Chicken and Lentil Curry with Coconut Milk

Somi Igbene PhD ANutrDecember 23, 2020

Chicken and lentil curry is delicious on its own or paired with steamed rice and veggies. Enjoy for lunch or dinner!

Does eating more plants necessarily mean you have to remove animal protein from your diet?


Including some animal protein in your diet is beneficial for many reasons, but today I will focus on one. And that reason is zinc!

Zinc is a crucial part of more than 300 enzymes and many proteins in your body. You need zinc for reproductive health, immunity, cell growth, protein metabolism and neurobehavoioural development.

Zinc is clearly fundamental for your health and wellbeing.

Plant foods particularly legumes (beans and lentils) and whole grains are good sources of zinc. However, plant foods are rich in phytates (phytic acid) and fibre, which impair your body’s ability to absorb zinc.

Eating a diet that is rich in plant foods and devoid of animal protein can lead to zinc deficiencies –  as clearly apparent in low- and middle-income countries.


Chicken and lentil curry | Pinterest

In these countries, many families have limited access to zinc-rich foods like shellfish and poultry, and eat diets rich in grains and legumes. Children in these countries, grow poorly, have higher rates of infections and deaths, and women (both pregnant and otherwise) have poor outcomes.

As of 2015, zinc deficiency accounted for 47% of all deaths in India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Afghanistan.

From as early as 1989, researchers have shown that consuming animal protein with plant-based foods increases zinc absorption.

You can cook this lentil curry without chicken, but I hope you understand why adding chicken may be beneficial. If you choose not to add animal protein because you follow a vegan diet, I highly recommend taking a supplement in between meals to boost your zinc intake.

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Chicken and lentil curry with coconut milk - somiigbene|1

Chicken and Lentil Curry with Coconut Milk

  • Author: Somi
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 1 1x
  • Category: Lunch / Dinner


A hearty chicken and lentil curry with coconut milk


  • 50g lentils
  • 1 small chicken breast (optional)
  • 1 small courgette, sliced and steamed
  • 10 baby plum tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon madras curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped teaspoon coconut milk powder
  • ½ vegetable stock cube
  • ½ teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped coriander
  • Steamed rice to serve


Heat oil in a medium saucepan then add shallots and spices. Fry until fragrant, then add chicken breast and garlic. Fry for two minutes then add lentils, vegetable stock cube, coconut milk powder and around 200ml of water. 

Bring to the boil then cook on a simmer for 15 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Add chopped coriander, stir well then take the pan off the heat. 

Serve lentils over steamed rice with courgettes and baby plum tomatoes. Garnish with extra fresh coriander and black pepper, if you wish. 


Replace chicken with shellfish, beef or any other protein of your choice.

Keywords: Chicken, lentils, curry, Dahl



  1. Roohani, N., Hurrell, R., Kelishadi, R and Schulin, R (2013) Zinc and its importance for human health: An integrative review. Journal of research in medical sciences, 18(2), 144-157.
  2. Gibson RS (2006) Zinc: the missing link in combating micronutrient malnutrition in developing countries. Proc Nutr Soc, 65, 51-60
  3. Gupta, S., Brazier, A.K.M., and Lowe, N.M (2020) Zinc deficiency in low- and middle-income countries: prevalence and approaches for mitigation. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dieteticis, 33(5), 624-643.
  4. Sandstrom, B., Almgren, A., Kivisto, B and Cderblad, A (1989) Effect of protein level and protein source on zinc absorption in humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 119(1), 48-53.

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