Turmeric Varan-Bhaat (Lentils & Rice)

12 months+, Toddler, Kid, Adult

We have previously discussed the nutritional benefits of lentils here. But here's something you might not have heard before - curcumin, the active component in turmeric, can heal a leaky gut. A leaky whaaaa?! Yep that's right, a leaky gut! A  healthy digestive tract has an intact lining of tightly-knit cells that prevent ingested foods and toxins from entering the blood stream before the digestive system has processed and detoxified them. When this lining becomes leaky (literally, rife with holes), which can happen for a plethora of reasons, mostly related to diet and lifestyle, the foods, chemicals and toxins we ingest can enter the bloodstream right away and are perceived as threats by our immune system. This, in turn, leads to increased inflammation which has been shown, over and over again, to be the basis of many chronic diseases, including eczema, psoriasis, asthma, Alzheimers, depression and even diabetes! Research shows that curcumin in turmeric increases the levels of a protein in the gut (called Intestinal Alkaline Phosphatase or IAP) that forms tight junctions between the cells lining the digestive tract and heals a leaky gut (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25474287) Another compelling reason to ensure your pantry is stocked with this powerful, golden spice!

1 cup yellow lentils (toor daal or split pigeon peas in English which can be found in Indian grocery stores)
2.25 cups water or 3.5 cups if not using a pressure cooker
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
Pinch or 1/8 teaspoon hing / asafoetida also found in Indian grocery stores (optional but aids in the digestion of lentils)
Salt to taste
Toop (ghee / clarified butter) or a neutral oil like Rapeseed or Canola for drizzling
Pinch or 1/8 teaspoon coriander powder
Pinch or 1/8 teaspoon cumin powder
Pinch or 1/8 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Good squeeze lemon juice


Wash the lentils thoroughly. Add the water and soak for 30-60 minutes, especially important if not using a pressure cooker.

Cook lentils in a pressure cooker with the turmeric and hing, if using, on a high flame for 15 minutes (4-5 whistles)  and then on a medium- low flame for 10 minutes. If using a regular pot, bring the lentils, turmeric, hing and water to a boil on high heat, about 5 minutes, and then lower to a simmer and cook partially covered for about 50 minutes until the lentils have dissolved. 

Open the pressure cooker once the steam dies out (or the pot once lentils have dissolved) and mash them to make the mixture nice and creamy. Add salt to taste.

Serve over steamed white or brown rice, with a squeeze of lemon juice, a sprinkle of sugar, cumin and coriander powder and toop! Shorter grained rice is preferable for varan-bhat but Thai jasmine rice works just as well. Serve with veggies of choice as a side for a complete, nutritious, comforting meal.

For babies 7 months and up, check out our recipe for a more easily digested turmeric moong daal and avocado puree under Recipes

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