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Pumpkin Dhal with Canned Lentils

October 27, 2023 by Ginger Hultin MS RDN

I whipped up this recipe in less than 30 minutes, and it was SO simple, using pantry staples I already had on hand. Wanting to streamline our busy weeknight, my husband picked up canned lentils at the store, and to be honest, I’d never used them before! Lentils cook pretty quickly even when using dried, but he was right – this was faster and really delicious, too. This Pumpkin Dhal with Canned Lentils is quick and delicious but also packs a punch of vital nutrients. While lentils and pumpkin might seem like humble ingredients, their health benefits are critical for anyone working on heart health (lower cholesterol or blood pressure), reducing cancer risk (or for those of you in treatment), balancing blood sugars, or reducing chronic inflammation. Naturally vegan and vegetarian, this recipe is healthy and delicious. 

Anti-Inflammatory nutrition: pumpkin and lentils

Even though these foods are simple, affordable, and come in a can, they are nutritional powerhouses. Pantry staples can be packed full of plant-based fiber and unique antioxidants. I use them in my recipes all the time. Let’s chat through why the ingredients in this Pumpkin Dhal with Canned Lentils are so health-promoting. 


These are not just festive favorites but are an incredibly healthful food. Loaded with vitamin A, pumpkins support vision and skin health, and bolster the immune system. Since they are typically an autumn and winter food, it’s a great time of year to have immune supporting nutrients on board. However, I love pumpkin all year round and so I stock up when it goes on sale at the store around Thanksgiving.

Canned Lentils:

A convenient and nutritious option, canned lentils are a fantastic source of plant-based protein and fiber. They contain essential nutrients like B vitamins, iron, and potassium, which are nutrients that a lot of people run low in. The use of canned lentils also means less preparation time without skimping on the nutritional benefits. Once I opened the can, I gave them a good rinse, just like you would canned beans, which helps remove some of the salt and potentially gas-producing liquid.

Combining these two ingredients, we get a dish that’s not just about great taste but also about supporting a healthy lifestyle. It’s perfect to make ahead and serve as leftovers at lunch for 3-4 days in your busy week. I made my own rice on the stove but you could absolutely use microwave frozen rice to speed up your whole grain base as well.

Why should you make the Pumpkin Dhal with Canned Lentils?

A few additional reasons that  Pumpkin Dhal with Canned Lentils should be your next go-to recipe…it’s:

  • Quick and Easy: Perfect for a hassle-free cooking experience.
  • Nutrient-Dense: Loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Versatile: Ideal as a main dish or a comforting side.
  • Diet-Friendly: Suitable for vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free diets.

If you like the idea of easy vegetarian curry and plant-based dinners, I have a few other recipes you should check out:

Coconut curry with chickpeas and tomato
Instant pot lentil cauliflower curry
Spicy vegetarian mango curry
Penne with cauliflower curried cream sauce 

Dietary considerations and variations

Feel free to customize this recipe to suit your dietary needs or preferences:

  • For a richer flavor, use regular coconut milk. This is also a great tactic if you are working on weight gain (I specialize in people going through cancer treatment so this is a topic I talk about a lot!). I like reduced fat generally, as a rule of thumb, because you get the flavor without the added saturated fat which can be really high in coconut milk. So for someone with high cholesterol for example, I’d recommend the lower saturated fat version.

  • Enhance this recipe’s nutrient profile by including greens like spinach, collard greens, or even arugula! I keep a big box of greens in my refrigerator and use it to toss in curries, soups, or as a base in the bowl of many dinner dishes that I serve up.

  • Top it with roasted nuts for an added crunch and protein boost! Chopped peanuts or almonds make a beautiful garnish with added vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

  • Gluten free? Yes! It’s already naturally that way.
  • Vegan? Yup – already done.
  • Can I add meat? Sure! Feel free to add some sautéed shrimp or grilled chicken for a non-vegan version.
  • I need low fiber recipes….(this comes up a lot with my patients with digestive issues). Well: this might not be the recipe for you. I do a lot of really high fiber cooking because it’s so heart healthy and anti-cancer. If fiber irritates your gut or you have either IBS or IBD, lentils may be too hard to digest.

Drop me a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe! 

Pumpkin Dhal with Canned Lentils

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Course: Dinner, Lunch, Snack
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: Pumpkin Dhal with Canned Lentils
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 291kcal
Author: Ginger Hultin


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt add more as needed for taste preferences
  • 1 can reduced fat coconut milk
  • 1 can lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can pumpkin puree (plain - not spiced)
  • 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cups baby spinach
  • cooked rice or naan, for serving


  • Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté it for 3-5  minutes until it softens and starts to become translucent.
  • Add the garlic and ginger; sauté until they start to soften and are fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, paprika, pepper, and salt; cook for about 30 seconds, stirring in and heating the spices.
  • Stir in the coconut milk, lentils, pumpkin puree and broth; mix well. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until the dhal has slightly thickened. Taste to determine if you need any additional salt or pepper. Toss in the spinach at the end and stir it in so that it starts to wilt in the heat.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice or naan.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 291kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 7.5g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.75g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 34mg | Sodium: 681mg | Potassium: 350mg | Fiber: 7.5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin C: 15.5mg | Calcium: 5.5mg | Iron: 15mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @champagnenutrition


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Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO

Integrative nutrition specialist helping clients navigate complex health conditions to reduce inflammation and feel better.

Thanks for visiting! If you're struggling with a cancer diagnosis, autoimmune condition, gut health problems, or even a medical mystery, nutrition can make a HUGE difference in your day-to-day life. I run a virtual, concierge private practice where I partner with my clients over time to help them improve their health through nutrition. Be sure to visit the blog for easy, plant-based, anti-inflammatory recipes and our "Resources" page for a variety of self-paced programs, books, e-books, and nutrition podcast episodes.

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