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This easy-to-make creamy coconut lentil curry is a healthy vegan recipe that makes a perfect meatless Monday dinner recipe. It takes less than an hour (mostly hands-off time) to make and is packed full of delicious Indian flavors. Make extras and you'll have a giant smile on your face at lunch the next day.
You guys, this is what curry dreams are made of. This beauty is made in one pot and it'll be less than an hour until you are in coconut curry HEAVEN!
We eat this curry year-round. It doesn't matter how hot it is outside, it's always a good time for a bowl of hot curry. It's stinkin' hot in India and peeps there eat curry all the time. They must be onto something.
Years ago while backpacking around India for a few months, the locals would always say that eating hot food on a hot day would cool you down. Whether or not that's true, if you put a bowl of hot curry in front of any one of us and it's a bazillion degrees outside, we'll still eat it. And really, how could you not?
- Coconut oil – for sautéing the flavor components.
- The flavor – cumin seeds, coriander seeds, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, and sea salt.
- Crushed tomatoes – just open a can and pour it in!
- Lentils – the star of the show! We use brown lentils, but green lentils work just as well.
- Coconut milk – this is what makes the lentil curry wonderfully creamy.
- Cherry tomatoes and cilantro – these get stirred in at the end for even more flavor.
This coconut lentil curry recipe is ridiculously simple to make. Five bucks says that you're going to look at the recipe and think, “No way THIS recipe could be one of the BEST curry recipes.” But it is. For real.
It's so simple to make that we made you a video so you can see just how easy it will be for you to sit down in front of a big bowl of lentil curry.
Watch the lentil curry video
The original recipe
The original recipe comes from a well dog-eared cookbook called, Vij's at Home. We've made a few changes to the original recipe so it suits our taste:
- Coconut oil replaces the cooking oil (and we use MUCH less of it)
- Coriander seeds replace ground coriander as we love the little pop of crunch they give.
- Crushed tomatoes replace fresh tomatoes (so we can be lazy and not blend them)
- Harder to find mung beans take a hike and are replaced with brown lentils
- Cilantro gets piled on high.
- Cherry tomatoes get thrown in during the last few minutes of cooking (because heck, why not?)
Storage and freezing
This is one recipe that tastes even better the next day AND it freezes excellent. We'll often make a double batch just so we can freeze half of it. And if you have little ones at home, freezing small portions of this curry is a great way to have quick and healthy meals on hand.
In the fridge – This curry will keep well for up to 4 days in a sealed container in your fridge.
In the freezer – Transfer the cooled curry to freezer proof containers and keep it in your freezer for up to 4 months.
To reheat – We like to reheat this curry on the stove over low heat, adding a splash of water as it thickens overnight. But you can also warm this up in the microwave.
What to serve with lentil curry
And while this is absolutely a one-pot dinner, if you'd like a side dish, try one of these:
Can I use red lentils to make this curry?
Red lentils cook much faster than green lentils. If you'd like to use them instead, reduce the water to 1 cup and simmer the lentils for half the time.
Can I use canned lentils?
Since canned lentils are cooked, you can simply add them to the recipe, omit the water, and warm them up.
What do the whole cumin and coriander seeds taste like?
We don't notice the cumin seeds, but you can definitely taste the coriander seeds. They give a little pop of flavor in your mouth when you bite into them. If you're worried that the flavor will be too strong, you can use ground cumin and ground coriander instead.
Can I make this in a slow cooker?
After getting several requests, we've now created a crockpot coconut lentil curry recipe for you! While this original version still wins (in our books) the crockpot version is delicious and so great to come home to after a long day at work.
Can I add some vegetables to the curry?
Absolutely! Many people who have made this recipe have commented that they've cooked their favorite veggies right in the pot of lentils. You can try potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, or spinach.
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon each: cumin seeds and coriander seeds
- 1 head garlic (chopped (10-12 cloves))
- 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons ginger (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 cup dried brown lentils
- 1-2 teaspoons cayenne powder (optional)
- 2 cups water (see notes)
- 15 ounce can coconut milk
- A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- Heat the coconut oil in a large pot or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and coriander seeds and toast until they start to brown, about 45 seconds. Add the garlic to the pot and let it brown, about 2 minutes.1 tablespoon coconut oil, 1 tablespoon each: cumin seeds and coriander seeds, 1 head garlic
- Add the can of crushed tomatoes, ginger, turmeric, and sea salt to the pot and cook, stirring the pot a few times, for 5 minutes. Add the lentils and, if using, the cayenne powder, and the water to the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer for 35-40 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. Stir the pot a few times to prevent the lentils from sticking to the bottom. If the curry starts to look dry, add an extra ½ – 1 cup of water.28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, 2 tablespoons ginger, 1 tablespoon turmeric, 2 teaspoons sea salt, 1 cup dried brown lentils, 1-2 teaspoons cayenne powder, 2 cups water
- Once the lentils are soft and the curry is thick, add the coconut milk and cherry tomatoes and bring the pot back to a simmer. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cilantro.15 ounce can coconut milk, A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes, 1 cup chopped cilantro
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.
More delicious curry recipes
This delicious Black Chana Masala is an easy to make chickpea curry made with black chickpeas. It's bursting with flavor and is a healthy vegetarian dinner recipe.
This coconut acorn squash curry is a feel-good fall and winter dinner recipe that is so delicious. It reheats great so make extra for lunch!
This delicious vegan butter chicken recipe has tofu, peas, and corn cooked in a creamy, rich, vegan butter chicken sauce with the perfect amount of curry spice.
For more inspiration, check out all of our curry recipes!