Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew – Savory, Sweet & Spicy

Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew with Meyer Lemon Yogurt Sauce

There’s an unusually synchronistic backstory behind today’s Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew. It begins with a yoga teacher training assignment to choose three words to describe how I want to feel when I practice and share yoga. My three words have the acronym SAJ.Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew

Googling saj to see if it meant anything, I found a restaurant in Colorado by that name. The restaurant takes its name from an Eastern Mediterranean flatbread called saj. And the flatbread takes its name from the domed flat griddle, called a saj, on which it’s cooked.

So perfect that with my love of food, my three yoga words would be related to cooking 😉  Intrigued, I continued searching. Right off I found Annisa Helou’s website featuring her photo of a woman making saj boureks and cooking them on a saj.

From saj to Carrot Lentil Stew
Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew Always interested in new recipes, I clicked on one of Annisa’s blog posts for Carrot Lentil Stew (Zeytinyagli Havuç). Having most of the ingredients, I printed out the recipe. And set about preparing an adapted version of Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew for our lunch.

That this stew had a yogurt topping was also perfect. I had been working on a Meyer Lemon Yogurt Sauce the week before, and wasn’t sure how to share it with you. With garlic, lemon zest, juice, pomegranate molasses and extra-virgin olive oil, the yogurt sauce became the perfect complement to this savory, flavorful and satisfying Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew.

What makes it Turkish?
With its mixture of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Central Asian influences, exotically spiced Turkish cuisine has been refined over many centuries.

“The variety and simplicity of the recipes and the quality of the ingredients are guarantees of delicious meals.”  Burak Sansal

Here are a few of the star ingredients in the Turkish pantry. Most of which also star in Carrot Lentil Stew.

  • Olive oil.
  • Onions and garlic provide a flavorful base for many dishes.Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew
  • Tomato paste adds color along with intense tomato flavor.
  • Herbs and spices such as Greek oregano, Turkish bay leaves, mint, parsley, dill, sumac, cumin, cinnamon, allspice and crushed red chili pepper flakes such as Aleppo, Marash or Urfa.
  • Brown lentils, red lentils and chickpeas are included in many soups, stews and salads.
  • Pekmez: Grape, date, fig or pomegranate molasses. (Here’s my recipe for making your own pomegranate molasses.)

Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew

Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew with Meyer Lemon Yogurt Sauce

Inspired by and adapted from a recipe for Zeytinyagli Havuç from Annisa Helou.
Savory lentils richly flavored with a bit of sweet from the carrots and a bit of spice from the Aleppo pepper. Flavorful, satisfying and naturally gluten-free.
Equally delicious served hot, at room temperature or just out of the fridge.
Without Meyer lemons? Make this Sumac Lemon Yogurt Sauce instead.

A note on lentils. As they age, they take longer to cook.

  • Be sure to test your lentils after 35 minutes.Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew
  • If they haven’t begun to soften, cook them another 10 minutes and test again. Repeating as necessary.
  • Only add the lentils to the carrot/onion mixture once the lentils have begun to soften.
  • Wait until the lentils are fully cooked before adding the spinach or Swiss chard.

Serves 4-6                                                                  Printer-Friendly Recipe
Active Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour and 15 minutes (or more depending on the age of the lentils)

1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained
1 large clove garlic, peeled, halved
1 4-inch sprig fresh rosemary, thyme or Greek oregano (1 teaspoon dried leaves)Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced (3 cups)
5 cups carrots cut into 1 x ½-inch wedges
1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste (I use sundried tomato paste)
1 ½ teaspoons crushed Aleppo chili pepper or other red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
8 twists freshly ground black pepper
2 Turkish bay leaves
4 cups spinach or Swiss chard leaves, cut approximately 1 inch by 2 inches
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Meyer Lemon Yogurt Sauce
2/3 cup plain, unsweetened whole milk yogurtTurkish Carrot and Lentil Stew
1 medium garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon dried mint, optional

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley and/or mint

  1. Turkish Carrot and Lentil StewPlace the rinsed and drained lentils in a small pot along with the halved garlic clove, the rosemary, thyme or oregano and 4 ¼ cups water. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low. Partially cover the pan. Simmer for 35 minutes. If the lentils have not begun to soften at this point, cook for another 10 minutes and test again.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Stir in the sliced onion. Reduce the heat to medium low. Cover the pan. Cook for 5 minutes. Uncover the pan. Continue to cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until nicely colored and lightly caramelized.
  3. Stir the tomato paste into the sliced onion. Cook 2 minutes. Stir in the carrots, AleppoTurkish Carrot Lentil Stew pepper, salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook for 3 minutes. Note: If the lentils are still cooking, remove the carrots/onion from the heat.
  4. Along with the bay leaves add the lentils and their cooking water  to the carrots and onion. Raise the heat to high. When boiling, partially cover the pot. Reduce the heat to medium. Test the lentils after 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, rosemary stem and garlic. If the lentils are tender, stir in the spinach or Swiss chard leaves. Cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Turkish Carrot Lentil StewWhile the stew is cooking, prepare the Meyer Lemon Yogurt Sauce. In a small bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together.
  6. Serve Turkish Carrot Lentil Stew in shallow bowls. Top with a spoonful of Yogurt Sauce and a sprinkling of fresh parsley and/or mint. Equally delicious served hot, room temperature or cold.

Printer-Friendly Recipe.