This red lentil curry is classic vegan comfort food! It’s a one-pot recipe that comes together in under an hour and it’s ideal for meal prep too.

Red lentil curry in bowl with lime wedges, cilantro, rice, and naan

If you love my coconut chickpea curry and Thai green curry, you’re going to flip for this red lentil curry. It’s every bit as flavourful, just as easy, and it comes together lickety-split. What’s not to love?!

When it comes to vegan proteins, lentils might not have the same excitement factor as those over-hyped supermarket faux meats, but this humble little legume brings a whole lot of goodness to this curry. 

Of course, all the other ingredients here lend a helping hand—the spices, the tomatoes and onions, the coconut milk, the lime. Everything comes together to create a dish you’ll want to make (and eat) again and again.

And if you like to get creative in the kitchen, the world is your oyster with this dish. Feel free to try this red lentil curry with spinach, tofu, cauliflower, and even potatoes! It’s easily customisable, but also absolutely amazing just as it is.

Overhead view of ingredients for red lentil curry with labels

Notes on Ingredients

Scroll down to the recipe card to find the ingredient quantities and recipe instructions.

  • Coconut oil – I love using coconut oil in curries, but another neutral-flavoured cooking oil can be used instead.
  • Yellow or red onion
  • Fresh tomatoes – Or substitute canned.
  • Sea salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Garlic cloves
  • Ginger
  • Garam masala
  • Curry powder – Use a mild curry powder if you’re not a fan of spicy food; hot or Madras curry powder is perfect for palates that can handle a little more heat!
  • Red curry paste – Some brands contain shrimp paste or fish sauce, so be sure to check the ingredients.
  • Cumin
  • Dry red lentils
  • Filtered water
  • Coconut milk – Full-fat coconut will give you the creamiest red lentil curry, but you can substitute lite if you want to cut calories a bit.
  • Lime
  • Red pepper flakes and chopped parsley – For garnish.

Can I Substitute Brown Lentils for Red?

Technically speaking, you can substitute brown lentils for red in a curry like this. That said, brown lentils will require more cooking time to reach the smooth, creamy consistency of red lentils; they’ll also have a less appetizing colour in the curry.

How to Make Red Lentil Curry

Once you’ve created a mise en place for your ingredients, the rest of this recipe is a cinch! 

Cook the onions and tomatoes. Melt the coconut oil in a deep pot set over medium high heat. Add the onions and tomatoes, along with a few grinds of sea salt and black pepper. Stir, then lower the heat to medium and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the juices of the tomatoes are released and the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the spices and lentils. Add in all the remaining dry ingredients and stir to combine to keep the lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Pour in the water and coconut milk and stir again.

Overhead view of curry after adding liquid

Simmer. Bring the curry to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Partially cover the pot and simmer for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Overhead view of red lentil curry in pot with wooden spoon

Finish. Season to taste and remove the curry from the heat. Stir in a squeeze of lime juice, cool slightly, then serve.

Overhead view of red lentil curry in pot with wooden spoon and naan

Tips for Success

Here are some tips and pointers for perfect red lentil curry:

  • Check your lentils at the 20 minute mark. Like all pulses, the cooking time of lentils depends on how long they’ve been sitting on the store shelf! Some may be finished cooking in as little as 20 minutes, while older lentils may need longer.
  • Add more water if needed. If the liquid has cooked off before the lentils soften—or if you prefer a more soup-like curry—you can add more water to the pot.
  • Take some shortcuts. To save time, you can use pre-minced garlic and ginger from the store.
Pot of red lentil curry garnished with naan and cilantro

Serving Suggestions

Serve your red lentil curry with basmati rice, cauliflower rice, quinoa, or homemade vegan naan. You can also stir a handful of baby spinach into the curry when you serve it for some extra veggies!

How to Store

Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Red lentil curry will keep fresh for up to a week. Reheat it on the stovetop or in the microwave until it’s warmed through.

Can I Freeze This Recipe?

Yes, you can easily freeze this red lentil curry for up to a month. Make sure it’s stored in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag and defrost overnight in the refrigerator before reheating according to the instructions above.

Bowl of red lentil curry with naan and rice

Enjoy friends! If you make this red lentil curry, please snap a photo and tag #jessicainthekitchen on Instagram! We’d also love it if you would leave a comment below, and give the recipe a rating! Thanks so much!

P.S. This is what I used for this recipe!


Bowl of red lentil curry with naan and rice

Vegan Red Lentil Curry

This red lentil curry is classic vegan comfort food! It’s a one-pot recipe that comes together in under an hour and it’s ideal for meal prep too.
5 (from 28 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions OR 1 red onion, 7g
  • 14 ounces fresh tomatoes, diced (if using canned, do not drain) – 400g
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon freshly minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 cup dry red lentils, rinsed
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 13.5 ounces can coconut milk, 383g
  • 1 small lime
  • garnish with red pepper flakes & chopped parsley

Instructions 

  • In a deep pot over medium high heat, add the coconut oil.
  • Add in the onions and tomatoes. Grind some sea salt and ground black pepper over the mixture and stir together. Lower heat to medium and allow to cook down until juices of the tomatoes are naturally released and onions are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes.
  • Add in all the other dry ingredients in order. Stir vigorously to combine to ensure the lentils aren’t stuck to the bottom. Now add the water and coconut milk and stir again to combine thoroughly.
  • Bring the curry to a boil, and then reduce to medium-low so that the mixture continues to simmer for 35 minutes, cover slightly but allowing steam to escape. Stir occasionally to ensure the lentils don’t stick to the bottom. Depending on the kind of lentils you’re using, you can check around the 20 minute mark to see if your lentils have finished cooking.
  • Taste the curry and season with salt and pepper if you desire. Remove the curry from the heat and squeeze a lime lightly over the top of the curry, stirring to combine. Don’t skip this step!! Allow to cool slightly and then serve. Enjoy!

Notes

To store: Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Red lentil curry will keep fresh for up to a week. Reheat it on the stovetop or in the microwave until it’s warmed through.
To freeze: You can freeze this red lentil curry for up to a month. Make sure it’s stored in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag and defrost overnight before reheating according to the instructions above.
TO ADD HEAT:
1. Crushed red pepper flakes: I would start with 1/4 teaspoon in the beginning so that that gets heated up with everything else. Taste and you can always add another 1/4 teaspoon.
2. Harissa paste: if you have a harissa or chili paste, you can stir a little in before the simmer part so that it can heat up with everything. Even sriracha can work.
3. Lastly, and my favourite, scotch bonnet pepper sauce which adds flavours and lots of heat. A few drops right before simmer again, and you can taste and decide whether you want to add more.
Calories: 316kcal, Carbohydrates: 29g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Sodium: 407mg, Potassium: 655mg, Fiber: 12g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 956IU, Vitamin C: 18mg, Calcium: 56mg, Iron: 5mg

Disclaimer: Although jessicainthekitchen.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Jessicainthekitchen.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.