Coconut Lentil Curry, Sri Lankan Style. Recipe and Food Photography by Dharsika Finnemore, The Bellephant

Sri Lankan Coconut Lentil Curry

This Coconut Lentil Curry (Parippu Curry) is something my mum would cook at least once a week growing up. (She still does). It’s a staple curry among any Sri-Lankan household – probably down to it being so yummy and easy to do. This is the recipe my mum has been cooking for for years and years. However, I’d like to add that the ground cumin my new addition to it (only one extra ingredient I know). I mean, this curry has pleased for so long it didn’t need much changing.

In Sri Lanka, Parippu curry is often enjoyed for breakfast with roti. However for a larger meal, traditionally you’d serve this with at least two or more dishes such as a Aubergine Curry and Okra Curry.  Often, I’ll just eat a whole bowl of Coconut Lentil Curry like a soup with some poppadoms and lime pickle. (That is if I’m lucky enough to have them in my cupboard.)

If you fancy adding veggies to this, just chop them up and throw them in to cook with the lentils at the very start. Have no coconut cream? You can add milk instead (just add less so it doesn’t get too watery).

This recipe is perfect for 4 people if you’re eating a bowl of on its own. If you’re serving it with other dishes it’s perfect for 6-8 people.

If you try this recipe out, be sure to tag me using #thebellephant on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Coconut Lentil Curry, Sri-Lankan Style

Serves: 4-8

Coconut Lentil Curry, Sri-Lankan Style


  • 450g red split lentils
  • 1 litre water
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 250ml coconut cream
  • 2tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • To serve: fresh coriander


  1. Wash and drain the lentils a few times (until the water isn't cloudy from the starch).
  2. Add 1 litre of boiling water in to a saucepan along with the washed lentils, turmeric, salt and ground cumin.
  3. Bring to the boil and cook for 10-15 minutes until the lentils are softened. Stir in the coconut cream and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in another pan. Fry the mustard, cumin and fennel seeds for about 30 seconds then throw in the onions, garlic and chillies. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the onions and garlic are browned. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
  5. Stir the onion and spice mix through the lentils or alternatively serve the lentils topped with it.

Optional: Garnish with chopped fresh coriander.

Coconut Lentil Curry, Sri Lankan Style. Recipe and Food Photography by Dharsika Finnemore, The Bellephant



  1. Another delicious recipe 🙂 Thank you Shika x

  2. I really enjoyed this recipe but I didn’t have fresh coriander leaves on hand for the last part so I just stirred in parsley leaves with chopped scallions. And I substitute 2 scotch bonnets in place of the green chiles. A little heat for the seasonings definitely goes a long way. I will be making this again!

    • thebellephant

      So glad you enjoyed it Jon :). I’ve never tried it with parsley but might give it a go next time! Another traditional way to make this is with dried red chillies vs green – seeing as you enjoy heat I hope you’ll try it out. Shika x

  3. Ella Bedrock

    This is really tasty! I actually made it in the slow cooker and served it with some homemade flatbreads and it turned out really well.

    • thebellephant

      Thanks Ella! So glad to hear it :). I love having mine with roti – you should check out my Easy Roti recipe.


  4. Absolutely delicious!!! This will definitely be a repeat meal!

    • thebellephant

      Thank you so much Diana! Sorry for not replying sooner – I took a little break from my site but am back :). Really appreciate such a lovely comment from you! Shika x

  5. Marie-Eve

    Hi Shika !

    It was wonderful thanks for the recipe! It will become a classic here :))

    Marie-Eve from Montréal Canada

    • thebellephant

      Hi Marie-Eve! Glad to hear it :).

      I hope you’ll try my other recipes too and I’ll be adding more Sri Lankan ones very soon.

      Shika xx

  6. Hi does anyone know if this freezes okay? I tried it last night and have loads left over 😃

    • thebellephant

      Hey Laura,

      Hope you enjoyed it! I always freeze leftovers of it 🙂 Just defrost it in the fridge overnight or in the microwave before reheating.

      Shika xx

  7. This sounds amazing! Although our household can’t stand fennel. Can it be left out or replaced with something else?

    • thebellephant

      Hi Sally, you can easily just leave the fennel out. The other spices add enough flavour to compensate 😊. Hope you enjoy it! xx Shika

    • Can you use tinned coconut milk over coconut cream?

      • thebellephant

        Coconut milk will work fine too – Just add less as it’s a lot less thick then cream 🙂

        • Hello! This looks amAzing! I’d like to make this week. What type of green chili’s do you recommend? I use them all and they have a distinct flavor so I’d love to know which you use. Thank you 💜

  8. Hi I’m just trying this out right now and just about to cook the onions etc but I noticed the recipe says jeera seeds and cumin seeds… aren’t these the same thing? I’m worried that I am missing an ingredient now. Looks delicious though!

    • thebellephant

      Hi Katie, sorry for not getting back to you sooner! I’ve changed the recipe to say ‘fennel seeds’ now as in Sri-lanka both cumin and fennel seeds are referred to as small and big jeera which I now realise can be very confusing. Hope you enjoy the recipe xx Shika

  9. This looks great! Could you please explain the difference between jeera and cumin seeds? When I Google it, I see that they are the same. So do I add 4 tsps of cumin seeds? Thank you!

    • thebellephant

      Sorry for not getting back sooner! I’ve updated it to say fennel seeds to clear up any confusions! Hope you enjoy it xx Shika

  10. I haven’t heard of Jeera before – Google tells me its cumin. Have you got 2 different types of cumin in the recipe?

    • thebellephant

      Hi Josephine, Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. In Sri-lanka small-jeera is used for cumin and the term big-jeera is used for fennel seeds. Apologies for the confusion. I’ve updated the recipe now so hope you try it out 🙂 xx Shika

  11. What’s the difference between jeera seeds and cumin seeds? From what I’ve read jeera seeds are cumin seeds….

    • thebellephant

      Hi Shannon, sorry for not replying to you sooner. I’ve updated the recipe now to say ‘fennel seeds.’ Sorry for the confusion! Hope you enjoy the curry 🙂 xx Shika

  12. This recipe looks super yummy & I can’t wait to make it! I made a Sri Lankan Egg curry recently & fell in love with it at once. So, this recipe sounds heavenly to me:) I was just wandering what Jeera seeds are. When I google the word, it says that Jeera seeds are Cumin seeds. Is this right, is it just a different type of cumin?

    Thanks again for sharing & I’ll let you know how things turned out:)
    Greetings, Naomi

    • thebellephant

      Hi there, thanks for getting in touch! Glad you love Sri Lankan curries. I’ve updated the recipe now to say ‘fennel seeds’ as this is what they are :). Jeera is used for both cumin and fennel which can be confusing! Would love to know how you found it. xx Shika

  13. Thanks so much for the recipe, been obsessed with Sri Lankan curries since visiting in April 🙂 Is this recipe suitable for freezing? Xx

  14. This soup looks so AMAZING! Pinning to make ASAP!

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