This vegan red lentil curry is a flavorful veggie-packed meal that can be made in just over 30 minutes. It's perfect for meal prep lunches or as a quick weeknight dinner!
- Balanced: Made with brown rice, chickpeas, carrots, peas, spinach, and a whole lot of Indian-inspired seasonings.
- Nutritious: Packed with plant-based protein, fiber, healthy fats and vegetables.
- Versatile: This curry is perfect for meal prep lunches, as a family dinner served with buttery naan, and even rolled up into burritos.
- Dietary-features: vegetarian, vegan, soy-free, gluten-free, nut-free
I love making curries year-round, but they are especially comforting in the fall and winter months. If you prefer making curry in the Instant Pot, check out my recipe for instant pot red lentil curry or my chickpea coconut curry.
- Coconut milk: Full fat coconut milk makes this curry extra creamy. If you are looking for a lighter option, reduced fat or lite coconut milk also work.
- Red lentils: Not to be confused with green or brown lentils, red lentils cook quickly and lose their shape easily, whereas green and brown lentils keep their shape and take longer to cook. Yellow, orange and red lentils all work in this recipe.
- Chickpeas: Adding a can of chickpeas is an inexpensive way to stretch this recipe further while also contributing fiber, protein, and important nutrients like iron and manganese. I also like the texture that chickpeas give to an otherwise soft meal.
- Spices and aromatics: Minced ginger and garlic with diced onion makes the base of this recipe. A variety of spices, including Garam masala and curry powder, create a warming and flavorful dish. We will also use ground cumin and salt to emphasize the flavors.
- Vegetables: This curry is veggie-packed and the fiber in all those vegetables makes this recipe very filling. Add frozen green peas and chopped carrots for color and texture and stir in a few handfuls of chopped kale or spinach for a source of plant-based iron.
About red lentils
The centerpiece of this curry is red lentils. Red lentils are a good source of protein, fiber, and plant-based iron. Unlike other varieties of lentils, red lentils soften very quickly as they cook. This is because they are split and thus cook much more rapidly.
Can I use a different kind of lentils?
This recipe uses red lentils. Sometimes red lentils are labeled as orange lentils, which also work in this curry.
Brown, green, and French green lentils do not work because they have different water to lentil ratios, they take longer to cook, and they aren't as soft as red lentils. Brown lentils are better in vegan shepherd's pie and lentil loaf.
Do red lentils need to be soaked?
No. Lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking. Red lentils cook very quickly in simmering water. However, you should always thoroughly rinse and sort lentils before cooking them.
- Rice: You can't go wrong with curry and a serving of rice. I usually go for short-grain brown rice for the nutty flavor, but basmati or jasmine rice also go well.
- Burritos: I actually originally intended to use this recipe for burritos, but I liked it so much on its own that I skipped the burrito idea. Serve similarly to my curry chickpea wraps.
- Naan: Serve with garlic or regular naan. Even pita bread works in a pinch.
- Toppings: Don't skip the lime wedges and fresh chopped cilantro with each serving of curry.
Storage and freezing
- Leftovers: Let leftover red lentil curry cool before transferring to a closed container. Keep leftovers refrigerated for 3-4 days.
- Reheating: You can reheat individual servings in the microwave. To reheat on the stovetop, simply place the curry in a pot over medium heat. Simmer until heated through, stirring as needed.
- Freezing: Curry freezes well. Let it cool before transferring to a freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
More vegetarian meal ideas
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Vegan Red Lentil Curry
- 2 cups dry brown rice see note
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup diced yellow onion from ½ yellow onion
- ½ cup chopped carrots from ~2 carrot sticks
- 4-5 cloves minced garlic adjust to taste
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt more to taste
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 13.5 ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2 cups dry red lentils
- 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
- 3 cups vegetable broth choose reduced sodium if possible
- 3 loosely packed cups spinach or kale
- lime wedges and chopped cilantro for serving
- If serving with brown rice, prepare according to package instructions.
- Heat oil in a 6-quart dutch oven or medium stockpot over medium heat. Once hot, add diced onions and spirnkle with salt. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add carrots, garlic, and ginger, sauteing a minute more, until the garlic is lightly browned and aromatic.
- Add the curry powder, cumin, and garam masala. Cook another 30 seconds to bloom the spices, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
- Add the frozen green peas, chickpeas, red lentils, coconut milk and vegetable broth. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat and cover with a lid. Simmer until the red lentils are cooked, about 12-15 minutes.
- Once cooked, stir in the spinach or kale. Taste for salt. Serve over rice with lime wedges and chopped cilantro.
- Refrigerate leftovers for 3-4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
- You can subtitute 1 teaspoon ground ginger per 1 tablespoon fresh.
- You can sub lite or reduced fat coconut milk in place of whole fat coconut milk.
- Curry powder can be mild, medium or hot -- choose based on your heat preference.
- For a complete meal, serve with your choice of brown rice, basmati rice, or naan. You can also make burritos by adding ~1 cup of cooled curry to a large tortilla with spinach and sliced bell peppers.