Parippu (Sri Lankan–Style Yellow Lentils)

Lemongrass, chiles, cinnamon, and three forms of coconut (coconut milk, coconut oil, and coconut cream) infuse this stew-like dish with tons of flavor.
Publish date:

Recipe by Nigel Barker

Start to Finish: 40 minutes

Servings: 4


  • 3 large plum tomatoes, cored

  • 2 cups yellow lentils

  • 1 can (about 14 oz.) coconut milk

  • 1 dried red chile (such as chile de arbol), broken into pieces

  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric

  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 stalk lemongrass, smashed, or one 2-inch strip of lemon zest (use a vegetable peeler)

  • 1 can (5.4 oz.) unsweetened coconut cream (not coconut milk or cream of coconut)

  • 1 cup (packed) baby spinach

  • Basmati Rice with Raisins & Cashews

  • Mango chutney, for serving


1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Using a sharp knife, score a 1-inch-long X just through the skin on the bottom of each tomato. Add the tomatoes to the boiling water. Cook until the skins around the X’s curl up, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to the ice water. Peel, seed, and chop the tomatoes. 

2. In a large bowl, cover the lentils with cold water. Rinse well and discard the discolored lentils or any that float to the surface. Drain, then transfer to a large saucepan. Add enough water to cover the lentils by 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cook the lentils, stirring occasionally, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, chile, and turmeric. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, about 10 minutes; season with salt and pepper. 

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium. Add the onion, cinnamon stick, and lemongrass; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns golden, about 8 minutes. 

4. Add the onion mixture and the coconut cream to the lentils. (Thin the mixture with water if it’s too thick.) Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is heated through and the flavors meld, about 5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and lemongrass. Stir in the spinach. Cook, stirring often, until the spinach is just wilted, about 4 minutes; season. Serve with Basmati Rice with Raisins & Cashews and the mango chutney.