Slow Cooker Spiced Lentils with Garam Masala
4.19 from 55 votes

These spiced lentils with garam masala are one of my favorite vegan meal prep recipes to make in my slow cooker. The lentils are creamy, hearty, and savory, but most of all, they’re incredibly versatile. You can use them in plant-based grain bowls, add them to wraps, serve them over baked sweet potatoes, or add them to any dish that wants a flavorful vegan protein.

Two white, ceramic bowls hold dishes of garam masala spiced lentils and cooked brown rice.

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.

Lentils: a nutrient powerhouse

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.

What is garam masala?

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.

What slow cooker is best for the recipe?

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.

Can I make this recipe without a slow cooker?

Absolutely. I include instructions for making it without a slow cooker in the recipe card!

Three white stoneware bowls rest on a white surface. They've been filled with a whole grain rice and tomato-stewed legume mixture.

Slow cooker masala lentils ingredients

The slow cooker masala lentils recipe features a lot of household ingredients—onion, garlic, broth. A few of the recipe list highlights below:

Lentils

I love to use pardina lentils, my favorite kind, in the recipe. But brown, black, and green lentils will all work nicely, too.

Coconut milk (or cashew cream)

You can use either coconut milk or cashew cream in the recipe. Coconut milk adds lovely flavor, but cashew cream is my personal preference.

Garam masala

You can use a store-bought blend, or make your own.

Tamarind paste

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.

How to serve slow cooker masala lentils

There are so many ways to enjoy these flavorful lentils! Some of my favorites:

  • Over rice
  • With flatbread
  • Over quinoa or bulgur
  • In a wrap or dosa
  • In a grain bowl

Or whatever strikes your fancy!

An overhead image of a white, ceramic bowl that has been filled with brown rice and lentils cooked in a red sauce. It rests against a white backdrop.
Two white, ceramic bowls hold dishes of masala spiced lentils and cooked brown rice.
4.19 from 55 votes

Slow Cooker Masala Lentils (gluten free, soy free)

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 10 minutes
Yields: 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced, fresh ginger
  • 2 cups brown, green, or pardina lentils
  • 4 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes (1 15-ounce can)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind paste optional, adds tartness
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • A few shakes black pepper
  • 3/4 cup cashew cream (substitute 1 cup full-fat coconut milk)
  • cooked rice (optional, for serving)
  • chopped fresh cilantro (optional, for serving)

Instructions

  • Place all ingredients except for the cashew cream or coconut milk in your slow cooker. Stir. Cook on high heat for 4 hours or on low heat for 8 hours. In the last hour or two of cooking, respectively, check to see if the lentils need more liquid, and add extra broth or water. You can adjust this based on how thick you'd like the finished lentils to be, keeping in mind that you'll be adding more liquid in the form of the cashew cream or coconut milk.
  • When the lentils are ready, stir in the cashew cream or coconut milk. Serve the lentils over a whole grain, if desired, and garnish with fresh, chopped cilantro.
  • If you're cooking the lentils on the stovetop: sauté the onion in a tablespoon avocado oil (or another neutral cooking oil) or 1/4 cup vegetable broth over medium heat till the onion is soft and clear (about 5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and ginger and cook for one more minute. Add the remaining ingredients except for the cashew cream or coconut milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the lentils are thickened. Stir in the cashew cream or coconut milk, season to taste with additional salt, and serve.

Notes

Leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days, and they can be frozen for up to 6 weeks.
Two ceramic bowls have been piled with masala spiced, cooked lentils. Another bowl in the backdrop is filled with cooked brown rice.

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.

xo

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Categories: Recipes, Main Dishes, Vegan Basics
Method: One Pot, Slow Cooker
Ingredients: Lentils
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, No Oil, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan
Recipe Features: Meal Prep

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Recipe Rating




    185 Comments
  1. Thanks for the giveaway! My first choice of recipe would be a hearty stew (most definitely with sweet potato in it!).

  2. Amazing! And I am needing a new slow cooker as mine in 8 years old and on it’s last legs!

  3. Chili would be wonderful to make now that it’s getting colder outside. I’m a student, so coming home to a warm meal when I get home late at night would be lovely!

  4. We were just talking about slow cooker steel cut oats at our house! I’d love to try making them that way–definitely the first thing I’d try if I won!

  5. My first recipe would be something that you would never think would work. Considering I’ve made pudla in a slow cooker before the bar is high. Perhaps some Banh Bao?

  6. I have honestly never used a slow cooker before, but I would LOVE to try one out! I feel like it would make my life so much easier. The first thing I would probably try making in it is the vegetable broth that I make from leftover scraps!

  7. I’ve been loving soups and stews lately so I’d probably make something similar to this recipe. Legumes make me so happy!

  8. This recipe sounds/looks amazing! And that slow cooker is impressive. I’d love to have it on my counter to come home to during the coming NYC winter. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I always make soups, stews and chili on the stove but a slow cooker would work too and I’d love to try it!

  10. I’d love to make any vegan slow cooker recipe! I would have to search Pinterest for some ideas but this lentil dish looks great!

  11. Chilis, soups, and stews for a tasty meal that makes the house smell great!
    But also desserts – slow cooker cinnamon apples, for example!

  12. I love my slow cooker, but the one thing I haven’t tried is making chili in it. I plan on trying it this fall. 🙂

  13. I would make soup after soup for winter. I love in Colorado and it gets cold. Soup is the best. I have been shopping for a programmable slow cooker, I so want one.

  14. Sounds like a nice easy lentil recipe (so tired of making the same lentil soup all the time!) can’t wait to give it a try!!

