Are you looking for a tasty, nutritious, and easy-to-eat Indian recipe for your toddler or young child? Growing up in Canada, I visited India during summer vacations and distinctly remember watching my aunts and older cousins feed young children between the ages of 1 and 3 who were just starting to eat “real food” or “adult food.” In South India it’s common to eat a lentil-based soup (called ‘saaru’, ‘chaaru’ or ‘rasam’) combined with cooked rice. Meals are generally eaten by hand, with no silverware. I watched as young mothers gently combined soft steamed rice with stewed lentils into small lentil-rice balls and fed their children by hand. I’ve never forgotten the visual memory of it because it was the sweetest thing as they popped the rice balls into their mouths, which were happily gobbled up. In India, like elsewhere, when babies start on “solid food” they begin eating single ingredient items (like mashed bananas or very soft steamed rice combined with milk) that are devoid of any spices or herbs; when toddlers begin eating “real food” or “adult food” the textures and flavors become a little heartier while still being easily digestible — mild, ground spices are used, rather than anything too spicy or full of cumin seeds or red chilli pepper.
So for all you parents and caregivers looking for wholesome, healthy Indian recipe ideas for toddlers or young children, this is an authentic Indian meal eaten by millions of kids in India. Moreover, it’s full of healthy ingredients from lentils to turmeric. This dish is easy to make, plus I’ve modified the original recipe so you can easily find the ingredients no matter where you might live. Definitely bookmark this page the next time you run out of ideas and want to try to entice your little one with something different! Let me know how it works out for you by posting a comment or question below 🙂
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Soft lentil & rice balls for toddlers
Yields 30 balls
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups cooked white basmati rice (at room temperature)
- 1/8 teaspoon canola oil
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup water
- Rinse lentils in cold water. In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to boil. Add the lentils, oil and turmeric. Reduce heat to medium and cook partially covered for 10 minutes until lentils are almost completely cooked (do not overcook). Stir periodically to avoid lentils sticking to bottom of the saucepan.
- Add cumin, coriander, paprika, salt, brown sugar, tomato paste, and water. Mix well and cover, simmering on low heat for 5 minutes.
- The lentils should now be fully cooked. Remove from heat, uncover, and let it cool until it reaches room temperature (approximately 30 minutes).
- When both lentils and rice are at room temperature, mix both together and combine well. Taste and adjust for salt as desired.
- From the mixture make small balls, about 1-inch in diameter.