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Cook like Padma Lakshmi for under $20: One-dish sausage with rice and lentils

What's better than dinner for four for under $20? How about a one-dish dinner for four for under $20? Here, Padma Lakshmi shares her easy recipe for protein-packed sausage with rice and lentils. Want to vary it? Lakshmi says you can substitute all sorts of beans for the lentils. Vegetarian? No problem. Just drop the sausage from this flexible recipe. 

Sausage with rice and lentils
Serves 4

Samantha Okazaki / Today


  • 8 ounces brown or long grain white rice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 ounces brown lentils
  • Salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 medium onions, diced (8 ounces) 
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced (1 ounce)
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (5 ounces)
  • 6 teaspoons ginger, minced (1 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 medium carrots, diced (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 package chicken sausage (4 sausages)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped

1. In a medium stock pot, make the rice to package directions. Set aside.  

2. Boil lentils in another saucepan with 4 inches salted water and a bay leaf for 25-30 minutes, or until lentils are tender but still firm and not mushy. Drain and reserve half the cooking liquid. 

Samantha Okazaki / Today

3. In a deep skillet, heat oil on medium heat, and saute the cumin seeds, onions, garlic, ginger, bell peppers and carrots for 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Now add red chili flakes and salt to taste. Saute for 5 more minutes and then add sliced sausage. 

Samantha Okazaki / Today

5. After 4-5 minutes, or when sausage is slightly browned at the edges, add drained lentils to skillet. Stir. Add 1/4 cup of the lentil cooking liquid. 

Samantha Okazaki / Today

6. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and add another 1/4 cup of lentil cooking liquid if needed. Stir to dissolve the paste well. 

7. Let the mixture simmer 5 more minutes and then turn off heat. Add juice of 1 lime and chopped fresh cilantro. Serve over plain rice.