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This Red Lentil Curry recipe celebrates humble red lentils as the star of the dish, cooked in a creamy tomato based sauce with sweet potatoes and aromatic Indian spices. If you’re never tried a curry recipe before, this one is a great one to start with!
Red lentils are an underdog ingredient. You don’t see them often in recipes, yet they are such a great inexpensive, healthy and delicious plant-based protein.
ingredients to make the recipe
- Lentils: Red lentils are a great go to for weeknight meals as they only require a short cooking time. This dish is ready to serve in just 30 minutes!
- Vegetables: Onion, garlic and sweet potato. You can of course add in other veggies you have to hand like mushrooms or bell peppers.
- Red curry paste: A pre made red curry paste is a quick and easy way to add flavor to your dish. Use your favorite brand.
- Seasonings and spices: Fresh ginger, curry powder, turmeric, cumin and salt.
- Broth: To keep this red lentil curry vegan, use store bought or this homemade vegetable broth, but chicken will work well too.
How to make red lentil curry
- Soften the garlic and onions.
- Stir in the curry paste, curry powder, turmeric and cumin.
- Add the red lentils, sweet potatoes and pour in the broth.
- Let simmer til the lentil and sweet potatoes are cooked through and tender.
Tips for making red lentil curry
- Rinse the red lentils before cooking. The main reason you’ll want to do this is to remove debris or shrivelled lentils. You can soak them in water if you’d like, which will decrease their cooking time. But this step is not usually necessary, especially since you’ll be cooking them for a while with the sweet potatoes anyways.
- Cook the spices before adding the vegetables. You can cook the spices alone with the oil or with the onions and garlic. This allows them to release their full flavor so you can get the most out of the spices. If they simple simmer with the vegetables, they won’t have the same effect or bloom.
- Customize it with any vegetables or protein. There’s a good serving of protein in the vegetarian curry dish. But if you want to add beef or chicken or fish, you can add it when the sweet potatoes go in. You can also bulk this up with any other vegetables like carrots, cauliflower or peas.
- Go heavy on the spices. Curries are heavily spiced dishes. The curry gets all the flavor from the combination of warm smokey spices, so start with my guide below, but feel free to add more. And feel free to tweak it with what you have on hand along with adding some chiles for a more spicy curry.
- Thin out the curry with some water. The red lentil curry will continue to get thicker as it cooks and as it cools. So you can add more water to get your the desired consistency you like.
Frequently Asked Questions
We love to use red lentils, especially when time is short as they cook pretty quickly. You can use green lentils, but try soaking them in water for 15 to 20 minutes first to help them to soften. They may take a little longer to get tender and once cooked, they will keep their shape unlike red lentils.
This red lentil curry will keep well in the fridge for 4 to 5 days and it’s easily reheated in a pot on the stovetop. It also freezes really well, for up to 3 months. Thaw it fully in the fridge overnight before reheating.
We like to serve this with a dollop of Greek yogurt, fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. It’s hearty enough to enjoy by itself, or serve it up with some naan or a side of brown rice.
This is a rich and hearty red lentil curry that is similar to a traditional Indian dhal recipe. Don’t be intimidated by the idea that curry needs to take a long time or have a long list of complicated ingredients. You can actually whip this up in 30 minutes and have an impressive vegan meal the whole family will love.
This is such a versatile recipe, so you can vary the taste, vary the heat and vary the ingredients as you like. It’s definitely a keeper!
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Red Lentil Curry
- 2 cups red lentils
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 1 inch knob fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tablespoons red curry paste
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
- 1 large sweet potato peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- Fresh cilantro for serving
- Greek yogurt for serving
- Lime wedges for serving
- Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, add onions, garlic, and ginger and cook until soft and translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add curry paste, curry powder, turmeric, cumin and salt and mix together until the onions are well coated and fragrant.
- Add the red lentils, sweet potatoes, and vegetable broth. Bring mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer until sweet potatoes are knife tender and red lentils are cooked and thickened, 35-40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve with fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and yogurt.
- Instead of red lentils, you can use green lentils. Red lentils are typically used in Indian cuisine since they break down more easily than green lentils and are great for thickening curry.
- Feel free to skip some spices or add other popular Indian spices like garam masala, ginger or cardamom.
- If you don’t want to use sweet potatoes, you can use white potatoes or add other vegetables like peas, carrots or cauliflower.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.