Slow cooker masala lentils are one of my favorite make-ahead lentil recipes! Serve them with rice, flatbread, or your favorite leafy greens for a nutritious vegan meal. Designed for the slow cooker, but with a stovetop option.
Living in a small New York City apartment means exercising caution when it comes to new appliances. There isn’t a lot of space to go around.
Having a slow cooker, though, has been a real advantage to me. Being able to “set-it-and-forget-it” really is as convenient and helpful as it sounds. And I love making big batches of food that can be frozen and used for future easy, homemade suppers.
These slow cooker masala lentils are one of my favorite slow cooker recipes. Why? Versatility. The lentils can be combined with cooked rice for a simple, yet nutritious vegan dinner. They can be folded into wraps, scooped up with your favorite flatbread, mixed with any whole grain, stuffed into a sweet potato—there’s no end to the possibilities.
Plus, they’re filling and flavorful.
Of all the vegan proteins out there, lentils are one of my absolute favorites. They’re rich in B vitamins, zinc, iron, potassium, and magnesium. They’re full of fiber, which makes them beneficial for digestive health and wellness. And of course they’re also a terrific source of protein, with about 10-12 grams of protein per half cup of cooked lentils.
I don’t only love lentils for their good nutrition. I also love how versatile they are. They can be eaten whole in salads or bowls, stirred into pasta, made into meatloaf, turned into a plant-based pate, and so much more.
Here, the lentils are cooked up to be soupy and saucy. They’re also seasoned with garam masala, which is one of my favorite spice blends. The slow cooker masala lentils also incorporate tomatoes for umami, tamarind paste for some brightness, and cashew cream or coconut milk for a creamy texture.
Garam masala is a spice blend that often contains some mixture of fennel, bay leaves, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, coriander, and/or red chili powder. It varies from region to region in India, and it has sweet, earthy notes.
Garam masala can often be found in both major and specialty grocers. You can also make your own blend, if you plan to use the spice mix often.
When I first made this recipe, I used a 6 quart slow cooker from Hamilton Beach. Hamilton Beach slow cookers are reliable, inexpensive machines!
My current slow cooker is the wonderful Wolf gourmet slow cooker. Full disclosure: I was gifted this slow cooker, and it’s really pricey. It is a wonderful machine, and I love having it. You can set it to high to sauté onions and garlic before setting it on a slow cook setting for things to simmer, hands off.
If you have an Instant Pot, you can of course use that (on a slow cooker setting) for the recipe.
Absolutely. I include instructions for making it without a slow cooker in the recipe card!
The slow cooker masala lentils recipe features a lot of household ingredients—onion, garlic, broth. A few of the recipe list highlights below:
I love to use pardina lentils, my favorite kind, in the recipe. But brown, black, and green lentils will all work nicely, too.
You can use either coconut milk or cashew cream in the recipe. Coconut milk adds lovely flavor, but cashew cream is my personal preference.
You can use a store-bought blend, or make your own.
Tamarind paste can also be found in specialty markets, as well as a lot of mainstream grocers (or online). It adds a wonderful tart flavor to this recipe. If you don’t have it, you can leave it out; if it’s something you like to keep at home, the recipe will still be savory and flavorful without it! You can help to replace it with a generous extra squeeze of lime.
This recipe could easily be modified to include a different blend of spices or even different ingredients; I’m thinking that sweet potato would be a marvelous addition. But it’s great just as it is: an easy, low-stress, protein-rich, iron-rich, and highly nourishing meal.
There are so many ways to enjoy these flavorful lentils! Some of my favorites:
Or whatever strikes your fancy!
There’s nothing like a big, saucy batch of lentils to add nutrition and flavor to your meals all week long. I hope you’ll come to enjoy this savory, fragrant dish as much as I do.
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This recipe surprised me with how good it was! I cook with lentils frequently, but this was the best masala lentil dish I have tried making. It tasted like something from a restaurant. I did fry the onion, garlic, ginger and a green chilli in a little oil before putting into the slow cooker. Thanks so much for this recipe.
I’m so glad that you enjoyed it so much, Jemma!
OK, so I am an unapologetic omnivore, with 90% of my meals consisting of meat. I made this because my wife has asked for a meatless day, given the circumstances, period. It being Mother’s Day, I figured what better day to make an exception to the norm. Long story short, this was fantastic and I would 100% make it again. Use all of the ingredients suggested. The tamarind makes a difference.
So glad you enjoyed!