  15. I can’t wait to try this! Sounds like a delicious meal to come home to after work!

  16. Excited to give this a try. Am excited to maybe win a slow cooker too! Thank you for the recipe and the opportunity.
    Jeanie

  17. Law school as taught me that I need a slow cooker. I would cook just about anything in a slow cooker if it meant coming home to a warm dinner!

  18. This sounds so yummy and hearty. Can’t wait for it to cool down a little more in So Cal so I can bundle up by the fireplace with a bowl of this!

  19. I’ve been dying to try making my own apple butter in a slow cooker. I also would love to try some sort of chili or bean stew in a slow cooker. I’ve been contemplating getting one lately, so this would be a great start!

  20. This looks great Gena! I love the addition of the tamarind! I also love my slow cooker. I even have a tiny one for just me. They are very nice in the winter. Thanks! xo

  21. Chili or some kind of curry…or the recipe you posted! I think they would make the house smell amazing!

  22. Love it! I also recently broke down and asked for a slow cooker for Christmas. I wanted something super practical, so I went with an instant pot which is also a pressure cooker (and a whole bunch of other things). The first thing I made was a pumpkin-pear-apple butter. 🙂

  23. I am very inexperienced with using slow cookers (which my friends think is funny because I cook so much, and they tell me its “so easy!” but I’m all intimidated by it for some reason! haha), so I think I’d start by following your lead and trying that lentil masala!!! Gorgeous Gena!

  24. I would love to try this recipe!!! Do you know if this slow cooker works as a rice cooker too?

  25. This looks delicious! I would love to try this in a slow cooker – so much easier! Do you think green lentils would work as I have tons of them (by your description, they might be more mushy – but would it still work ok?)

  26. Oh my goodness, this would be the very first recipe I would make with a slow cooker!!!

  27. daal is one of my favorite meal in winter, I learned lentils were bad for the gut lining and I just don’t want to believe it… legumes are a staple in so many countries around the world! I will soak my lentils for 24 h now

  28. I’ve never cooked lentil in crockpot but love the idea. I will definitely be trying this recipe.

  29. Favorite slow cooker recipe = any kind of beans or all-day apple butter!

  30. I need to branch out a bit. I would like to try an Indian recipe in the crockpot!

  31. I just love that you can use tamarind in lentils and of course the use of a slow cooker in these busy times with some much to fit into our schedules and days, not even a WANT but rather a desperate need for any form of help to make it all come together for a healthy meal to keep nutrition up for the whole family and their busy lives.

  32. Hi Gena:
    What size can of diced or stewed tomatoes – guessing the 15 oz??
    Thanks : )

  33. Yum! I would make something like this recipe, like a stew or chili. A slow cooker would be so helpful for long days at school!

  34. Yum! I will make this recipe soon. I have an Instant Pot, so I can saute onions & garlic, then add other ingredients and switch to slow cooking all in the same pot.

  35. I’d like to make a bread pudding, or a chocolate cake type dessert in a slow cooker.

  36. I’d love to make your broccoli and quinoa soup recipe in this!:)

  37. I LOVE this giveaway, thank you! And red lentils are my new must-have in the kitchen. Thanks so much, Gena!

  38. There are so many lentil dishes I’d like to try in a slow cooker, starting with this recipe!

  39. I would start by making split pea soup. I usually just make it on the stove, but often my energy reserves run out before it happens since split peas require a 90 minute wait time. However, if it was cooking all day, I wouldn’t have to prolong my hunger in the evenings.

  40. I would like to make this recipe of the Slow Cooker Masala Lentils. I love lentils my mother would always make lentil soup when I was young and I would like to try this one. It looks delicious.

  41. I’ve been on the lookout for vegan slow cooker recipes. So excited you’ll be sharing them here! Would love to win this nifty slow cooker to whip up these yummy meals! Thanks for sharing!

  42. I’ve never used a slow cooker, but I would love to try one for simply cooking dried beans. It seems like a task well-suited to a slow cooker.

  43. I’ve been contemplating getting a slow cooker too! I love the idea of being able to prep a meal, then walking away so the slow cooker can “do its magic” as you said 🙂 I would love to make this recipe, it sounds so hearty and nourishing!

  44. This looks good. Trying it this weekend. I am a huge fan of dump and go crock pot recipes. I rarely brown anything that goes in and it still gets eaten by my family.

  45. I have wanted one forever too! I live in 550 sq ft in DC with my boyfriend and my cat so I have the same problem- but I think a slow cooker would be worth cluttering up my counters more (already have a vitamix, food processor, toaster and coffeemaker that all get used on the regular) for the time-saving function it provides. The boyfriend does not necessarily agree….
    If I had a slowcooker I’d make this recipe, it sounds great! As it is, I’ll probably make the stovetop version.

  46. I am brand new to the whole vegan thing. I never paid much attention to the foods I ate. This week I started researching and looking up vegan things. I hope to change the foods and way I eat. I would love to have this to cook vegan chili in. 🙂

  47. Never had lentils before but this looks/sounds really good so I think I will be making this soon.

  48. I’ve been thinking lately that a slow cooker would be great to make a big batch of applesauce… and I think I remember seeing somewhere a slow cooker apple butter recipe – that’d be awesome!

  49. This looks so yummy. I love how thick sauces get in the slow cooker. I would love to try a thick vegan tomato sauce, to which I could serve over sweet potato and green vegetables or tofu! Mmmmm

  50. Believe it or not, I’ve never made a soup of chili in my slow cooker! I want to this season…and granola!

  51. OMG this looks amazing! And I LOVE the slow cooker. It’s like having a live in chef!

  52. Thanks for the chance!

    My big family loves to cook ,and this will be a hit in our household!

  53. I love my slow cooker…use it for all soups, stews,etc. Can’t wait to try this recipe.

  54. Actually I’d really like to try out the Slow Cooker Masala Lentils recipe you described above. Looks yummy!

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