Cretan Red Lentils

by Cristiana Sadidigianis

Cretan Red Lentils in a painted dish on a table in Greece

Cretan Red Lentils

A recipe & note from our friend Andrea Gentl:

​"I have had lentils cooked many ways in many different countries, they are one my favorite dishes to cook and eat.

I usually associate split red lentils with India, so when I saw these bubbling away in a large pot on the very busy stove at Dounias Taverna in Crete, I was intrigued.

The dish was served in a shallow painted bowl with a warm hunk of bread, a few warmed olives, and a generous dousing of bright green olive oil.

The lentils were absolutely comforting and mellow and so delicious. I have done my best to re-create a version of them in this recipe. They come together quickly, making them an easy weeknight dinner or a simple holiday side dish."

– Andrea Gentl


1 carrot, peeled and chopped finely
4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped finely
1 shallot, chopped finely
1 stalk celery, chopped finely
3 tablespoons Oracle Olive Oil plus more for finishing
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon smashed coriander seed
A generous pinch of dried Greek oregano
2-3 fresh bay leaves, crushed to release oils
¼ teaspoon fennel pollen, plus more for garnish (optional)
1 ½ cup split red lentils, also called Masoor Dal
1 quart of whole peeled tomatoes or 1 qt of tomato puree
1 quart of water
1 teaspoon salt (I use Maldon, if using a finer salt use 1/2 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon Pine honey (any floral honey will work as well)
½ cup thick Greek Yogurt or Labneh for serving
10-12 small green olives or rinsed salted capers for garnish
Lemon, halved
Cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste


Cretan Red Lentils simmering in a clay pot in Greece


  1. In a large Dutch oven, warm the olive oil and garlic over medium-low heat. Add the chopped carrot, garlic, shallot, and celery to the olive oil and butter, and slowly cook the soffrito until soft, about ten minutes.

  2. Turn the heat down and add the crushed coriander, oregano, bay leaf, and fennel pollen; cook for another 2-3 minutes.

  3. Add the split red lentils and cook for another minute or two, stirring to coat them and slightly toast them.

  4. Add the water and pureed tomatoes (canned whole peeled tomatoes are fine as long as you use a stick blender to puree them). Cook over medium heat at a bare simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more water if you feel the consistency is getting too thick.

  5. When the lentils are done, stir in the Pine honey, taste for salt, and add if needed. Cover and let the lentils rest while you prepare the olives or capers.

  6. If using olives, add a little extra virgin olive oil to a small pot and cook the olives over low heat until just warm, about a minute. If using capers, rinse them ahead of time and pat them dry. Warm a little extra virgin olive oil in a small fry pan. Add the capers and fry over medium low heat until crispy about a minute or two.

  7. Serve the lentils in large bowls with a spoonful of Greek yogurt, some warmed olives, or fried capers. Top with a bit of cracked black pepper, a pinch of fennel pollen, a little crunchy salt and a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil. Just before serving, squeeze a halved lemon over the served bowl!


Cretan Red Lentils with a plate of bread and appetizers on a table in Greece