Recipe: Syrian Lentils

There’s a whole head of garlic up in these cyber pages. By now you should be able to smell it through the screen.

I know. You have boys to kiss. Important business meetings and no Altoids. You don’t have time to smell like garlic.

But indulge me for a moment, please.

We’ve eaten a whole head of garlic on this Adventure before, as with our Lebanese garlic sauce Toum, but this time our garlic is making friends with lentils and Swiss chard. They bubble and steam up together, considerably mellowing out the flavor.

To round out the flavor, there’s a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a splash of pomegranate syrup, and a pile of cilantro.

(To my cilantro haters: don’t worry, the offending leaves get waaay cooked down. If you can eat Salsa, you can eat these lentils).

The result is a lovely warm lentil side dish or dip (best enjoyed with homemade pita bread). I even like it cold, with salad. And it’s definitely better the next day, although you might want to “refresh it” with another squeeze of lemon juice and another sprinkling of salt.

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Adapted from A Mediterranean FeastĀ  by Clifford A. Wright.

Serves 6 (as a side or a dip)


2 cups lentils
1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 small head garlic, mashed or crushed
1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and sliced very thinly (about 8 leaves)
1 bunch cilantro, minced
1 lemon, juiced
3-4 Tbsp pomegranate syrup (available at Whole Foods or a Middle Eastern market)
water, as needed
salt & pepper


Rinse the lentils, cover with a few inches of water, and cook 20-40 minutes, until just tender. (Cooking times really vary with lentils, so I suggest checking them after 20 minutes)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant.

TIP: Clifford A. Wright, whose recipe I adapted, says that the flavor is not the same if you don’t pound the garlic in a mortar and pestle. I cut the work in half by crushing it into my mortar and pestle, then banging it out for the rest of the way.

Add in the thinly sliced chard and de-stemmed cilantro leaves (reserve a bit of cilantro for garnish, if desired) and cook another two minutes.

Add the cooked lentils, lemon juice, and pomegranate syrup and cook until the lentils are a bit mushy, about ten more minutes. Add water as needed to keep the mixture loose and to keep it from drying out.

Season really well with salt, to brighten up the flavors.

Serve warm with an extra drizzle of olive oil and wedges of pita bread.


Perhaps with a kitty cat… perhaps with a view.

Panorama of Damascus. Photo by Wurzelgnohm.

Panorama of Damascus. Photo by Wurzelgnohm.

P.S. Do you eat garlic whenever you like, or – is there safety in numbers, and you only do it when other people are indulging?

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  1. Love your website. I have used many of your recipes.

    Just checking these are green lentils? Or brown? Could not tell from here. Many thanks. L

  2. Oh, these lentils are calling to me – even with all the garlic! I use garlic liberally when cooking, but that is also the norm here in Brazil where we are living. I can’t find pomegranate syrup, so can I substitute something or just leave it out? As an aside, I love your colourful mismatched plates! So cheerful!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      It’s tart and sweet… you could leave it out and use a bit more lemon juice… Another option is to use regular pomegranate juice? You could cook it down. :)

  3. Your photography has become AMAZING. These Syrian lentils look like a dish I might just fall head over heels in love with, now I only have to find pomegranate syrup …

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Thanks, Mette! It’s been so much fun to learn… although it might have gone quicker if I’d taken a class! :)

  4. Barbara says:

    Love your “sunflower” presentation…so pretty!
    These look & sound so good I think I’ll try them even though I’m not a big bean/legume person.

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Yes, tips out is quite fun. I got the idea from a different Syrian recipe (the meatballs in sour cherry gravy), but thought it worked well here, too.

  5. Hooray for garlic! These lentils sound so good–I especially love the idea of adding all those beautiful chard greens. :)

  6. Just made this, substituting chard and coriander with savoy cabbage and parsley because that’s what I had on hand. Such lovely deep flavours, the tart pomegranate melds so nicely with the garlic! The cabbage brought in a nice subtle bitterness. There’s definitely not too much garlic in here, I even thought it could do with a bit more :D
    Thank you for the recipe!

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Wow… more garlic! Wonderful, Evelin :) Glad to have your feedback… and happy you enjoyed it!

  7. Patricia says:

    Delicious! I can’t wait to have the left overs today. I microwaved the garlic for about 45 seconds to speed up the peeling process. Worked great!

  8. These look delicious! I love the presentation, too. :)

  9. Jessica says:

    This looks so yummy! I’d love to try it. Can you tell me where you got the pomegranate syrup in Tulsa? I went to Whole Foods on Brookside and couldn’t find it, and they told me they don’t carry it!

  10. Can you use pomegranate molasses instead of syrup?

  11. We made this for dinner tonight and loved it!

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