This vegan red lentil curry recipe is super flavourful and easy to make with a short list of ingredients. It’s perfect for a weeknight dinner because it’s ready in just 30 minutes!
How do you eat red lentils?
Lentils are a very cheap and versatile ingredient!
Unlike brown lentils, red lentils begin to break down into a mushy texture when cooked.
You’ve most likely come across red lentils in Indian cuisine, particularly dahl (or dal or daal).
Dahl is a thick soup or stew made from legumes to which simple spices are added after boiling.
This red lentil curry recipe differs from dal in that it is more heavily spiced and the spices are added at the beginning rather than the end.
Red lentils take on the flavour of the spices well, making them ideal for curries and other flavourful dishes!
Red lentil curry without coconut milk
Now, when I google “red lentil curry”, 9 out of 10 of the top results return a coconut-based curry recipe.
While I’ve got nothing against coconut milk, I get a lot of questions in my Facebook group about how to make curry without coconut milk since a lot of people are allergic to coconut.
So this recipe was born from the need of a quick and delicious lentil curry for all those who don’t like coconut or can’t eat it.
This curry is tomato-based. I chose to use tomato paste rather than tomato sauce or puree because I love the umami of tomato paste and it produces a thicker stew.
Is lentil curry healthy?
Yes! Lentils are high in protein, fibre and iron.
Just ½ cup of cooked lentils provides about 12 grams of protein, 32% of your daily fibre intake, and 15% of your daily iron.
Lentils are also a great source of folate, potassium and manganese.
Because this curry does not call for coconut milk or any animal products, it’s low in saturated fat.
Tomato paste is a good source of vitamins A, B and C, antioxidants and tomatoes are the best natural source of lycopene.
One serving of these lentils has just 255 calories (not including rice). You can see more of the nutrition breakdown in the recipe card.
You’ll need just a handful of easily accessible ingredients to make this red lentil curry!
Aromatics. Like a lot of recipes, this one starts off by building a flavour base with an onion, 3 cloves garlic and 2 teaspoons fresh ginger.
Tomato Paste. This recipe uses the entire can of tomato paste for a thick, tomato-y sauce (and to save you from having to keep leftover tomato paste!)
Ground Spices. In order to keep this recipe simple, you’ll need just 3 spices: curry powder, garam masala (both of which are a mix of a variety of spices) and cayenne pepper or Kashmiri chili powder for heat.
Red Lentils. This is the main ingredient! I used split red lentils, which are the most commonly available type of red lentil and likely what you have too.
Vegetable Broth. For a bit of extra flavour I cook the lentils in vegetable stock rather than water.
Salt. Of course, to bring all the flavors out. You can adjust the quantity depending on how salty your vegetable stock is.
Fresh Cilantro and Lime Juice. These are optional garnishes. The lime juice cuts through the sweetness of the tomato paste and gives the dish a good balance of flavors while the cilantro adds freshness.
How to make this vegan red lentil curry
Making this one-pan red lentil curry is really easy!
Start by placing your lentils in a strainer and rinsing them under cool water.
Fry the onion until transparent and soft and then add the ginger and garlic and fry for another minute or so.
Add the tomato paste and stir well. Allow to fry, stirring often so that it doesn’t burn, until it darkens in colour. This just takes a couple of minutes.
Now add in your spices and allow them to cook for a minute or so until fragrant.
Add in the lentils, vegetable broth and salt. You may need to adjust the salt to taste depending on how salty your stock is.
Partially cover the pot and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook until the lentils are tender - about 15 to 20 minutes.
What to serve with it
Rice. This lentil curry is great served over rice. Your choice of white, basmati, brown, jasmine - it’s all good.
Bread. This curry is great for dipping your bread into. Crusty bread or try your hand at making vegan naan.
Garnishes. I like a sprinkling of fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. You could also add a dollop of vegan yogurt or diced avocado for a bit of creaminess.
Salad. Throw together a leafy green salad on the side to round out your meal.
Frequently asked questions
No, unlike dried beans, red lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking. Just give them a rinse under cool water and they’re ready to cook.
Red lentils are quick-cooking. For this curry recipe, cook them until they are very soft and thick. About 15 to 20 minutes.
Sure, you can add pretty much any vegetable that you like. I sometimes throw in a couple handfuls of spinach once the lentils are cooked. You can also add diced carrot, or sweet potato or butternut squash when you add the lentils. Just be sure to dice them very small so that they can cook through in about 15 minutes.
Store this red lentil curry in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 days.
Yes, this recipe freezes well which makes it perfect for meal prepping and batch cooking. Once the curry is completely cool, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 6 months.
If defrosting from frozen, allow the curry to defrost in the fridge overnight. You can reheat this lentil curry in the microwave in two-minute intervals until hot. You can also transfer the curry to a pot and reheat it over medium heat on the stove.
Red Lentil Curry
- 1 cup (220 grams ) dry split red lentils
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 1 (6 oz / 170 gram) can tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- ½ tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or Kashmiri chili powder adjust to your spice tolerance
- 3 cups (710 ml) vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon salt adjust depending on how salty your broth is
- Optional garnishes: fresh cilantro lime slices
- Place the lentils in a strainer and rinse under cool water. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Fry the onion until soft and transparent then add the ginger and garlic and fry for another 30 seconds to a minute until soft and fragrant.
- Add the tomato paste and stir well. Fry, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste darkens slightly in color - about 2 minutes. Add in the curry powder, cayenne pepper and garam masala and cook, stirring, for another minute or until the spices are fragrant.
- Add in the lentils, vegetable broth and salt. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and partially cover the pot with the lid.
- Simmer gently until the lentils are tender and most of the broth is absorbed - about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Serve with rice and garnish with fresh cilantro and a slice of lime, if desired.