Last updated on August 3rd, 2021 at 10:45 am
With a super simple but delicious homemade curry paste, this vegan red lentil curry is such an easy and wholesome family meal. It's loaded with the goodness of lentils, tomatoes and spinach and comes together in a little over 40-minutes.
Easy. Even the homemade paste is simple.
This recipe was originally posted on April 20, 2020 and updated with new images, instructions, tips and serving suggestions on July 25, 2021.
Things You'll Love About this Vegan Red Lentil Curry
If you love simple curries like my chickpea and spinach curry or my vegan tikka masala, I think you're going to love this! This vegan red lentil curry is such a warming bowl of yum - it's like a big hug for your belly. Besides being the ultimate healthy comfort food it's:
- Perfect for weeknight cooking coming together in around 35-40 minutes
- Made with easy to find ingredients
- A good source of protein and fibre from the lentils
- A good source of iron and vitamin C from the spinach and tomatoes
- Made from scratch but so simple
- Naturally gluten-free
- Freezable and
- Easily adaptable - add some veggies for an added boost.
What You'll Need | Ingredients
Aromatics: Fresh ginger, garlic, chilli and onions create a classic Indian base for this flavourful vegan curry.
Ground and dried spices: Garam masala, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon and smoked paprika work together to give this curry warmth and depth. I toast whole seeds but I have also included the amounts for ground spices in the recipe card below.
Fresh tomatoes: I love using fresh tomatoes in this lentil curry but you can use canned diced or crushed tomatoes too. Crushed tomatoes give this curry a smoother texture.
Red Lentils: No surprises that the hero of this vegan red lentil curry is red lentils. You can use either split or whole red lentils. Split lentils, Masoor Dal, have had their skin removed and will cook a touch faster. Either is fine.
Coconut Milk: I have made this curry with both full-fat and light coconut milk. While light is fine, full-fat coconut milk does deliver a more luxurious texture and balances the acidity of the curry better.
Vegetable Stock: To off-set the creaminess off the coconut milk, I add vegetable stock to this vegan red lentil curry. The stock adds even more depth of flavour and cuts through the fattiness of the milk.
Um, What Exactly are Lentils?
So, what is a lentil?
- Lentils are small legumes. Legumes are seeds that grow in pods.
- They come in a variety of colours including black, brown, yellow, red and green.
- Lentils are low in fat, nutrient dense and cheap.
- They are high in fibre, protein and are a good source of iron. One cup of lentils contains 6.6 mg of iron - almost one third of your daily requirements.
- They are a great frugal pantry staple.
Source: Well and Good
Now that lentils are your new best friend in the kitchen, let's get a nourishing vegan curry on the table in around 35-minutes. Yes?
How to Make Vegan Red Lentil Curry
Easy Masala Paste
If making your own curry paste seems a bit fiddly, it's really not. I like things simple and this paste is no exception. It's thrown together in the food processor. I use toasted whole cumin and coriander seeds but I've also provided the measurement for pre-ground spices in the recipe card below.
Once the paste is made you simply add the other ingredients to your pan one and a time to fully develop the warming curry flavours.
Vegan Red Lentil Curry
Steps 1 and 2: Sauté half an onion in a large pan until soft before adding the curry paste. Cook for 2-3 minutes and add your fresh or canned tomatoes to cook for another 5 minutes.
Steps 3 and 4: After the tomatoes are cooked down (image 3.) add the lentils and stir through.
Steps 5 and 6: Stir in coconut milk and stock and cook for around 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are cooked through and tender.
Note: If you'd like to add vegetables like cauliflower or sweet potato to your vegan red lentil curry, add them now to make sure they cook through.
Step 7: Add fresh baby spinach to the pan and allow it to wilt before serving.
And voila! A simple, delicious and comforting bowl of goodness made from scratch. This vegan red lentil curry a simple, flavourful curry you can make in less time that it takes to call and collect a take-away dinner.
Tips to Making the Best Vegan Curry
- Take the time to cook down your onions, curry paste and tomatoes. This is the base of our curry and we want those flavours to shine.
- Don't be afraid to make your own curry paste. The recipe included here is so simple and you just can't beat the freshness of homemade paste.
- If you don't like too much heat in your curry, either omit the chilli pepper or de-seed it and only add half. You can also swap out the red chilli for a green Serrano chilli.
- Taste the curry as it is cooking and season as needed.
- Older lentils may take longer to cook - no worries. If your sauce is cooking right down and the lentils are still firm, add a touch of water to your pot and continue cooking until the lentils are tender. Simples.
To add fresh and really add vibrancy serve your lentil curry with a good squeeze of lime or Leon juice and smattering of coriander. So good!
Sure you can, although I don't find it as readily available. Use 3 tbsp of store bought or simply whip up the easy recipe below and use it all.
Totally. Use a full 400g (14 oz) can of chopped tomatoes instead of the fresh ones. The flavour will be slightly different but nothing to sweat about.
Indeed. Allow the finished dish to cool completely before popping it in a freezer proof container and freezing for up to 3 months.
You can but you will need to pre-cook them first. I love red lentils because they don't require soaking and cook quickly within the dish. I use them in my 5-ingredient pumpkin lentil soup with ginger. Win! If you wanted, you could make this dish with canned lentils or chickpeas.
Yup. Just make sure you add enough salt to lift those flavours.
Try these vegan curries from the Goodness Kitchen archives.
If you like this recipe, please check out my cookbook. Great Vegan Meals for the Carnivorous Family is full of simple, carnivore-approved family recipes.
Vegan Red Lentil Curry
For the masala paste
- 1 and ½ tsp cumin seeds or 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 and ½ tsp coriander seeds or 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 and ½ tsp garam masala
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 inch ginger thumb peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 long red chilli chopped
- 1 onion half chopped for the paste, ½ finely sliced for the curry
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil or any neutral flavoured oil
For the curry
- 1 tbsp sunflower or any neutral flavoured oil
- 4 tomatoes chopped (or a 400ml can of crushed tomatoes)
- 1 cup red lentils
- 270 ml coconut milk
- 400 ml vegetable stock
- 2 cups baby spinach or another leafy green
- pinch salt
For the Paste
- To make the masala paste with seeds, add the cumin and coriander seeds to a dry fry pan and toast over low to medium heat for around 2 minutes or until fragrant. Watch the pan so you don't burn the seeds. Once toasted, grind the seeds to a powder in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
- Add the cumin and coriander to a food processor with the garam masala, smoked paprika and cinnamon. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli, chopped ½ onion, tomato paste and oil and process until the mixture becomes a thick paste. Remove from the processor and set aside.
For the Curry
- Heat the sunflower in a large pan over medium heat and add the remaining ½ onion to saute for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the masala paste and stir together cooking for around 3 minutes.
- Throw in the chopped tomatoes and continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes before stirring in the the red lentils.
- Add the coconut milk and stock and bring the mixture up to a simmer, stirring regularly.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring regularly, for around 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the spinach. Allow it to wilt before serving.