If you aren’t available to add the coconut milk later during the cooking process, could it be added at the beginning instead?
I think so! I tend to taste the creaminess more when I finish with the milk or cashew cream, but I’m sure this would work, too 🙂
I think it would be best to precook the onions and garlic, they come out a bit crunchy even after six hours cooking. Otherwise the recipe is really good.
A good base recipe. I would recommend doubling the garam masala, adding cumin, curry powder and chilli powder. This gives it more flavour and kick.
I am sitting enjoying this dish as I post. I froze a good part of it because it yields a lot. It is so delicious and easy. One tweak, I took all of the spices and sautéed them along with cumin seeds in a bit of coconut oil. Once this became fragrant, I popped it all into the slow cooker. The best part of this recipe was, I had everything I needed in the house. Thank you for a wholesome, hearty, easy recipe.
Can red lentils be used instead o the lentils mentioned in the recipe? Would the cooking time change?
I’m not sure. I think the cooking time would be shorter, as red lentils cook more quickly, but I suspect I’d need to try it for a precise estimate! You could try cooking on high and keeping an eye on it to make sure it’s cooking the way you want it to.
Thanks, Gena! That’s exactly what I was thinking.
This was amazing, so tasty plus my first successful slow cooker meal to boot (had nearly given up on it!) Delicious, thank you and so easy to make. Thumbs up from my 9 year old son 🙂
On its own, I thought this recipe was pretty bland and it took WAYY longer than expected for the lentils to fully cook in the crock pot unfortunately. (7hrs on high) I ended up making a few adjustments. I doubled the amount of garam masala, and maple syrup. At the end, I added full fat coconut milk instead of low fat and served it all over some brown rice, with a side of achaar to spice things up. With those changes, we enjoyed our meal and had tons of leftovers, so we took your advice and froze some of it in individual portions for lunches.
I enjoyed this recipe mostly because it was very easy to make and I had all the ingredients already in my pantry. In my opinion it had good flavor; however, my husband didn’t like it as much. So very sad! I will have to change it – maybe by adding a few more veggies and changing the spices a little bit (for us it was a bit salty).
Thank you for the recipe.
I’m glad you liked it!
I just made this recipe and my house smells amazing!! Looking back I wish I wouldn’t have added additional liquid in the last hour because once the coconut milk was added it became more like a loose stew and I wanted it a bit thicker. You live and you learn. The only modification I’d make in the future would be to add in some chopped up jalapeno. I didn’t have any on hand and instead added a few heavy shakes of cayenne- but that’s for my personal taste. With all that said, this recipe is delicious!
I haven’t tried out any slow cooker recipes. Hopefully this will be my first one. They look delicious 🙂
I want to try African Peanut Stew!
I would definitely make more bean stews this winter like my favorite ribollita recipe!
I have so many recipes I would love to try, but maybe first a vegan mac and cheese. Yummy.
In my really old crockpot now! looking for a substitute to tamarind now.
Oh! this looks perfect. So I am going to try this now. Thanks for sharing.
I love to do a chili with quinoa. I’d do that first.
I am so curious to see how all these vegan slow cooker recipes turn out. I have not used one since I started my vegan diet back in February 🙂
I haven’t made a lot of slow-cooker recipes… but I’m a college student and we’re coming up on finals crunch time here… anything that could save me time is definitely worth trying! Whipping up a big batch of these masala lentils would last me all week! They look delicious!
I think I would like to try a white bean chili recipe or minestrone soup! ❤️
I would try the masala lentils recipe you posted, sounds good!
Steel cut oats are definitely my slow cooker’s best friend
I don’t have a slow cooker/crock pot. (Is there truly a difference???) Which feels sort of blasphemous. I’ve been looking into getting one, so this seems very fortuitous. Fingers crossed!
Also, that looks absolutely delicious. It’s gonna have to be one of the first recipes I try once I actually have a slow cooker.
This is the first recipe I’ve made from this blog, and I am officially obsessed with it as well as slow-cooker recipes in general. I looked at my husband and said, “Seriously, it’s this easy?!” I will definitely be doing this for beans/soups/chilis on a weekly basis, so thank you!
Thank you, Brittany! I’m so glad you liked it. I must admit, having a slow cooker has really been an incredible asset in the last two weeks, and I’m quickly falling in love with mine. I’ll be sure to keep sharing my favorite recipes!
