Vegan Red Lentil Curry

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This Vegan Red Lentil Curry is a fan favorite and the BEST lentil curry you will ever try! It’s easy and quick, making it a perfect weeknight dinner! Plus, it’s creamy and indulgent but made with wholesome vegan ingredients!
Prep 10 mins
Cook 35 mins
Total 45 mins
5 from 1718 votes

When you hear lentils, you probably don’t think of decadence. You probably think of healthy, nourishing, and if we’re being honest, maybe even boring. But, I’m here to change your perception of lentils with this ultra creamy, ultra indulgent Vegan Red Lentil Curry that comes together in a snap.

This recipe has been a fan favorite for the last 2 years, so I figured it was time to update the blog post and give it a video too!

overhead shot of red lentil curry with naan and rice on the side

Here’s why you’ll love this Vegan Red Lentil Curry

Weeknight ready: It’s ready in 35-45 minutes so you can easily make it for a weeknight dinner.

Creamy and dreamy: This curry is extremely creamy and indulgent. You can thank the full-fat coconut milk and the creamy almond butter for that.

Flavorful beyond belief: It’s packed with flavor thanks to the fresh garlic, ginger, and chili peppers, along with a generous dose of Indian spices.

Nourishing: This red lentil curry might be dangerously delicious and indulgent, but it’s also quite nourishing. The garlic, ginger, and turmeric boast tons of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, while the lentils make this a hearty, protein-packed meal. Plus, you’ll stay full for hours due to the high content of healthy fat from coconut milk and almond butter.

And if you already love this curry, I have more delicious curries for you to try!

For more Indian flavors, this Vegan Pumpkin Curry with Tofu is packed with protein and totally delicious. Or if you’re looking for something different (but still in the curry family), this Thai Butternut Squash Curry with Chickpeas is a fan favorite. Like the Red Lentil Curry, both recipes are weeknight friendly and totally delicious.

And if you own an instant pot, I have a number of curries in my cookbook, The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook.

Ingredient Rundown

Aromatics. This curry starts with fresh ginger, garlic, and green chili peppers to provide lots of those classic Indian flavors. My mom starts most Indian dishes with these ingredients (sometimes, onions too), so you can’t go wrong with this trio!

Turmeric. Most Indian lentil curry recipes contain turmeric. And why not? It’s a nutritional superstar with anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. The main active in turmeric—curcumin—not only blocks damage-causing free radicals in the body but also stimulates the body’s own antioxidant mechanisms.

I love using fresh turmeric in this recipe. It’s earthy and peppery, slightly bitter yet slightly sweet. It looks like ginger but its interior flesh is bright orange. You can find fresh turmeric at Indian and Asian grocery stores, health food stores, and the produce department of stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts.

That said, it’s totally fine to use ground turmeric in this recipe! I’ve made it both ways, and it’s always delicious.

Ground Indian Spices. While I love adding some whole spices to my Indian recipes, I wanted to keep this recipe weeknight friendly and very accessible. You’ll add the spices after sautéing the aromatics, and they need just 30 to 60 seconds to toast.

Red Lentils. The main ingredient in this recipe are red lentils, no surprise! You can use regular red lentils, or red split lentils. The split variety is more commonly available in South Asian grocery stores, and sold as masoor dal. The split lentils cook a bit quicker than the whole variety because their skins have been removed, but there isn’t a huge difference in cook time.

Need another use for those red lentils in your pantry? My 10-Ingredient Red Lentil Bolognese is a must-make (and pantry-friendly!).

Crushed Tomatoes. I prefer to use crushed canned tomatoes (instead of diced tomatoes or fresh tomatoes) because I love their thick, saucy texture in a creamy curry.

Coconut Milk. I use full-fat canned coconut milk in this recipe, and I must say it’s an essential ingredient. The creaminess and high-fat content not only makes this curry extremely luxurious, but they are also necessary to balance the spice and tanginess in this curry.

If you taste the curry before adding the coconut milk, you’ll notice it is quite acidic (from the tomatoes) and very spicy, almost too spicy to eat. But after the coconut milk cooks down for a few minutes, it transforms into a totally different dish.

Almond Butter. This is my secret ingredient! Almond butter is definitely not traditional in Indian curries, but many North Indian curries do rely on blended cashews to bring creaminess…so it’s not that different, right? The almond butter brings another level of richness to this curry, in addition to a subtly sweet nuttiness that is just lovely.

