This Vegan Red Lentil Curry is the best lentil curry you will ever try! It’s easy and quick, making it a perfect weeknight dinner! Plus, it’s creamy and indulgent but made with wholesome vegan ingredients!
When you hear lentils, you probably don’t think of decadence. You probably think of healthy, nourishing, and if we’re being honest, maybe even boring. But, I’m here to change your perception of lentils with this ultra creamy, ultra indulgent Vegan Red Lentil Curry that comes together in a snap.
- 1 1/2 cups red lentils
- 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 small shallot or onion finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons fresh tumeric finely chopped (or 1 tablespoon of powder)
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic about 6 cloves
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon garam masala powder
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth (or water)
- 1 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup almond butter (or other nutty butter)
- 1 can coconut milk (14 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice about 1/2 large lemon
- Cooked rice for serving
- Chopped fresh cilantro for serving
Rinse and drain the lentils, then set aside.
Dice up your ginger, garlic, chili peppers, and turmeric (if using fresh).
Set the Instant Pot to sauté and add 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil or other oil. Once the oil has melted, add 1 tablespoon water, the shallot, ginger, tumeric and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until very fragrant and the shallot is soft, about 2 minutes. Add the spice powders, coconut sugar, salt, and stir vigorously. Stand back and try not to breathe in any of the steam coming from the pot (it’s spicy!).
Next, deglaze with the vegetable broth, then add in the red lentils and tomatoes. Stir to coat the lentils completely with the liquid.
Hit cancel to stop the sauté function, seal the lid, then set to cook on HIGH pressure for 8 minutes. (It will take about 8 minutes for the pressure to build, then the timer will begin.) Once the timer has stopped, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then vent to release the pressure completely, then open the lid.
Stir in coconut milk and almond butter.
Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired. If the curry is too thick, add a bit more water to loosen as needed. Finally, stir in the lemon juice and cilantro, and season to taste.
Cooking with no Instant pot:
If you don’t have the Instant pot, you can easily do it on a frying pan. Make sure it’s deep enough though!
Sauté the ginger, garlic, chili peppers, and turmeric (if using fresh) in hot oil for about 2 minutes, until fragrant.
Then, add the ground spices and cook for 30-60 seconds, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
Deglaze with the vegetable broth, then add in the red lentils and crushed tomatoes.
Simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through.
Stir in the coconut milk and almond butter.
Continue cooking, uncovered, for 5 to 8 minutes, until the curry has thickened.
Finally, stir in the lemon juice and cilantro, and season to taste.
Tips for Making this Vegan Red Lentil Curry
Don’t skimp on the garlic and ginger and spices. This is what infuses the dish with tons of flavor!
If you can’t tolerate spicy food whatsoever, you can omit the chili peppers. If you can handle a little heat, use one Serrano pepper (remove the seeds) or one jalapeño pepper (keep the seeds; jalapeño peppers are less spicy than Serranos). If you can handle a moderate amount of heat, try one serrano pepper with the seeds intact. And if you really like things on the spicy side, use two Serrano peppers, with seeds intact. This is what I do 🙂
If you can’t find fresh turmeric, just substitute 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric and add it with the other ground spices. The easiest way to mince fresh turmeric (and ginger) is by using a microplane or a small cheese grater.
If your can of coconut milk is not mixed well (i.e., the solid cream part is very distinct from the liquid part), you might want to first pour the milk into a large bowl and whisk to break up the clumps. That’ll make it easier to whisk the milk into the curry.
Make sure you use smooth almond butter, as it’ll be harder to incorporate crunchy almond butter into the curry and you might end up with chunks of almond butter.
The cook time will vary slightly depending on the type of pan you use and the variety of lentils. When I make this in a wide, shallow pan, the lentils get softened and cooked through more quickly (about 20-22 minutes) than when I use a soup pot or Dutch oven (closer to 30 minutes). Also, as mentioned earlier, red split lentils will cook a bit more quickly than standard red lentils.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use another nut butter besides almond butter?
Cashew butter would be the next best option, as it’s equally creamy and neutral in taste. Peanut butter might overwhelm the other flavors in this dish, but if it’s the only option you have, I recommend starting off with a smaller amount (1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons, instead of 3) and taste as you go. That said, many users have made it with peanut butter and enjoyed it. And for a nut-free option, you can try tahini.
Can I freeze the leftovers?
I’ve probably only frozen this recipe once because it’s my partner’s favorite, so he usually eats it within a day or two. That said, it does freeze pretty well, and I’ve had many readers freeze it with good results.
Can I use water instead of vegetable broth?
Yes! Just add a tad more salt, as needed.
Can I add vegetables to this curry?
Many readers have added sweet potatoes when adding the lentils (I recommend grating them so they melt into the texture-it’s so good!), as well as mushrooms or greens like spinach when adding the coconut milk. You could add in quick-cooking vegetables when adding the coconut milk, or for extra protein, you can add in a can of chickpeas at this time.
Can I make Red Lentil Curry in the Instant Pot?
Yes! Start by using the sauté program and then pressure-cook it for 2 minutes and it’s ready!