Delicious aromatic spices of this red lentil curry recipe are a perfect way to add flavor to a weeknight meal. This easy meal is not only delicious, but an excellent way to add a meatless meal to your menu. Lentils are packed with protein and a versatile choice to keep in the pantry. This tomato, lentil, and spinach curry is a perfect addition to your recipe box.
Red Lentil Curry
A few years ago, my family spent about 6 months on a completely plant-based diet. During that time, we were working on our health and found it to be a great way to refocus our meals with more vegetables, beans, and legumes. Lentils became a staple in the pantry, and this dish became a favorite.
Lentils and curry go hand in hand. The texture of lentils works wonderfully alongside the flavors of curry and the simple rice it is served with most often. I fell in love with this particular recipe because it had just enough heat to satisfy, but was still creamy and delicious. It has since become favorite comfort food for my family, and I am sure will for yours as well.
Can I Use Curry Powder Instead of Garam Masala?
While very similar, they are not the same. This recipe, in particular, focuses more on the heat from garam masala than the sweeter curry blend. Garam masala is a blend of spices used in many Indian dishes that contain more ground pepper for heat than a traditional curry powder. While both are absolutely delicious, they are not identical.
This recipe works well, however, as a basic curry or a masala. Just a few changes in the spices can take it to a different level of heat that is great for those who prefer a little spicier meal.
Note: Curry powder is a blend of around 20 different spices on most occasions. It tends to be more savory with no real heat level. Garam masala contains fewer spices, but the ones included tend to pack considerable heat. This results in a spicier option being made with the masala.
Is Red Lentil Curry Vegan?
Yes. This recipe as written is completely vegan. You can use different ingredients and make it vegetarian or even a carnivore dish, but as it stands, it's a great choice to serve to vegans.
One of the best things about this recipe is that it is ideal for everyone. My carnivore husband never complained about the lack of meat when we were following a plant-based diet. Why? Because I continually filled the menu with recipes like this lentil curry. It was rich, satisfying, and easy for both of us to make, so a huge hit every time.
Can I Use Different Types of Lentils?
While you can use different lentils, for this particular blend of spices, nondairy milk, and vegetables, I love the red lentils.
Red lentils provide a sweeter and nuttier flavor which really works wonderfully in this particular curry dish. With coconut milk being sweeter, it really compliments it well.
The other benefit of using red lentils versus green or brown is that they tend to break down and get a bit mushier. This means that they easily thicken the curry, and really pair well with rice and other vegetables.
If you decide to use brown, green, or even black lentils, you'll find the texture just a bit different. You will also need to adjust the cooking time as some will take longer to soften than others.
Do You Cook Lentils Before Adding to Curry?
For this recipe, you will let the lentils simmer in the sauce long enough to cook them through. In other faster curries, you will want to use lentils that are already cooked.
Red lentils cook in around 25-30 minutes, so they are ideal for a fast stovetop curry. Other varieties take longer to soften, so you may prefer to cook them before mixing them into the sauce.
What Do You Serve with Curry?
Curry is so versatile, delicious, and easy to make! I love that it pairs well with a number of sides. My go-to of course includes basmati or jasmine rice, and some garlic naan. Alongside that, however, you may want some more vegetables. If so, below are a few of my favorites that pair well with this flavor combination.
- Roasted cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, or Brussels sprouts
- Any steamed vegetable
- Sauteed mushrooms with turmeric and garlic
- Garden salad
- Olive oil
- Garlic cloves
- Fresh ginger
- Red onion
- Serrano chili pepper
- Garam masala
- Diced tomatoes
- Coconut milk
- Red lentils
- Fresh spinach
How to Make Red Lentil Curry
In a large dutch oven, over medium heat, add the olive oil and onion. Cook the onion for 4-5 minutes or until it's beginning to soften.
Add in the garlic, ginger, serrano chili pepper, cumin, garam masala, and coriander, then stir well then cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
Pour in diced tomatoes and salt, then stir to combine. Cook this mixture an additional 1-2 minutes.
Now, you will add in the milk and water. Stir to combine and bring back to a boil.
Once boiling again, pour in lentils and stir, then let this mixture simmer on low to medium heat for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add the spinach leaves and mix in letting them cook down for another 3-5 minutes.
Remove from heat and sprinkle with paprika before serving over basmati rice.
My Favorite Kitchen Tools
These favorite kitchen items came in handy when making this easy curry recipe.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ red onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1" piece fresh ginger, grated
- 1 serrano chile pepper, seeds removed and minced
- ½ tbsp garam masala
- 1 tsp cumin
- ¼ tsp coriander
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups diced tomatoes
- 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (full fat)
- 1 cup red lentils
- 3 cups fresh spinach
- ¼ tsp paprika
- 2 cups cooked basmati rice
- In a dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat adding in onions to cook for 4-5 minutes or until they begin to get tender;
- Add in the ginger, garlic, serrano, cumin, garam masala, and coriander, then stir well and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes;
- Pour in tomatoes and salt then stir and cook for 2-3 minutes;
- Add in the coconut milk, stir to mix, and then bring to a boil;
- Once boiling, add in the lentils and let simmer on low heat for 20 minutes uncovered;
- Stir in spinach and cook for an additional 5 minutes;
- Remove from heat and stir in paprika then serve over basmati rice.
If the spice level is a bit too much, feel free to leave out the serrano chile. You can also mix in a bit of plain yogurt to individual servings for those who prefer a less spicy curry.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 253Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 865mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 8gSugar: 5gProtein: 9g
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