed ”post comment” by accident *
      I didn’t have enough mustard seeds (about a tsp) and red lentils (about 1/4 c) added 1 tsp-ish of tamari, didn’t add any honey, 1 very long stalk of rhubarb, 2 garlic cloves instead of three, a small sweet potato and it was delicious just the same. I was really excited to try out this recipe as I had no idea of what it would taste like – thank you so much for this marvelous discovery!

  • Sarah, this little creation of yours is another work of art. I don’t have words to describe just how genius and delicious it is, and I’m surprised you don’t have more comments here, honestly. You have such a talent with knowing how to combine ingredients and spices. I would say I have an experienced and diverse palate, but I continue to stand in awe every time I try one of your recipes. 🙂

  • Nice! I’ve never tried it with rhubarb but I frequently add Swiss chard stems to lentil or sprouted bean soups. It imparrs that same unique citrus-y flavor, plus you can stir in the leaves in the last minute or two since they’re like spinach!

  • Thank you for sharing a wonderful recipe! At last a recipe that features rhubarb without tons of sugar/sweetener! Not only that, but it compliments the other ingredients so well! Mine turned out more like a dhal (the lentils disintegrated somewhat), but this was not a problem and the taste was incredible! The cilantro oil was a touch of genius! Thank you Sarah! You rock!

  • Dear Sarah,

    I’ve made this weekend three awesom recipes with rhubarb: your chia rhubarb muffins and this delicious stew (genious ingredients) and a rhubarb-apple compote of Green Kitchen Stories. All this food make me feel so happy. Looking forward for your new spring recipes!

    Warm greetings!

  • Love everything about your blog. Such an inspiration for a healthy new year! But I am worried because if Whole Living is closing will we still be able to have access to all of your fabulous recipes listed on their website?

  • I found your blog yesterday thanks to tabletonic, and couldn’t stop reading right through to your first post! I made this for dinner tonight adding a fennel and some other veggies I had in the fridge. It was delicious, even my fussy 4 year old enjoyed it. I can’t wait to try some of your sweet recipes next.

  • I kinda think I am in love with you. Your recipes, your site, your pictures make me green with envy! I need to to be your apprentice! I am so happy I stumbled upon your site. It gives me inspiration that one day I can cook magnificent goodies like you!

  • very interesting, thanks Sarah, I’ve never considered adding rhubarb to a dal like this, but it has such a complex sourness, and cooks down so much, I can really see it working well. Particularly as a contrast to the sweet potato.

  • Yay! This is exactly what I’m in the mood for today. It’s also a perfect way for me to use up some leftover rubarb from when I made your chia muffins with rubarb and apricots.

  • I’m with you. I love rhubarb. I actually just discovered it this year and have written about it twice. One dish was a poached rhubarb with sabayon. I too, then took the savory route and made a “mostarda” for our grilled pork chops. I can’t believe I am new to rhubarb! Your lentil sweet potato stew with the rhubarb looks REALLY good!

  • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having “another” dish with rhubarb. Keep ’em coming, I’m just as obsessed! Problem is, when I make something with rhubarb it never gets on my blog because I eat it before I realize I should have taken a picture of it!

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