Lemon Juice and Cilantro. My mom finishes many of her Indian dishes with these ingredients—the lemon juice adds a pop of freshness and livens the flavors, as well as helps balance the spices, while the cilantro adds flavor—so I usually finish my curries this way too.

red lentil curry with naan bread, cilantro, and rice on blue table

How to make this Vegan Red Lentil Curry

First, gather your ingredients.

flatlay of curry ingredients

Dice up your ginger, garlic, chili peppers, and turmeric (if using fresh).

diced garlic, ginger, peppers, and turmeric on a cutting board

Sauté the ginger, garlic, chili peppers, and turmeric (if using fresh) in hot oil for about 2 minutes, until fragrant.

ginger, garlic, turmeric and chili peppers being sauteed in paan

Then, add the ground spices and cook for 30-60 seconds, stirring frequently to prevent burning.

ground spices being sauteed in pan

Deglaze with the vegetable broth, then add in the red lentils and crushed tomatoes.

vegetable broth, red lentils, and crushed tomatoes being added to pan

Simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through.

red lentil curry simmering in saute pan

Stir in the coconut milk and almond butter.

coconut milk and almond butter added to pan

Continue cooking, uncovered, for 5 to 8 minutes, until the curry has thickened.

coconut milk and almond butter being added to red lentil curry

Finally, stir in the lemon juice and cilantro, and season to taste.

lemon juice and cilantro being added to red lentil curry

You can also view a web story of me making the the red lentil curry here.

Tips for Making this Vegan Red Lentil Curry

Don’t skimp on the garlic and ginger and spices. This is what infuses the dish with tons of flavor!

If you can’t tolerate spicy food whatsoever, you can omit the chili peppers. If you can handle a little heat, use one Serrano pepper (remove the seeds) or one jalapeño pepper (keep the seeds; jalapeño peppers are less spicy than Serranos). If you can handle a moderate amount of heat, try one serrano pepper with the seeds intact. And if you really like things on the spicy side, use two Serrano peppers, with seeds intact. This is what I do :)

If you can’t find fresh turmeric, just substitute 1 teaspoon ground turmeric and add it with the other ground spices. The easiest way to mince fresh turmeric (and ginger) is by using a microplane or a small cheese grater.

If your can of coconut milk is not mixed well (i.e., the solid cream part is very distinct from the liquid part), you might want to first pour the milk into a large bowl and whisk to break up the clumps. That’ll make it easier to whisk the milk into the curry.

Make sure you use smooth almond butter, as it’ll be harder to incorporate crunchy almond butter into the curry and you might end up with chunks of almond butter.

The cook time will vary slightly depending on the type of pan you use and the variety of lentils. When I make this in a wide, shallow pan like this, the lentils get softened and cooked through more quickly (about 20-22 minutes) than when I use a soup pot or Dutch oven (closer to 30 minutes). Also, as mentioned earlier, red split lentils will cook a bit more quickly than standard red lentils.

hand dipping naan bread into red lentil curry

Vegan Red Lentil Curry Recipe Video

If I could only cook one dish for a vegan skeptic…
If I could only cook one dish for a vegan skeptic…

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use another nut butter besides almond butter?

Cashew butter would be the next best option, as it’s equally creamy and neutral in taste. Peanut butter might overwhelm the other flavors in this dish, but if it’s the only option you have, I recommend starting off with a smaller amount (1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons, instead of 3) and taste as you go. That said, many users have made it with peanut butter and enjoyed it. And for a nut-free option, you can try tahini.

Can I freeze the leftovers?

I’ve probably only frozen this recipe once because it’s my partner’s favorite, so he usually eats it within a day or two. That said, it does freeze pretty well, and I’ve had many readers freeze it with good results.

Can I use water instead of vegetable broth?

Yes! Just add a tad more salt, as needed.

Can I add vegetables to this curry?

Many readers have added sweet potatoes when adding the lentils (I recommend grating them so they melt into the texture-it’s so good!), as well as mushrooms or greens like spinach when adding the coconut milk. You could add in quick-cooking vegetables when adding the coconut milk, or for extra protein, you can add in a can of chickpeas at this time.

Can I make Red Lentil Curry in the Instant Pot?

