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.