Lentil Curry

February 7, 2022

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Delicious Lentil Curry – it’s a vegan dish that’s brimming with well spiced Indian flavors, a creamy coconut sauce, and it’s perfectly hearty and filling thanks to the fiber and protein-rich lentils.

Bowl of lentil curry and rice.

Coconut Lentil Curry

This meat-free lentil curry recipe is such a tasty main dish that pairs beautifully with white rice, cauliflower rice or naan.

It has a delicious complexity of flavor, the lentils make it a nutritious choice, and the coconut milk adds some body to make it more substantial.

It makes an excellent vegan dinner and any extra that’s left is perfect for lunch the next day (you can even freeze it).

If you haven’t yet had lentils this is a great place to start. With the rising prices of meat these days it’s a great recipe to add into the dinner rotation since lentils are a much cheaper alternative to meat.

And by using a the homemade spice blend here (which is basically a curry spice blend) you can control the amount of heat that goes into the dish making it as mild or spicy as you prefer.

Photo of ingredients used to make lentil curry.

Lentil Curry Recipe Ingredients

  • SPICES: coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, fennel seeds, mustard powder, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne pepper, fenugreek (or bay leaves), salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Yellow onion
  • Fresh garlic
  • Fresh ginger
  • Brown or green lentils
  • Vegetable broth
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Canned coconut milk
  • Cilantro

See below for full amounts and recipe with print option.

Collage of eight photos showing steps of making lentil curry on the stovetop in a pot.

How to Make Indian Lentil Curry

  1. Measure out spices: To a small bowl add coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, pepper, fennel, mustard powder, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne pepper, set aside.
  2. Saute aromatics in pot: Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until golden brown, about 7 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and ginger and saute 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  4. Pour spices from bowl into pot and saute 30 seconds.
  5. Add liquids and lentils: Pour in broth, tomatoes, coconut milk, lentils and fenugreek. Season with salt to taste (add a little less than you want because sauce will reduce and saltiness will become more concentrated, I start with just 1/4 tsp).
  6. Simmer until tender: Bring mixture to a simmer. Then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 35 minutes. Preferably stir once halfway through.
  7. Remove lid and continue to simmer until lentils are tender, about 5 minutes longer.
  8. Garnish: Serve warm garnished with cilantro (it pairs well with naan or basmati rice).

Pot full of coconut lentil curry garnished with cilantro leaves.

Red Lentil Curry Variation

  • This dish can also be made using red lentils. If doing so keep in mind the simmer time will be about half of what is listed.
  • Note that the simmer time directed in the recipe is longer than what is traditionally needed for lentils (as listed on the package). This is because there is some acidity in the sauce (from the tomatoes) which slows the speed of the cooking process and it takes longer for the lentils to become tender.

Slow Cooker Option

  • If you’d like to make this in the slow cooker increase amount of lentils to 1 3/4 cups and reduce garlic to 3 cloves (they’ll be harsher without sautéing first).
  • Add everything to the slow cooker except cilantro.
  • Cover and cook on low until lentils are completely tender, about 7 to 8 hours.

Storage

  • Lentil curry will keep 3 days in the fridge in an airtight container.
  • Or freeze up to 3 months.

Overhead photo of two bowls of lentil curry.

More Tasty Lentil Recipes to Try

 

Bowl of lentil curry and rice.
5 from 5 votes

Lentil Curry

A vegan dish that's brimming with well spiced Indian flavors, a creamy coconut sauce, and it's perfectly hearty and filling thanks to the fiber and protein-rich lentils. Recipe makes about 6 cups.
Servings: 5
Prep20 minutes
Cook1 hour
Ready in: 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp fennel seeds, crushed*
  • 1/2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste, it's spicy)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onion
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic (6 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (13.6 oz) can coconut milk
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 tsp fenugreek leaves, finely crushed after measuring**
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Instructions

  • To a small bowl add coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, pepper, fennel, mustard powder, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne pepper, set aside.
  • Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until golden brown, about 7 to 8 minutes.
  • Add garlic and ginger and saute 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  • Pour spices from bowl into pot and saute 30 seconds.
  • Pour in broth, tomatoes, coconut milk, lentils and fenugreek. Season with salt to taste (add a little less than you want because sauce will reduce and saltiness will become more concentrated, I start with just 1/4 tsp).
  • Bring mixture to a simmer. Then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 35 minutes. Preferably stir once halfway through.
  • Remove lid and continue to simmer until lentils are tender, about 5 minutes longer.
  • Serve warm garnished with cilantro (it pairs well with naan or basmati rice).

Notes

*To crush the fennel seeds I place in a small resealable bag and crush with a meat mallet. Another option is to chop them.
**If you don't have fenugreek on hand you can substitute 2 bay leaves left whole (and removing them at the end of cooking). While they have a much different flavor it's still a delicious option for this curry to build up flavor.
Nutrition Facts
Lentil Curry
Amount Per Serving
Calories 392 Calories from Fat 171
% Daily Value*
Fat 19g29%
Saturated Fat 12g75%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 5g
Sodium 719mg31%
Potassium 1030mg29%
Carbohydrates 45g15%
Fiber 16g67%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 15g30%
Vitamin A 1351IU27%
Vitamin C 21mg25%
Calcium 115mg12%
Iron 8mg44%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.