Your lentil recipe looks yummy! I’ve never cooked oats in a slow cooker so that would be what I would want to try first. It would be nice to have breakfast ready in the mornings.
The madras lentils sound (and look!) delicious. I don’t have a slow cooker so I’m often having to pass over recipes that call for them. It would be great to remedy that!
I want to make vegan chili !
Would love a new slow cooker with a timer- that seems like a great feature for beans when I am running late from work!!
Being a college student, space and time are two things I don’t have a lot of. I could whip up some yummy curry dishes with this perfect addition to my quaint (and cramped…) dorm. And my roommate would be happy!
I’d love to make this masala recipe. Mmmm, I just love curries!
My instagram is @traciemichelle05
Would love to make channa masala!
I would love to own a slow cooker so I can have nice warm meals when I get home from work! I love recipes just like this one.
I’d like to try making desserts in the slow cooker. I’ve seen so many good ones!
I love to make Beef Stew!
I would have to say vegeterian chili
I have a great vegan tortilla soup recipe that would work wonderfully in this!
This was delicious! I had it last night. Mmmmmmm!!!!!! Can’t wait to eat the leftovers.
This would be great! I’ve always wanted to make apple butter in a slow cooker.
Slow cooker warm porridge on winter mornings sounds just delightful! Thanks for the new recipe.
I loved my slow cooker! It recently decided that it had enough and quit working on me! It stopped turning on and if you were able to get that far it would turn itself off when trying to program it! It’s about 11 years old and well loved!
This looks wonderful! I’d love to see some recipes for braised tempeh, too!
My husband just told me he wants a slow cooker! Destiny 🙂
I would make vegan chili!
This dish sounds delicious. I’ve been trying to track down some recipes as I recently won a slow cooker =) I don’t use it very often though, it kind of sits at the back of the cupboard… but I will pull it out to try this =)
I have this in my slow cooker right now! I’m excited to taste the finished product.
I love my slow cooker and use it often. A Year of Slow Cooking has many recipes that are vegan or can be converted to become vegan. Some favorites are 21 Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry, Bombay Beans and Potatoes and Sweet Potato Chili.
Thank you for the giveaway!
I have made so many of your delicious recipes and can’t wait to try this one.. Your cookbook is one of my favourites as is your blog
Ooohh I’d love to try this recipe in a slow cooker or perhaps a black bean stew recipe!
I’d love to try a vegan potato soup. I haven’t made it since I started the omni to vegan transition, and it’s the right weather for soup!
Hmm…I’m sure I’d make some kind of stew or chili in my slow cooker. Thanks for the giveaway; I have one that has never worked and I’ve just never replaced it! xoxo
I’m also curious about the slow cooker oatmeal, but I’d definitely be putting this to use for chili!
I’ve been dreaming of making a delicious curried butternut squash soup, it would be a so simple to prepare in the slow cooker too!
I would love to make your Butternut Squash Gratin! This slow cooker looks amazing!
Rajma! (Indian red kidney beans) —
I make it in a small cooker currently, using Anupy Singla’s recipe, but it’s so good it would be great to make a bigger amount at once.
Some sort of bean chili/stew…chilis are my favorite thing to make in slow cookers 🙂
I’ve always wanted to try a slow cooker as well! Imagine coming home after a long day of work to a delicious black bean stew ready to be devoured!
I want to try to make zucchini lasagna in my slow cooker if I win.
Cabbage and sweet onions would be first. Thanks for the chance!
I’d like to find a nice rice breakfast dish. It would be great to wake up to the wonderful scent of breakfast ready for the table.
Ah, I’ve been thinking of getting a slow cooker for a while now, but I wasn’t sure that I would use it enough to justify the purchase. This recipe looks like a great start!
I think I would use the slow cooker to making staples, like bbq sauces, tomato sauces, and beans. I love the idea of being able to set a button and forget about it.
Just looking at pics of this Masala Lentils make me want it NOW!!!! Yumm!~Thanks so much for lovely ideas.
I would love to have a sow cooker! This recipe is what I would make, it looks so good!
As for what type of recipe I’d like to make – either steel cut oats for an easy nourishing breakfast, or this masala lentils recipe!
This looks so amazing and perfect for the cold rainy weather I’ve been seeing lately!
Steel cut oats. Yummy!
I want to try making desserts in a slower cooker! I found a recipe for chocolate peanut butter cake that looks yummy.
I’d love to make the recipe you talk about – sounds delicious!
Beans, so I can buy less canned.