Lentil Curry is what comfort food dreams are made of! It’s a hearty one-pot meal that’s filled with protein-packed lentils, warm spices, and coconut milk. Instant Pot instructions included.

If you love lentils as much as I do, make sure to try my Lentil Salad, The Best Lentil Soup, Lentil Bolognese or Lentil Chili.

lentil curry with white rice and cilantro in a large bowl with naan on the side.

Easy lentil curry with coconut milk

Healthy comfort food doesn’t get much easier than this Lentil Curry recipe. It’s easy to make with a handful of inexpensive ingredients, warm spices, and, of course, lentils. Just one bowl will fill you up for hours while the coconut milk finish is completely creamy and dreamy!

Vegan curry recipes are one of my many go-to comfort foods because they’re:

  • Loaded with flavor.
  • Made with healthy ingredients.
  • Easy to make in one pot.

They only get better when you add a big scoop of basmati rice and homemade vegan naan. Yum!

This vegan lentil curry in particular comes together in less than one hour in just one pot. It’s simple, flexible, and foolproof, just like my 20-Minute Chickpea Curry. Enjoy it with plenty of cilantro on top for weeknight dinners and cozy nights at home.

a fork in a bowlful of lentil curry with white rice.

Ingredients needed (with substitutions)

  • Olive oil – Or use vegetable broth if you want to saute the ginger and garlic without oil.
  • Garlic and ginger – Freshly grated ginger and pressed garlic will always taste best. For a quick and easy alternative, use jarred chopped garlic and a tube of ginger.
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Cayenne pepper – Just a pinch for a little heat.
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Dried lentils – I used brown lentils but black, green, or red lentils will all work. Red lentils cook the fastest while brown, black, and green take slightly longer.
  • Crushed tomatoes – The subtle sweetness and acidity in canned tomatoes help balance the other layers of flavors.
  • Coconut milk – A whole can of coconut milk mellows out the strong flavors and spice. Plus, the finishing creamy texture is divine.
  • Lemon juice – Squeeze the lemons yourself for the brightest flavor.
  • Cilantro
ingredients for lentil curry in individual bowls.

How to make lentil curry

Find the complete recipe with measurements in the recipe card below.

Saute the garlic and ginger in a large pot with oil over medium heat. Cook until fragrant. Next, stir in all of the spices and keep them moving to prevent them from burning.

Now you can add the water to the pot, scraping any stuck brown bits on the bottom. Stir in the lentils and crushed tomatoes. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.

Leave the curry to simmer until the lentils are cooked through.

To finish, stir in the coconut milk and lemon juice. Add salt to taste, then stir in the cilantro. Serve with rice and naan and enjoy!

lentil curry topped with chopped cilantro leaves in a large black pot.

Instant Pot instructions

Turn on Saute mode on the Instant Pot. Saute the garlic and ginger in the oiled pot, then stir in the spices. Pour the water, lentils, crushed tomatoes, and coconut milk into the pot. Give everything a good stir and scrape up any brown bits stuck on the bottom.

Secure the lid and cook on High Pressure for 15 minutes. Let the pressure come down for 10 minutes, then release and stir in the lemon juice. Season with more salt and cilantro if needed.

Tips and variations

  • To make this recipe as easy as possible – Use pre-diced garlic, a tube of ginger, ground spices, and substitute the brown lentils for red lentils.
  • Lentil cooking times – Dried red lentils will take between 25 to 30 minutes to cook. Brown, green, and black lentils will take 30 to 40 minutes.
  • For a smoother texture – Quickly puree the curry with an immersion blender while it’s still in the pot.
  • Serving suggestions – Serve the curry in bowls with basmati rice, brown rice, coconut rice, cauliflower rice, or quinoa. Scooping it up with pieces of vegan naan bread really takes it up a notch!
close up on lentil curry with white rice in a white bowl.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Can you add vegetables to lentil curry? Sure! Butternut squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers, and eggplant are some of my favorite vegetables to add to a pot of curry. Add the quick-cooking vegetables when you add the coconut milk.
  2. How long does lentil curry last? The leftovers will last for about 5 days when kept in airtight containers in the fridge.
  3. Can you freeze it? Yes, lentil curry freezes very well. Let the batch cool, then transfer it to freezer-safe containers and freeze. Let the frozen leftovers thaw in the fridge before reheating on the stove or in the microwave.
close up on lentil curry with white rice in a white bowl.

Want more vegan curry recipes?

close up on lentil curry with white rice in a white bowl.

Lentil Curry

Lentil Curry is what comfort food dreams are made of! It’s a hearty one-pot meal that’s filled with protein-packed lentils, warm spices, and coconut milk. Instant Pot instructions included.
5 stars (4 ratings)

Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup dried brown lentils, black, green or red work too
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
  • 13.5 ounce can full fat coconut milk, or light coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

For serving

Instructions

  • Heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
  • Add the turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper and salt and cook for 30-60 seconds, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. Add a few tablespoons of water if needed.
  • Pour in the water, scraping any bits stuck to the pan. Add the lentils and crushed tomatoes and mix well.
  • Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30-40 minutes (if using red lentils, it will only take 25-30 minutes), until the lentils are soft and cooked. Stir occasionally.
  • Once the lentils are cooked, stir in the coconut milk and lemon juice. Taste; add more salt as desired. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.
  • Serve with rice, naan and garnish with more fresh cilantro, if desired.

Notes

  1. Easy tip -Use jarred chopped garlic and a tube of ginger if you want to make it easier and quick, but fresh will taste best. I use this grater for ginger and a garlic press.
  2. Smooth curry – For a more pureed lentil curry, use an immersion blender and blend a little in the pan.
  3. Freezer friendly – This is a great freezer recipe, cool in freezer friendly containers and freeze. When ready to serve, thaw overnight and heat on the stovetop or microwave until heated through.
  4. Instant Pot – To make in an Instant Pot, first sauté the garlic and ginger using the sauté feature in your Instant Pot, then add the spices and salt and stir, adding a few tablespoons of water to deglaze the pan. Add the water, lentils, crushed tomatoes and coconut milk, stir well, scraping any bits stuck to the pot on the bottom. Secure the lid, and cook at high pressure for 15 minutes. Let the pressure come down for 10 minutes, then release and stir in the lemon juice. Add the cilantro and more salt as desired.

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 6 servings, Calories: 314kcal, Carbohydrates: 33g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 13g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3g, Sodium: 581mg, Potassium: 894mg, Fiber: 13g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 392IU, Vitamin C: 18mg, Calcium: 92mg, Iron: 7mg

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