Creamy Coconut Curried Green Lentils
4.50 from 12 votes

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.

An overhead image of a plate of steamed broccoli, brown rice, and coconut curried green lentils.

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!)

The beauty of creamy lentils

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.

How to make coconut curried green lentils

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.

That’s it!

Green lentils vs brown lentils

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.

A white plate is resting on a white surface. It holds a dish of curried lentils, rice, and broccoli.

Do I need to soak my lentils before cooking?

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.

Swaps and substitutions

A number of the ingredients in this recipe can be swapped or substituted, based on what you have at home.

Green lentils

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.

Fresh ginger

It’s fine to substitute a teaspoon of ground ginger powder in place of the fresh ginger in the curried green lentils.

Green curry paste

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.

Coconut milk

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

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.

Serving coconut curried green lentils

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!

A white ceramic plate has been piled with vegetables, legumes, and brown rice. It rests on a white surface.

Meal prep and storage

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.

An overhead image of a plate of steamed broccoli, brown rice, and coconut curried green lentils.
4.50 from 12 votes

Creamy Coconut Curried Green Lentils

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yields: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons avocado oil
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (substitute 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 1/4 cup green curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 lb green lentils, soaked for a few hours prior and drained prior to cooking* (450g / about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth + 1 cup water
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup full-fat, canned coconut milk (substitute all-purpose cashew cream)
  • 6 cups finely chopped spinach or baby spinach
  • Fresh lime juice to taste
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • For serving or bowls: cooked rice, steamed greens, shredded, raw vegetables, hot sauce, chopped nuts, and any other accompaniments of choice

Instructions

  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until clear and tender, stirring often. Add the garlic, ginger, and green curry paste and cook for another minute, stirring constantly.
  • Add the salt, lentils, broth, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 30-35 minutes, or until the lentils are tender (more time may be needed, depending on whether you have time to soak your lentils first). Uncover and add the coconut milk and spinach. Cook for 10 more minutes, uncovered, or until the spinach is tender. Add lime juice and crushed red pepper to taste, and adjust salt as needed.
  • You can scoop the curried lentils over cooked rice, or you can serve them bowl style (as pictured!) by serving them with rice, steamed vegetables, and some crunchy toppings. The lentils are also great with flatbread.

Notes

*Soaking isn’t necessary, but it can help to reduce cooking time.
Leftover lentils will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month. Recipe can be cut in half for a smaller yield.
A white plate has been piled high with bright green broccoli, lentils, rice, and chopped nuts. It's resting on a white surface.

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.

xo

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Recipe Rating




    25 Comments
  1. 5 stars
    I’ve made this twice, once for myself as a week-long lunch at work and another as a dish for a potluck. Both times I have been so pleased and it received rave reviews. Its the perfect balance of rich and creamy, with healthy. I did add some spicy curry powder to mine to give it some kick. To keep it healthy I roast some sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin or butternut squash and serve it over that not rice. I also added some steamed broccoli and bell peppers. This recipe is fabulous.

  2. I just made this recipe, and it turned out great! I added serrano and garlic chile sauce because I enjoy spicy. Also, fresh basil at the end took it over the top. It blows away any canned lentil soup on the market and is so easy and inexpensive. Thank you so much!

    • I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure it could be modified properly if you’re familiar with how to modify recipes for cooking that way.

  3. Splendid meal, we enjoyed this very much. Thanks Gena.
    Greetings from Australia.

  4. These sound so soothing Gena! I love big batch meals you can freeze, especially when it comes to trying to feed my man and somehow not spend all my time in the kitchen ;). Hope you are having a gorgeous first bit of spring and that all of the cookbook work is going well too friend! Thanks for all you create and all who you inspire, so grateful for you <3.

  5. I like that stewy, creamy texture, Gena and yaas to that prepared curry paste. There’s some things that I just give in to.. and that is one of them. I’m forever perplexed too.. now that you mention it, about green lentils cook time. Sometimes less than others? IDK, but I will try soaking them next time. Thank you for that. This recipe looks soooo good. I fall more and more in love with lentils each time I make them… they’re cheap, pack a nutritional punch and like you said are always freezer friendly. What’s not to love!? Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe with us!

  6. Love the idea of making my own green curry paste! I mean, I’m glad to hear you used canned, because I have a ton of those cans no hand bc they are so handy, but a diy paste would be fun. Thanks for sharing Gena. These look so good. All I want to eat right now it seems is lentils. Hope you are well!

  7. 5 stars
    I love this one Gena!! I only had red curry at home and it tastes delicious. YUM!!

  8. These look yummy, Gena, and remind me of something very similar I used to make back in the day. I, too, have a chronic tendency to turn things that start out being soup into stew, and I’m never sorry about it either! Thanks for the inspiration! xoxo

  9. I agree with Allyson, this a perfect recipe for March! I absolutely love green lentils, thanks for this recipe Gena.

  10. Where do you buy your lentils? My little cal stores ( also NYC) only carrry brown, and red
    Thanks!!

    • I usually get the in the bulk bin section at the health food store in my neighborhood, but my local Whole Foods also sells bags by the pound!