Have you ever had the satisfaction of this red lentil curry recipe served with a bowl of rice or some flatbread? If not, you’ve been missing out. 

This time of year, with the promise of spring around the corner but with winter still lingering in the air (at least in New Hampshire), this dish will give you some warmth and comfort. 

It is easy and relatively quick to prepare and it comes with a long list of tremendous health benefits.

If you liked this recipe, then you’ll need to try my chickpea coconut curry next!

Red lentil curry served on a white plate with rice

Why you’ll love this red curry recipe

  • Rich, complex flavors: Red lentil curry is packed with a harmonious blend of spices and herbs that create a depth of flavor, from the earthy cumin and coriander to the warming ginger and smoky paprika.
  • Nutritious: Red lentils are a great source of plant-based protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. 
  • Quick and easy: Red lentil curry is pretty simple to make. It’s a one-pot dish that doesn’t require extensive cooking or complicated techniques.
  • Comforting: The creamy texture of red lentils, combined with the warming spices, makes it an enjoyable and satisfying meal, especially on a chilly day.
  • Budget-friendly: Red lentils are an affordable source of protein, making this dish budget-friendly while still being delicious and filling.
  • Great for meal prep: Red lentil curry reheats well and can be made in large batches for meal prepping. It’s perfect for busy individuals who want a convenient and healthy meal.
  • Customizable: You can customize the curry by adding your favorite vegetables, adjusting the spice level, and varying the consistency to suit your preferences.
  • Health benefits: Red lentils are known for their heart-healthy properties, which may help reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Additionally, the spices in the curry can have various health benefits.
  • Easy clean-up: As it’s a one-pot dish, less clean-up is involved, which can be a significant advantage on busy days.

Ingredients and substitution notes

  • Canned tomatoes: Canned diced tomatoes provide a rich, tomatoey base for your curry.
  • Olive oil: This is used for sautéing the aromatics and creating a flavorful base for your curry.
  • Garlic: Freshly minced garlic adds a robust and aromatic flavor to your curry. 
  • Ground spices: The blend of spices selected for this recipe is my favorite for curry. They make the curry fragrant and beautifully flavored without being overly spicy.
  • Red lentils: Rinse them thoroughly to remove any impurities, and check for sand or debris. You can also make this curry with yellow lentils, but the color will differ.
  • Coconut milk: This adds a rich and creamy element to your curry, balancing the acidity of the tomatoes and the spices.
  • Cilantro: Fresh cilantro leaves add a burst of freshness and a unique herbaceous flavor to your dish.
  • Spinach: Fresh spinach is a healthy addition, providing color, texture, and extra nutrients to your curry. 
  • Green onion: You can sprinkle them on the finished curry for a vibrant touch.

Red Lentil Curry Recipe variations and add-ins

  • Sweet potatoes: Adding diced sweet potato is a great way to sweeten the curry and bulk the recipe up, too. Butternut squash is delicious, too!
  • Cauliflower: Cauliflower florets add a delightful crunch and absorb the curry’s flavors well.
  • Tofu: Crispy or pan-fried tofu cubes offer a delightful plant-based protein option.
  • Greens: Add spinach, kale, collard greens, or other veggies to your mix!

Top tips

  • Rinse lentils thoroughly: Dried lentils hold a LOT of debris. I recommend rinsing them until the water runs clean. 
  • Sauté aromatics: Sauté garlic and other spices in hot oil for a minute or two before adding other ingredients. This helps release their flavors and aromas.
  • Be patient with lentils: Red lentils cook relatively quickly, but it’s essential to let them simmer until they’re soft and creamy.
  • Control consistency: Adjust the amount of coconut milk or water to control the consistency of your curry. Add more for a thinner sauce or less for a thicker one.
  • Taste and adjust: Taste your curry as it cooks and adjust the seasonings as needed.
  • Let it rest: Allow the curry to sit for a few minutes before serving. This resting period can enhance the flavor and let the curry thicken slightly.

Make ahead of instructions and storage

Make-ahead instructions:

You can make this curry recipe up in advance. Store the curry in airtight containers – I like to use mason jars. 

Storage instructions:

Red lentil curry can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Keep it in an airtight container to prevent moisture loss and odors from affecting the flavor.

If you want to store red lentil curry for an extended period, you can freeze it. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Portion the curry into individual servings.
  2. Allow the portions to cool to room temperature.
  3. Place each portion in an airtight, freezer-safe container.
  4. Label the containers with the date and contents.
  5. Leave a little space in the containers for any potential expansion during freezing.
  6. Store in the freezer for up to 3-6 months.

Reheating instructions:

When you’re ready to enjoy your make-ahead red lentil curry, here’s how to reheat it:

Gently reheat on the stovetop. Stir it through over medium heat until it’s heated through.

You can also heat it in a microwave. Transfer the curry to a microwave-safe container, cover it with a microwave-safe lid or plate, and heat in 30-second intervals, stirring between each interval, until it’s hot.

Serving suggestions 

One classic choice is to serve it over a bed of fluffy, aromatic Basmati rice. 

If you’re looking for a heartier option, think about serving your red lentil curry with warm, fresh naan bread. The warm and slightly chewy naan is perfect for scooping up the curry, allowing you to savor every bite. 

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Red lentil curry served on a white plate with rice

Fantastic Red Lentils

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  • Author: Chef Ani


  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 34 large  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon Spanish paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup red lentils (rinsed, no sand)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk

Right before serving add:

  • 1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh green onion


  1. In a blender gently blend the diced tomatoes only for couple of seconds, keep the texture, get rid of the chunks.
  2. In a medium pot heat olive oil and cook the minced garlic for 1-2 minutes.  Next add the blended tomatoes, cumin, coriander, ginger, paprika, salt, onion powder, and water.  Bring to a boil.  Once the mixture is boiling add the red lentils and cook till the lentils are tender (30-40 minutes).
  3. Once the lentils are tender, stir in the coconut milk.
  4. Right before serving add the fresh cilantro, spinach, green onion, and serve over rice.


If you prefer a spicier flavor add either a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes.

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