Yes! I have a recipe for how to make this recipe in the instant pot in my cookbook, The Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook. The cookbook has 90 more nutritious (and colorful!) recipes you can make easily with the magic of an instant pot pressure cooker. It’s currently rated at 4.7 stars with over 2600 reviews on Amazon. Check it out!

close-up shot of red lentil curry with naan and rice in background

More Recipes You Might Like

In the mood for more curries? Check these out:

And if you’re looking for more lentil recipes, well, I have loads of those for you, too!

If you give this Vegan Red Lentil Curry recipe a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and please comment with your feedback below!

Vegan Red Lentil Curry

5 from 1718 votes
This Vegan Red Lentil Curry is a fan favorite and the BEST lentil curry you will ever try! It’s easy and quick, making it a perfect weeknight dinner! Plus, it’s creamy and indulgent but made with wholesome vegan ingredients!
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 45 mins
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Indian
Diet Vegan
Serving size: 4


  • 1 tablespoon refined or virgin coconut oil, or a neutral-flavored oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh turmeric, or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1-2 serrano peppers, diced (see recipe note below on spice level)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon Indian red chili powder (if you only have regular chili powder, which is a blend, use 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • Kosher salt or sea salt to taste (I use about 1 tsp kosher salt, and add more at the end)
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup (180-190g) red lentils, or split red lentils (the split variety will cook a bit quicker)
  • 2 cups (480 mL) low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (14-ounce / 400g) can crushed tomatoes (or half of a 28-ounce can)
  • 1 (13.5-ounce/400 mL) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened creamy almond butter
  • 1/2 a small lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup (~8g) fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • For serving: Basmati or Jasmine rice and Indian flatbread such as roti, paratha, or naan


  • Rinse the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear.
  • Heat a large, deep skillet or large saucepan over medium-high heat and add the coconut oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the garlic, ginger, fresh turmeric (if using), and Serrano pepper and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent garlic from burning.
  • Add the cumin, coriander, chili powder, curry powder, garam masala, salt, and black pepper to taste, and cook for 30 to 60 seconds until fragrant, tossing frequently to prevent burning. If using ground turmeric instead of fresh turmeric, add the ground turmeric now, along the the rest of the spices.
  • Pour in the vegetable broth, and use a wooden spoon or spatula to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Add in the lentils and the crushed tomatoes and mix well. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked through and have mostly softened. If you find that the lentils are not quite soft after 25 minutes, add a few spoons more of broth or water and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and stir in the coconut milk, almond butter, along with salt and pepper to taste Continue cooking on low heat, uncovered for 5 to 8 minutes, until the curry has thickened and is creamy.
  • Finally, stir in the lemon juice and cilantro, and turn off the heat. If you want your lentils to even creamier and more on the puréed side, use an immersion blender to lightly purée the curry.
  • Serve the curry with rice and/or Indian flatbread and garnish with additional cilantro. Store leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days.


  • If you can’t tolerate spicy food whatsoever, you can omit the chili peppers. If you can handle a little heat, use one Serrano pepper (remove the seeds) or one jalapeño pepper (with the seeds), and if you really like things on the spicy side, use two Serrano peppers (with seeds intact).

Calories: 517kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Sodium: 164mg | Potassium: 1113mg | Fiber: 19g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 474IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 141mg | Iron: 9mg

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If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider giving it a star rating along with your comment! It helps others discover my blog and recipes, and your comments always make my day :) Thank you for your support!

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2,564 comments on Vegan Red Lentil Curry

  1. Norbert

    5 stars
    I added 1 (14oz) can of chickpeas to the dish and it was a great chili. Only 1 serrano pepper with seeds gives you enough heat for most of the eaters. It will become a staple in my meal prep, quick, inexpensive and VERY tasty. Thank you.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We’re so happy that the chili turned out well for you, Norbert. Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment and for trying out the recipe!

  2. Octavia

    5 stars
    I’ve made this recipe TWICE this week already. It always comes out perfect. The only thing I do differently is I add chunks of sweet potato, and I add about a tablespoon of sugar. I eat it with basmati rice and indian flatbread normally, but I’ve been known to have a bowl of this by itself as a late night snack lol DELICIOUS!!!!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Octavia, Thank you so much for such a fantastic review! Appreciate you taking the time!

