This vegetarian red lentil and rice casserole is a dump-and-bake recipe that features warming curry spices, coconut milk, and a handful of budget-friendly ingredients. The casserole is sliceable, versatile, and requires just 10 minutes of active time to make!
Red lentils and rice cook together in the oven to make this sliceable, curry-seasoned lentil bake. This is the newest in a long line of dump & bake casseroles. The purpose of this kind of "dump and go" meal is to make a low-prep, hands-off, nourishing vegetarian meal.
Unlike brown or green lentils, red lentils cook quickly. They take just about the same amount of time to cook as basmati rice, so they are the perfect natural pair for a casserole.
- Ingredients: This recipe is very budget-friendly because it relies on inexpensive dry red lentils and basmati rice as the base. Add in coconut milk, a few different spices, and vegetables to round out the casserole.
- Flavors: This red lentil casserole is completely inspired by Indian cuisine in flavors, though it pulls from no dish in particular and instead relies on curry powder and garam masala to bring forth warming flavors similar to my red lentil curry and Instant Pot lentil and sweet potato curry.
- Time: All you need is 15 minutes of active time to throw this dish together. Both lentils and white rice cook very quickly, so overall the lentil casserole is ready in about 40 minutes tops!
- Red lentils: These are also called orange lentils. Choose dry, uncooked lentils. This recipe does not work with green, brown, or black lentils, which take more time to cook.
- Basmati rice: This is my favorite type of rice, so much so that we have a 20-pound bag on hand at all times. Long-grain white rice can be used at a 1:1 swap. Brown rice does not work as a direct swap because it takes longer to cook and requires more liquid.
- Coconut milk: This adds extra depth and also contributes some of the liquid needed to cook the lentils and rice. I use full-fat coconut milk (usually just labeled as unsweetened coconut milk), but lite coconut milk works as a lower-fat option.
- Curry powder and garam masala are the main spices, along with coriander and cumin. Curry powder is a bit of a catch-all and varies from brand to brand, but you can't really go wrong here, so just choose whatever sounds good to you. Garam masala is a mix of spices that often includes coriander and cloves, so it's quite warming.
- Sweet potato: Just one medium sweet potato adds a touch of sweetness to the lentil bake. I don't peel the sweet potato because it helps keep the diced sweet potato intact during cooking. You can peel the sweet potato if you prefer, but it will break down into the casserole as it bakes.
Step by step instructions
While the idea behind a dump-and-bake casserole is to literally dump all ingredients into a casserole dish and then bake them, I find that it's worth taking an extra 5 minutes to heat the cooking liquid prior to baking the casserole.
Additionally, I recommend toasting the spices for just 30 seconds to bloom them and enhance their flavor. This step is easy and really adds more life to the dish.
Simply heat a medium pot over medium heat, then add a drizzle of olive oil. Once hot, add the spices. Toast, stirring consistently, for just 30 seconds.
Whisk in the coconut milk and vegetable broth, stirring to combine with the seasonings. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, to a 9x13 baking dish add the well-rinsed rice and red lentils, along with the bell pepper, sweet potato, and any other vegetables you'd like to add.
Carefully pour in the simmering liquid. Stir to combine with the rice and lentils.
Cover tightly with foil or an upside-down baking sheet. Transfer to the middle oven rack to bake for 23-25 minutes at 375°F, or until the rice is fluffy and the lentils are softened.
- Always rinse and sort lentils before cooking them. It's rare, but lentils occasionally have little stones that make it into the bag, and accidentally biting down on one of these can really ruin dinner!
- White rice should always be rinsed well before cooking. Rinsing rice removes excess starches, which prevents rice from becoming gummy and mushy. To rinse the rice, place it in a fine-mesh sieve and run under cool running water, stirring the rice occasionally to ensure each piece is rinsed, until the water runs clear.
- Tightly cover the baking dish: While a ceramic lid is the best option to keep steam in the casserole dish during cooking, I find that foil works just well. If foil isn't available, an upside-down sheet pan will do the trick.
- Lentil texture: Note that the lentils break down significantly during baking, and disappear into the casserole as a sort of glue that holds the rice together. For firmer, intact lentils, start checking the lentil bake at 18 minutes, instead of 23.
- Other dish sizes: 9x13-inch is my go-to dish size for casseroles, but you can get away with using a smaller size. Just make sure that the dish is deep enough to fit all of the ingredients, as they will expand slightly during cooking.
- Variations: Diced carrots, cauliflower florets, or diced onion can be mixed into the casserole in addition to or in place of other vegetables. The only part of this casserole that can't be modified is the liquids (vegetable broth and coconut milk), red lentils, and rice.
Leftovers: Let the casserole cool to room temperature before refrigerating. It keeps well for 3 to 4 days.
Reheating: Reheat individual portions in the microwave. Reheat the entire casserole in the oven at 325°F for 20 to 30 minutes, or until warmed through. Cover with foil if the casserole starts to dry out too much.
Freezing: I have not tried freezing this recipe. Other rice casseroles like my rice and broccoli casserole and rice and bean casserole have frozen well, so I imagine this one would too. Let thaw overnight in the fridge or reheat frozen slices in the microwave to thaw.
Looking for more casseroles?
Red Lentil Casserole
- 1 cup basmati rice see note #1
- 1 cup red lentils see note #2
- 1 teaspoon neutral oil canola oil etc.
- 1 and ½ tablespoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 and ½ cups vegetable broth
- 13.5 ounce can of coconut milk
- 1 medium sweet potato diced small (¼ to ½ inch cubes)
- 1 medium orange bell pepper diced
- chopped cilantro and lime wedges for serving
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- In a fine mesh sieve, rinse the rice well until the water runs clear. Rinse and sort the lentils, removing any stones or broken lentils as needed.
- Drizzle oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the curry powder, garam masala, cumin, coriander, and ginger. Toast, stirring frequently, for just 30 seconds to bloom the spices.
- Add the salt, vegetable broth, and coconut milk. Whisk to combine. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile, to a 9x13 inch baking dish add the rinsed lentils and rice, along with diced sweet potato and bell pepper.
- Carefully pour the simmering broth into the baking dish. Stir to combine with the rice and lentils.
- Cover tightly with foil or an upside-down sheet pan and transfer to the middle oven rack. Bake at 375°F for 23 to 25 minutes, or until the rice is fluffy and the lentils are completely softened. Return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes, as needed.
- Remove from the oven and stir before serving. Garnish with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!
- Rice: An equal amount of long-grain white rice can be used in place of basmati. I don't recommend brown rice, as it requires additional liquid and cook time.
- Lentils: Orange or red lentils work here, but green, brown, and black do not.
- Sweet potato: Make sure to dice the sweet potato small so that it cooks completely. I recommend leaving the skin on, as the sweet potato breaks down and becomes mushier when the skin is removed.
- Choose a 9x13 or similarly sized dish. A smaller dish works but make sure that it's deep enough, as the lentils and rice expand a bit while cooking.
- Leftovers are best within 3 to 4 days. Let cool before refrigerating in an airtight container. I have not tried freezing this recipe, but I imagine that it would work.
- Feel free to add other vegetables like cauliflower florets, diced onion, green beans, etc.