Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds


Almost three years ago, I found a recipe on a terrific vegetarian food blog called The Hungry Tiger, for something called lentil snacks, and blogged about it on Just Hungry. I didn’t copy down the original recipe there, since it’s my policy never to do that with someone else’s recipe that’s online (or indeed offline). Unfortunately it seems that The Hungry Tiger is temporarily or permanently offline (you get to a password-protected site now. Edit: Some readers have found a page that has the original recipe! See Notes below.). The recipe I use now for lentil snacks is probably quite different from the original, bu I have no way of checking.

Anyway, here is my current favorite version of lentil snacks, presented here on Just Bento because they are so well suited for non-Japanese bento lunches. This version is a bit hot-spicy inside, and coated in a mixture of sesame seeds and another type of seed called kalongi, nigella or black onion. They freeze well, or can hold in the refrigerator for a few days, and are a great vegan protein item that even a die-hard omnivore can love.

Recipe: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

Makes about 30 golf ball sized balls, each about 45 calories

  • 2 cups (440ml) uncooked red lentils or dal
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp. red chili pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sesame seeds and nigella/kalongi/black onion seeds (optional)

Rinse the lentils, and put in a pan with enough water to come up to about 2cm / 1 inch above the lentils. Add 1 tsp. of salt. Bring up to a boil, then lower to a simmer; cook until the lentils are tender and mushy, about 15-20 minutes. Drain off any excess water.

In the meantime, put the chopped onions, garlic, spices and olive oil in a frying pan. Let it just barely simmer over a low heat until the mixture is a golden brown, and the onions are softened. Add the brown rice near the end.

Mix everything together and let cool until you can handle it. At this point, the mixture should resemble a thick, almost dry paste that you can gather up with your fingers and form into balls. If it’s too wet, cook the mixture over a very low heat until some moisture evaporates. If it’s too dry and falls apart, add a little water until it forms a paste.

Heat up an oven to 180°C / 360°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking liner.

Make ready a plate with mixed sesame seeds and nigella seeds (a ratio of about 2 to 1 is good). Form the lentil mixture into small balls. Dip lightly into a bowl of water, then roll in the seed mixture. (You can omit the seeds if you prefer too.)

Put the balls on the lined baking sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes or until the surface is a bit crispy.

You can eat them as-is, or with a yogurt dipping sauce (use a soy yogurt to keep this vegan). See the old post for a recipe. Or, you can use the yogurt sauce/dressing used in Bento 58.


The original recipe called for the addition of bulgur wheat for texture, but I’ve used brown rice instead. This makes these lentil snacks gluten-free.

As noted in the original post, only red or hulled lentils will do here. Green lentils will be too hard and will not have the correct texture. Hulled lentils do have less fiber than unhulled, but are still a great source of protein. Some fiber is added back with the brown rice.

[Edit:] The original Hungry Tiger recipe is on the revived web site.

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Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

Why do you say for non-japanese bentos? Would this damage a japanese bento box some way with the ingredients?

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

LOVE these - must make some soon! Thank you so much for posting this :)

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

I mean it's a non-Japanese type of food. Since some people think bento boxes have to have Japanese food in them, or that if it doesn't have Japanese food it's not a bento. Almost all the recipes here are divided into 'japanese' or 'not japanese'.

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

I've saved your recipe as well, but you can still get The Hungry Tiger's original recipe via the Wayback Machine. If you go here:


there it is! (I hope it's ok to point to this.)

Thank you!

I really appreciate all of the vegan recipes you offer. I can't wait to make these! I'm sad that we finished off the brown rice today.

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

I never tried lentils before, this recipe makes me want to try them out!

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

Do these keep well? Could I freeze them as a "stash"?

They sound delicious!!!

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

I finally made these and they are delicious! Thanks for yet another wonderful vegan recipe Maki. I made them in the evening, packed some in our bentos and stored the lunches in the fridge. The next day they were room temperature by lunch time and I think they were even tastier than they were fresh from the oven.

I froze a few and they survived well. I just microwaved them for a few seconds but I'm sure they would be fine if packed in a lunch and given a few hours to thaw. We had them on spaghetti with marinara and spinach which made a surprisingly yummy combination!

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

I tried these for lunch today. Ther are wonderful. I did need to cook the lentils about twice as long to get them mushy. The simmer setting for me may be cooler than yours.

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

Oh, yum!

This makes me think of an Indian version of filafel. My friends got me bento boxes for my birthday. I think this will be the inaugural item. Maybe with a little chutney and cucumber yogurt salad.

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

I made these for dinner last night (with leftovers for bento). Everyone agreed they were delicious! We had ours with yogurt on top.

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

I love the sound of this recipe and since everyone says it's yummy, I might as well give it a go. A few questions though.

1. I never cook legume-based food before, but I hear that legumes needs to be soaked overnight before it is used for cooking. So do I need to do this or is the first step ok?

2. Wouldn't salt toughen the lentils?

3. To freeze it: do we freeze the baked ones and just reheat it, or freeze it rolled and leave the baking until we need it? Would the baked ones freeze well (retained flavours etc)?

I know these sounds like silly questions but when it comes to legumes, I have no confidence! LOL

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

All good questions!

1 - The great thing about lentils is that they don't need to be pre-soaked. These red lentils are also hulled, so they cook faster than unhulled lentils. (They are lower in fibre but we make up for that a bit with the brown rice and sesame seeds)

2. - Nope. The salt toughening beans thing is a myth. Cook's Illustrated did a study on this some time ago (cannot find a link to the original study but found this instead.) I always add some salt or other salty ingredient to the cooking liquid of beans, for flavor.

3. You freeze the baked balls, and yes they do retain their flavor pretty well, though the crusty surface does get soft. That can be re-crustied in a toaster oven (or regular oven if you're doing a batch).

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

I'm in the process of making these now to go in my first ever bento box, the whole house if full of absolutely wonderful aromas from the onions/garlic/spices cooking. These are worth making just for that, I think!

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

I know this is late to post, but would it be possible to make this with green lentils and omit the rice?

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

See the last paragraph of the post regarding green lentils. You can omit the rice if you like.

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

This sounds fantastic! But I have a question, I live in Japan and my kitchen is not equipped with an oven. Is the oven step just to make them crispy? Would a toaster oven do the trick?

(By the way-I love this site! I make a bento for lunch nearly everyday, and this site has taught me so much about Japanese food and bentos! Now it's hard to imagine my life in Japan without the recipes from this site. I also want to thank you for including kanji - it really helps me when I go shopping for ingredients!)

Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds


I am trying to make these for my book club tonight but am not sure what I am missing. There is no binding agent in them and therefore it is impossible to make 'balls' out of them. They ingredients just fall apart and putting it in water is a mess as it just completely falls apart. How in the world is everyone doing this?

I was hoping to serve something yummy but now I just have a mess.

Another thing I noticed is that I have a significant amount more of lentils then rice; could the rice be what would keep it together more effectively?


Re: Spicy Lentil Snacks With Sesame Seeds

The mixture should resemble a very thick paste. If the mixture is falling apart because it's too wet, you probably have too much cooking liquid left, in which case you should gently cook it over low heat while stirring to evaporate the moisture. If on the other hand it's too dry then there is too little moisture, and you need to add a little. The directions in the original lentil snacks recipe may help too.

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