Who’s ready to take it easy this week? Red Lentil Curry and I are! This creamy vegan curry is made in your slow cooker hands free, includes a generous serving of vegetables (sweet potatoes!), and thanks to the addition of cooling coconut milk, the Indian spices are well balanced for a warm but not overpowering level of heat.
I first made this simple red lentil curry recipe when we moved into our new home and—after two weeks straight of moving-stress-induced takeout dinners—I needed a healthy reset.
WELL, here I am again! I’ve spent the last few weeks eating out as often as I’ve eaten in. It’s been delicious and fun and I’m likely to do it again, which is exactly why I need more easy red lentil recipes like this one in my life this week.
For me, it’s much easier to be excited about eating at home when I’m genuinely looking forward to the food in my refrigerator. Having delicious food on hand helps me avoid the temptation to say “Forget it—let’s go out” or to reach for a bag of chips instead of going to the effort to cook.
This Red Lentil Curry is absolutely scrumptious. I feel giddy and impatient to eat it every time I warm up a bowl!
Healthy Red Lentil Curry—Reasons to ♥ Thee
I adore this recipe for so many reasons. Here’s why you will too.
First, let’s talk practicalities:
- Dreamy Leftovers. This recipe yields a large portion and reheats like a dream, so when you make it once for dinner, you’re also gifting yourself with multiple healthy meals you can enjoy later in the week.
- Meal-Prep Maven. You can either cook the recipe over the weekend, then warm up the leftovers, OR chop all of the vegetables in advance if you’d like to make it fresh the day you plan to serve it.
- Healthy. Between the red lentils and superfood sweet potatoes, this recipe is loaded with fiber, protein, and nutrients. (For the curious, I’ve included more about red lentils below.)
- Diet Friendly. This recipe is naturally vegan, gluten free, dairy free, and nut free.
- CHEAP. Red lentils are one of the least expensive items in the grocery store. It’s hard to get more nutritional bang for your buck than with these red beauties!
Now, let’s address another Very Important Matter: YUM FACTOR. Because life is just too short to eat food that isn’t delicious.
- TASTE. This Red Lentil curry is nothing short of fabulous. The layers of spice are complex, without being excessively spicy.
- Texture. Thick, creamy, and utterly satisfying.
- Glow Factor. You are going to feel marvelous after finishing a serving of this Red Lentil Curry, because it leaves you truly full and because the clean ingredient list means you did something truly positive for your well being!
More about Red Lentils
If you are not ultra familiar with red lentils, then I am so pleased to introduce you to one of the least-expensive, best-tasting healthy foods on the planet.
Lentils are a member of the legume family, along with split peas, peanuts, chickpeas, and more. A few reasons to add them to your pantry (in addition to how inexpensive they are):
- Versatility. Red lentils are mild and readily absorb spices, meaning they can soak up any flavors you add to them. They’re an easy ingredient in a wide range of recipes that range from more Indian-spiced dishes like this Instant Pot Lentil Curry to more traditional ones like Crockpot Lentil Soup and Instant Pot Lentil Soup.
- High in Fiber and Protein. That means this Red Lentil Curry (and other recipes with lentils) will keep you full and happy, no meat required.
- Low on Calories. Just 230 in a whole cup!
- Big on Nutrients. Think iron, folate, and more.
- Creamy but Not Mushy. With their pleasant texture, lentils are a delight to eat.
- Fast. Lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking, saving you a recipe step. They do need to be rinsed to remove any dirt or stray bits, but this takes only a minute or two.
How to Make a Red Lentil Curry with Max Flavor and Minimal Effort
Today’s Slow Cooker Red Lentil Curry is one of my absolute favorite ways to spice and flavor the versatile red lentil.
In a bit of a mashup, I ended up with an Indian-meets-Thai approach. (Does this make this curry Asian fusion? If yes, according to my last issue of Bon Appetit, we are right on trend!)
- Thai Red Curry Paste. Think of this ingredient as a jar of instant flavor. It’s widely available and sold in the international food or Asian food section of almost any grocery store. Once you have it, you can use it to make many more healthy recipes, including Thai Chicken Curry, Coconut Curry, and Pumpkin Curry Soup.
- Garam Masala. This ingredient is a blend of many spices and a staple in Indian cooking. You can find garam masala in the spice section of many grocery stores or online here. Once you have a bottle, in addition to this Slow Cooker Red Lentil Curry, you can use it to make my healthy Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala, Paneer Tikka Masala, and Instant Pot Butter Chicken.
Spices like garam masala and the red curry paste are key allies to cooking that is a) healthy (spice = big taste without extra fat), b) easy (you can measure one spoonful of one spice blend instead of 10 of individual spices), and c) DELISH.
The sweet potatoes and lentils calm the spices so they are warm and flavorful but not hot, making this red lentil curry recipe accessible to more sensitive palates.
Creamy Curry without the Cream
One of my favorite parts of Indian red lentil curry is how creamy it is. I love the way the sauce coats the rice and how rich it makes even an ingredient as healthy as lentils taste.
In a restaurant, that creaminess often comes from cream (surprise!), but I’ve found that you can achieve a similar effect (and make the red lentil curry vegan) by using coconut milk. I used light coconut milk and the curry was plenty thick and satisfying for us, but if you wanted extra indulgence, you could use full fat instead.
Check out my Slow Cooker Chicken Curry for another lightened-up curry dish!
The next time you are thinking about takeout, instead of picking up the phone, pull out your crock pot and give this red lentil curry recipe a try!
Slow Cooker Red Lentil Curry with Sweet Potatoes
- 2 cups dried red lentils
- 6 cups peeled, cubed sweet potato (about 3 medium)
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 cup water
- 1 small shallot finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 tablespoon coconut sugar or light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
- 1 cup canned light coconut milk
- Cooked brown rice or quinoa
- Fresh cilantro (highly encouraged)
- Lemon or lime wedges (optional but tasty)
- Coat a 5-quart or larger slow cooker with nonstick spray. Rinse the lentils, then add them to the slow cooker. Add the sweet potato, vegetable broth, water, shallot, curry paste, garam masala, turmeric, sugar, ginger, salt, garlic, and tomato paste. Stir well to combine. Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours or LOW for 6 to 7 hours, until the lentils and sweet potatoes are tender. Turn off the heat and stir in the coconut milk. If you’d like a thinner consistency, stir in additional broth or water.
- Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Serve hot over prepared brown rice or quinoa. Garnish with lots of fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lemon or lime.
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