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Simple Red Lentil Curry - easy one-pot dish
4.87 from 51 votes
Servings: 4
Author: Lisa Lin

Simple Red Lentil Curry

This is a delicious vegan dish that you can make in one pan or pot. If you want to add something more to the curry, consider adding pan-fried tofu, fried paneer, or pan-fried shrimp (if you’re not vegan or vegetarian). You can also add several handfuls of greens when the lentils are nearly done simmering.
You can also freeze leftovers. Wait until the lentil curry cools completely before transferring to a container.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time40 mins


  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup finely diced yellow onion, about 1/2 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes, or a 14-ounce can
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons brown sugar, see note 1
  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander, optional
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on your desired level of spice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup canned full-fat coconut milk, see note 2

Optional Garnish

  • sliced scallions
  • chopped peanuts


  • Rinse the red lentils and pick out any dark or discolored pieces. Drain and set the lentils aside.
  • In a large skillet or small pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook them for about 5 minutes, stirring them so they don’t burn. Next, add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 30 seconds, until fragrant. 
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar, curry powder, coriander, cayenne pepper, and salt. Stir to incorporate all the spices with the tomatoes. Next, add the lentils. The rinsed lentils likely will have hardened into a solid chunk. Use a spatula to break them up in the tomato sauce. Then, add the vegetable broth. Cover the skillet or pot with its lid and bring everything to a boil. 
  • Reduce the heat to low and let the beans simmer for another 17 to 20 minutes until the lentils are fully cooked and tender. After 10 minutes of simmering, stir the lentils to make sure that they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot or pan. If the lentil curry looks too solid, add another 1/2 cup of water. Alternatively, if the curry looks too runny, let it simmer uncovered for another 5 to 10 minutes. Note that the curry thickens as it cools.
  • Stir in the coconut milk and turn off the heat.
  • Divide the red lentil curry into bowls and serve with jasmine rice, basmati rice, or brown rice. The curry is great with my scallion pancakes too! Garnish the curry with sliced scallions and chopped peanuts, if you like.


  1. You can use any sugar or sweetener like honey in place of the brown sugar. I slightly prefer the curry when it’s made with 3 teaspoons (1 tablespoon) of sugar. However, if you think that’s too much, stick to 2 teaspoons. 
  2. I prefer to use full-fat coconut milk because it adds more flavor to the dish. You can substitute that with light coconut milk. If you have leftover coconut milk and you’re not planning to use it again any time soon, pour the coconut milk in an ice cube tray and freeze it.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 359kcal | Carbohydrates: 46.3g | Protein: 14.4g | Fat: 14.4g | Saturated Fat: 11.2g | Sodium: 1132mg | Fiber: 8.6g | Sugar: 7.2g
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