Looking for the BEST red lentil curry recipe?! Well, this is it! This one pot recipe is full of flavor, easy to make, vegan and gluten free. It’s perfect for meal prep and will be ready in just about 30 minutes!
It’s made with a base of red lentils (surprise, surprise), coconut milk for a creamy consistency, crushed tomatoes, onion, fresh herbs and tons of delicious spices like turmeric, cumin and curry powder for lots of flavor.
It’s naturally vegan, gluten free and perfect with some rice, steamed potatoes, naan (if you ever come across a gluten free naan please hmu because I miss it) or just as is!
How to make this recipe
In a large pot or dutch oven, add the finely diced onion and coconut oil. I usually like using refined coconut oil since there isn’t a strong coconut flavor, but since we’re already using coconut milk in this recipe, it really doesn’t matter! Olive or avocado oil will also work well.
Saute for about 5 minutes or until the onion starts to look transluscent.
Add in the diced serrano pepper, minced garlic, grated ginger and chopped cilantro. If you like spice, include the pepper seeds, but otherwise leave them out.
Saute for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic starts to brown slightly.
Add in all of the spices- turmeric, cumin, curry powder, garam masala, sugar and salt. Saute to let all of the flavors blend for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add in all remaining ingredients including the lentils, but only 2 ½ cups worth of veggie broth. Stir well to combine.
Bring to a somewhat rapid boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing burns. Make sure the heat is very low so the liquid doesn’t absorb before the lentils are able to cook.
Once it has thickened, taste and adjust seasonings as desired. If you used low sodium veggie broth, you may want some more salt. I used regular and ½ tsp of salt was perfect. If you prefer a thinner consistency, you can stir in ½ cup of veggie broth.
Top with chopped cilantro and red pepper flakes & enjoy! I like to serve this with white rice, but it’s also delicious with steamed potatoes or just as is.
Do you cook the lentils first?
Nope! For this recipe, everything gets cooked together in one pot to allow all of the flavors to really blend and infuse into each other. You don’t even need to (or want to) soak red lentils before cooking either!
Soaking the lentils first can actually make them kind of soggy, but you can just give them a quick rinse before adding them to the pot. But don’t worry, nothing bad will happen if you don’t rinse them!
Red lentils have a different consistency than other types of lentils like brown, green or black, so for this recipe, you don’t want to sub for another variety.
Unlike brown or green ones, red lentils soften a lot more while they cook and have more of a split pea consistency. They work really well in curries because the lentils are able to absorb so much flavor, so for best results, stick to the recipe as written!
What kind of tomatoes are best? I sometimes have a hard time finding crushed tomatoes at the grocery store, so if you run into this problem as well, diced tomatoes will be fine. However, I recommend pulsing them in your blender before adding them to the curry just so you don’t have really large tomato chunks. It also gives a better flavor since the tomato flavor blends better with the curry.
Do I need fresh ginger? I strongly recommend using fresh grated ginger for the best flavor, but if you don’t have any, you can sub for 1 tsp dried ginger. Add it in with the rest of the spices instead of with the garlic.
Does it keep? Once prepared, this red lentil curry will keep in the fridge for about 5 days. Let it cool completely then transfer to an air tight container for best results.
Can I freeze lentil curry? Yes! Same rules apply, just let it cool then transfer to an air tight container for up to 2 months.
Can I make it in an instant pot? Yes! Follow all of the same initial steps using the saute function, then add in all ingredients and set to manual pressure for about 10 minutes. I haven’t made this in the instant pot, so 10 minutes is just ball park, you may need closer to 15. If it’s not done after 10, you can just set it to the saute function and let it simmer so you don’t have to wait for it to come to pressure.
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One Pot Red Lentil Curry
- 1 ½ cups red lentils
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
- 1 serrano pepper (diced)
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- ½ tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 15 ounce can coconut milk (I used full fat)
- 1 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes (see notes)
- 2 ½ – 3 cups veggie broth
- ½ cup chopped cilantro (plus more for garnish)
- optional: 1 tsp coconut or brown sugar
- In a large pot or dutch oven, add the finely diced onion and coconut oil.
- Saute for about 5 minutes or until the onion starts to look transluscent.
- Add in the serrano pepper, garlic, grated ginger and chopped cilantro. If you like spice, include the pepper seeds, but otherwise leave them out.
- Saute for 2-3 minutes.
- Add in all of the spices -turmeric, cumin, curry powder, garam masala, sugar and salt.
- Let all of the flavors blend for about 3 minutes.
- Add in all remaining ingredients including the lentils/tomatoes, but only 2 ½ cups worth of veggie broth.
- Stir well to combine.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing burns.
- Once it has thickened, taste and adjust seasonings as desired. If you used low sodium veggie broth, you may want some more salt. If you prefer a thinner consistency, you can stir in ½ cup of veggie broth. It will thicken as it sits in the fridge, so keep this in mind if you’re prepping this ahead of time.
- Top with chopped cilantro and red pepper flakes & enjoy! I like to serve this with white rice, but it’s also delicious with steamed potatoes or just as is.