This versatile vegan recipe for coconut-curried green lentils is so creamy, and easy to make at home. Serve as a soup, or as part of a nutritious vegan buddha bowl. Soaking the green lentils beforehand isn’t necessary, but I find it to be a helpful step to reduce cooking time.
There’s nothing like a big pot of cooked lentils to support a busy week.
As a dietitian, I’m always trying to help my clients with nutritious, low-effort meal prep that can support their busy schedules.
A pound of dry beans or lentils is a good friend to the busy meal prepper. These nutritious legumes will yield a lot of food once cooked. They lend themselves to many different recipes and preparations, ranging from simple to complex. They’re filling, rich in plant protein, fiber, B vitamins, and other vitamins and minerals.
I love cooking up big batches of beans. But vegan lentil recipes are especially good for batch cooking when you’re short on time. Lentils cook quickly, and while soaking isn’t required, it’ll make them ready even sooner.
In addition, lentils are truly a vegan superfood. They’re packed with folate, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, and the list goes on.
Better still, lentils are so versatile. They can be used in tons of vegan dinners, ranging from salads to soups and stews to dips. I think it’s especially fun to turn them into one-pot meals, like my Italian quinoa lentils.
These curried green lentils are practically a one-pot meal, and it doesn’t take much to transform them into a hearty vegan bowl.
Add a vegetable and a whole grain to serve the lentils with, and you’ll have yourself a balanced, nutrient-dense power plate. (I love these meals so much, I wrote a whole cookbook about them!)
This is one of those recipes that began as one thing and became another.
Prompted by a pound of green lentils that needed using, I started off with the intention of making a big pot of curried green lentil soup.
As the lentils were cooking, I found myself hesitant to add more liquid. I kept thinking about my masala lentils and how much I love their dense, creamy texture. I also thought about my Italian quinoa lentils, which proved to me that lentils + cashew cream are a killer combo.
In the end, I let the mixture stay more stew-like than soupy, and I’m not sorry about it. The addition of coconut milk (or cashew cream) only enhances the richness of the recipe.
Without the creamy component, the curried green lentils are still flavorful, wholesome, and worthy of a place on your table. But I think that the creaminess takes the recipe effortlessly to another level.
The process of making the curried green lentils is really wonderfully simple.
You’ll start by sautéing onion and carrots together till tender. Then, you’ll add garlic, minced ginger, green curry paste, and salt. Cook for another minute or so, until the garlic is quite fragrant.
At this point, you’ll add your lentils (either soaked or un-soaked—more below), vegetable broth, and some water. Bring your lentils to a rolling boil, reduce the heat to low, cover them, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until they’re cooked through. Some lentils might need less time, others might need a little more.
Now you can stir in your coconut milk, which will give the dish its creamy texture, along with baby spinach. The spinach wilts into the lentils easily, so it won’t take long for it to become fully incorporated into the dish.
Finally, add some freshly squeezed lime juice and crushed red pepper flakes. Taste the lentils and season them to taste with additional salt, lime juice, and red pepper.
I used green lentils in this recipe, but green and brown lentils tend to be similar in cooking time and texture. Green lentils make take slightly longer to cook, but that’s the main distinction. You can use brown lentils if you prefer.
In this roundup of my favorite vegan lentil recipes, I share more about types of lentils and how I like to use them in recipes.
You’ll notice that I give the option of soaking the lentils prior to cooking.
I never used to do this, because lentils have a relatively quick cooking time. However, that time can vary based on how fresh the lentils are, where you purchase them from, and other factors.
If you want to guarantee that you won’t have to spend unforeseen extra time cooking lentils that are unexpectedly tough, then I do recommend soaking your lentils.
3-4 hours of soaking time along will make a difference. If it’s easier to soak them overnight, that’s fine.
I soak my lentils in a big pot or bowl of water. I don’t think it’s necessary to do this in the fridge, though if your home runs very hot, you may wish to soak in the fridge for soak times of 4+ hours.
Before cooking the lentils, drain them completely of their soak water and give them a quick rinse.
A number of the ingredients in this recipe can be swapped or substituted, based on what you have at home.
Feel free to use brown lentils, French lentils, black (beluga) lentils, or pardina lentils in their place. Cooking times may vary slightly, so be sure to test the lentils for doneness as you make the recipe.
I don’t recommend red lentils for the recipe, as their texture is significantly softer than that of other lentil varieties.
It’s fine to substitute a teaspoon of ground ginger powder in place of the fresh ginger in the curried green lentils.
In place of green curry paste, you can use red curry paste. Feel free to pick a brand with a level of heat that suits your personal tastes.
If you’re in the habit of making homemade curry paste, then so much the better! The recipe will probably be more flavorful for it.
I really love the creaminess and faint coconut flavor that canned, full-fat coconut milk adds to this recipe.
However, as a dietitian, I tend to use coconut foods in moderation because of their rich saturated fat content.
These curried lentils are one place where I do love to use coconut milk. But if you’re keeping very close tabs on your saturated fat intake, I’d suggest my all-purpose cashew cream as a substitute for the full-fat, canned coconut milk.
Low-fat, canned coconut milk is another option, but keep in mind that it won’t be as rich or creamy as the full-fat version or cashew cream.
Spinach is convenient in the curried green lentils because it takes no time at all to cook.
That said, you can replace it with any other dark, leafy green that you have at home. I’ve made the lentils with kale, chard, and collard greens. I especially love the way that chopped collards work in the recipe.
It’s fine to turn the curried green lentils into a light meal by serving them in a soup bowl. On their own, or with a squeeze of lime juice or a little chopped, fresh cilantro, they’re very tasty.
If you like, add some naan, chapati, or pita bread for scooping them up.
I also think it’s great to turn the lentils into a component in a vegan bowl. You can pick any grain to serve them with, along with raw or cooked veggies of choice. Chopped nuts, hot sauce, and fresh chopped herbs are all great additional toppings.
You can even mix the creamy, curried green lentils with some cooked rice or quinoa and stuff them into wraps—sort of similar to my beloved lentil tahini wraps!
Usually when I make a big ‘ole pot of lentils, I’m aiming to have leftovers.
So, as with most of my soup and stew recipes, the curried green lentils will give you a lot of food. I’d say that the recipe yields between 8 and 10 portions, depending on how you serve it. (It can be cut in half for fewer portions, if you like.)
The good news is that leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Even better, you can freeze the curried green lentils for up to 2 months. So at a moment’s notice, you’ll be able to have nutritious, creamy, satisfying vegan plant-protein on your table, and then in your belly.
There’s something so comforting about having a giant batch of wholesome plant food on hand for a week’s worth of easy lunches and dinners. I hope you’ll enjoy the goodness and simplicity of this recipe as much as I have.