  3. Casey

    Wow!! I looked up recipes so I could use what I had in my pantry! I just gobbled down 2 servings with basmati rice. It is a beautiful comfort food. I was able to use hot peppers I had brought home from my trip to India. I didn’t use almond butter as I didn’t have any but it was perfection. Can’t wait to eat more tomorrow!!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Casey, we’re so happy you enjoyed this curry and we’re looking forward to you trying even more! :) So cool you were able to use the peppers you brought home from India!

      Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe.

  4. NM

    5 stars
    Can the canned tomatoes be replaced with tomato paste?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi NM, no, unfortunately not. You can use fresh tomatoes in place of the canned tomatoes, though, if you’d like. It just won’t be as thick and saucy as using canned.

  5. Jamie

    5 stars
    I love this recipe. It’s absolutely delicious!
    I didn’t have almond butter so used cashew butter and, living in Spain, I don’t have access to many varieties of fresh chillis so I just used some small red ones from the Asian grocery store but it turned out great. It’s like a big, cosy hug in a bowl. I have some in the freezer but I don’t think it will be there for long!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Jamie! It makes us happy to know that you enjoyed the recipe.

  6. Dorinda McQueen

    I am trying to track my calories. How many cups is in one serving?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Dorinda, we haven’t measured the volume for this recipe but we know it makes 4 servings. You can find the nutrition information for one serving written on the bottom of the recipe card. If you end up with too much food for you to eat in a few days, this dish freezes beautifully!

  7. Maria

    5 stars
    I LOVE this recipe. This is the second time I’ve made it. I used two bags of dried chickpeas (cooked, of course) and one entire bag of red lentils. I doubled the recipe and used extra almond butter to thicken the sauce. It tastes like a korma sauce at an Indian restaurant. So wonderfully thick and delicious.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hey Maria! Wow, I can feel your enthusiasm about this curry through the screen! Love it!

  8. Stacey

    5 stars
    Hi I’m a bigginner cook and I would like to know regarding spices how much 1teaspoon a table spoon what is the exact measurements cause I am so nervous to cook everytime I have tried I always got badly criticised or burnt the food but I’m really trying to be a good mum and give my family homecooked meals I make and not my mother in law or restaurant food. My friend helped make this at my house once and my 4yr old who is really picky eater ate two whole bowls and he hasn’t stopped asking me about it lol

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Stacey, we’re thrilled to hear you enjoyed the food :) If we correctly understand what you’re asking- 3 teaspoons is equal to one tablepsoon. We hope you nail the recipe! :) Here’s a recipe video you can follow along with.

  9. Sam Beaumont

    5 stars
    Delicious 🤤…will definitely be making this again…and again….and again!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Sam, Thank you so much for such a fantastic review! Appreciate you taking the time!

  10. Dani

    5 stars
    This is delicious! I used half the amount of coconut milk, jalapeños instead of serrano peppers, and skipped the almond butter, as I wanted to use just what I had at home, but it turned out so creamy and tasty. It’s easy to make, too!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We appreciate your feedback and support, Dani. Thank you for leaving a review!

  11. Aly

    Hi! Your recipe calls for coconut milk and I was wondering if I can use a different ingredient? My body doesn’t tolerate coconut milk. I am open to dairy or non-dairy options. Thanks!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Aly, Yes, cashew cream makes for a lovely substitute here. To make the cashew cream:

      1. Soak ½ cup (70g) of raw, unsalted cashews in water overnight, or do a quick soak by adding them to a saucepan, covering with water, and boiling for 15 minutes. Drain the cashews and rinse well.

      2. Add 6 tablespoons (90 mL) of water to a small-capacity high-powered blender (small blender jug, 32 oz / 1L or smaller). Add the cashews, 1 TBSP of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and ½ tsp kosher salt.

      3. Blend for about 2 minutes, starting on low and gradually moving up to high speed. Scrape down the sides as you go and blend until it’s completely smooth and no cashew bits remain.

      Note: If you only have a large-capacity high-powered blender, you’ll need to double the cashew cream, as there isn’t enough liquid here to blend in a large container. A food processor is a great alternative, but the texture won’t be as silky smooth. Blend the ingredients for approximately 4 minutes.

      Hope that helped!

      1. Aly

        5 stars
        Thank you!! Absolutely love cashew cream. That’s a wonderful alternative! I have made your recipe multiple times with heavy cream and it came out very delicious as well : )

        1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

          We’re happy you enjoyed it, Aly! :)

  12. Jalisa

    5 stars
    My kids love this! And it’s the only way I’ve successfully fed them lentils 😂 We use no pepper, and blend it. So creamy and delicious and love how much you get out of so few ingredients. A favourite for sure!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We’re thrilled your family are fans of the recipe :) Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to share this, Jalisa!

  13. Danielle

    5 stars
    This recipe is one of my favorites! I make it at least once a month! It is so flavorful! Try it you won’t be disappointed! The foodie in me loves all your recipes because of how you go into detail about all the ingredients, and the why.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Your positive feedback is the best reward for our hard work. Thank you, Danielle!

  14. Moni

    5 stars

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Moni!

  15. Bob Dutile

    4 stars
    Thumbs up
    Made a double batch for my first try Half a pound of aging lentils to rotate out of the pantry.
    No Serrano so chipotle, ancho, cayenne mix instead Appears to have brought the heat. (About an American medium) Luckily had everything else in the pantry.
    First bowl going down well… looking forward to seeing how the rest of the batch tastes after a day or 2 in the refrigerator. Thanks for all your recipes.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for your lovely review, Bob! We’re happy to hear the recipe went well for you, and we hope you get the chance to try more! :)

  16. Jessica

    5 stars
    This recipe will really make you believe that going vegan is not only easy but can also be delicious! Very flavorful and filling, exceptionally creamy

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We’re over the moon to hear you liked the recipe, Jessica. Thanks for your kind words!

  17. Tami H

    5 stars
    Fan-stinkin-tastic!!! I made this with 1 jalapeño and it was not spicy at all, but oh was it delicious! Easy to make in the instant pot too following your directions buried in the comments. This will be on repeat at our house again and again!! Thanks for another amazing recipe!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Tami, your kind words mean the world to us! Thank you for being a part of the RPL community.

  18. Laura

    5 stars
    This curry was extremely good! I made it to see if I could eat red lentils (I cannot eat some legumes) and I was honestly hoping I could since this curry turned out great. Spoiler alert: turns out I can eat red lentils so this has become one of my favorites! I’ve made this for my family and friends and it’s a success. Totally recommend it :)

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Laura, it’s great to hear you had success with the red lentils, and the recipe overall. Thanks for the awesome review!

  19. Laura

    Figured it was high time I started reviewing more of Nisha’s recipes since, no lie, almost everything I cook is from this site. This is probably one of my favorite recipes! SO good, easy, no expensive ingredients, and especially in winter so very warming and nourishing feeling. This time I made it I could have sworn I had the crushed tomatoes but no, just an 8oz can of tomato sauce. So I used that plus some basic jarred salsa to make up the difference and it really tasted the same as far as I could tell. I will stick to what the recipe calls for next time, but good to know that’s an option in a pinch. Also used half peanut butter half tahini, and apple cider vinegar instead of lemon. Gotta use what you have sometimes :) love your recipes!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Laura! So cool to hear this is one of your favorite recipes. :)

  20. Elaine

    I made the Instant Pot version of this recipe but unfortunately it stuck at the bottom! I was quite disappointed. The mixture was too thick. I had to finish cooking if on the stove (and added some water). Next time, I will add 2 cups of water, a small can of diced tomatoes instead of the fresh tomatoes and I will add the coconut milk and almond butter at the end of the cooking cycle.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      From Nisha: “Hi Elaine, sorry to hear that! What I’ve gathered from other readers is that there are some differences across Instant Pot models in their sensitivity to burning (which is quite unfortunate, given that they keep coming out with new models!). For instance, when I had the Instant Pot Duo, I noticed it was less sensitive to burning than the newer Instant Pot Duo Plus (and a few readers who also have the Instant Pot Duo Nova report that it feels more sensitive to burning than older models), so I do think that’s a possibility. 

      Usually, the burn notice is triggered when either the ingredients are too thick, there’s not enough water/liquid was added, or there were browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot after saueting/before pressure cooking.

      I think using fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes, which are thicker and more viscous, will help, in addition to using more water. You should be able to add the coconut milk during the pressure cooking (and the flavor will be better that way), but I do agree it would be a good idea to try adding the almond butter after the pressure cooking cycle.”

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