I’ve been trying to brain storm up some easy plant-based meals lately, and this week’s creation was these Creamy Coconut Curried Lentils with Spinach, which are kind of like the creamy cousin of my Curried Chickpeas with Spinach. I swapped out the canned chickpeas for quick cooking lentils, and instead of a tomato-based curry sauce, I went with a super rich creamy coconut sauce, that pairs oh so well with the earthy lentils and heady curry spices.
As you can see in the photos, I paired these Creamy Coconut Curried Lentils with my Curry Roasted Carrots and some naan. The sweetness of the carrots balances perfectly with the earthy lentils. If you’re not up for making an entirely separate side dish, you can even just slice up a few carrots and let them simmer along with the lentils in the skillet!
Make it Spicy or Mild
This recipe is really easy to make either spicy or mild and tastes fantastic either way. Curry powder can be either hot or mild, so make sure you know which type you’re buying. If you have a mild curry powder and want your coconut curry lentils to be spicy, simply add a little cayenne pepper, or top the cooked dish with a few red pepper flakes. Or, if you’d like to try to make your own curry powder, try this recipe for Easy Homemade Curry Powder from Spiceitupp.com.
What Type of Lentils Should I Use?
Brown lentils are the best for this dish because they hold their shape through simmering, unlike red or yellow lentils, but still cook really quickly, unlike green lentils. Brown lentils are sometimes just labeled “lentils” in the U.S., so just check the recommended cooking time on the package. If it says simmer for about 20 minutes, you’ve got the right type of lentil!
Is There a Substitute for Coconut Milk?
Heavy cream or half and half can be used in place of the coconut milk in this recipe, although you probably won’t need quite as much as the coconut milk used. Stick to about 1/2 cup for the heavy cream or 3/4 cup for half and half.
Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils with Spinach
- 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.24)
- 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger ($0.10)
- 1 small yellow onion ($0.21)
- 1 Tbsp curry powder* ($0.30)
- 1 cup brown lentils (dry) ($0.67)
- 2 cups vegetable broth** ($0.26)
- 1 13oz. can coconut milk ($1.99)
- 3 cups fresh baby spinach ($1.61)
For Serving (optional)
- 4 cups cooked rice ($0.60)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro ($0.15)
- Mince the garlic, grate the ginger, and dice the onion. Add the olive oil, garlic, and ginger to a deep skillet, Dutch oven, or soup pot. Sauté the garlic and ginger over medium heat for 1 minute, or just until the garlic becomes soft and fragrant.
- Add the diced onion to the skillet and continue to sauté over medium until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the curry powder and continue to sauté for about one minute more to toast the spices.
- Add the dry lentils and vegetable broth to the skillet. Stir to dissolve any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Place a lid on top, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring the broth to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low, and let it simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After simmering for 20 minutes the lentils should be tender and most of the broth absorbed. Add the can of coconut milk and stir to combine. Turn the heat back up to medium and allow the skillet to come back up to a simmer. Let it simmer without a lid for an additional 10 minutes, stirring often, to thicken the mixture.
- Once thickened, turn the heat off. Add the fresh spinach and stir gently until the spinach has wilted. Taste the mixture and adjust the salt or curry powder to your liking, if needed.
- Serve over a bowl of rice, and top with chopped cilantro if desired.
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!
How to Make Creamy curried lentils – Step by Step Photos
Mince two cloves of garlic, grate about 1 tsp fresh ginger, and dice one small onion. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, the minced garlic, and grated ginger to a deep skillet (a Dutch oven or soup pot will also work). Sauté for about one minute, or just until the garlic is soft and fragrant.
Add the diced onion and continue to sauté until the onion is soft and translucent. Once the onion is softened, add 1 Tbsp curry powder. Continue to sauté for one minute more to toast the spices.
Add 1 cup dry brown lentils to the skillet…
Along with 2 cups of vegetable broth. I use Better Than Bouillon, which contains a fair amount of salt. If your broth doesn’t have a lot of salt, you may need to add some to the dish at the end to help the flavors pop.
Place a lid on the skillet, turn the heat up to medium-high, and let it come up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 20 minutes (with the lid on). After 20 minutes the lentils should be tender and most of the broth absorbed.
Stir in one 13oz. can of coconut milk.
Turn the heat back up to medium and let it come back up to a simmer. Let it simmer for 10 more minutes, without a lid, stirring often. This will break down the lentils a little more and reduce the coconut milk a little, making it thicker.
Turn the heat off and add about 3 cups (or three handfuls) of fresh spinach to the skillet.
Gently stir and allow the residual heat to wilt the spinach. Once wilted, give it a taste and adjust the curry powder or salt if needed.
And then it’s ready to serve! I like to serve my Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils over rice to soak up all that delicious creamy curry, but it’s also great with Naan and Curry Roasted Carrots.
And of course I meal prepped this. :)
I am making this as we speak, for the second time. I eat it with buttered naan, Greek yogurt, and LOTS of lime to make it extra flavorful. Great nourishing recipe :-)
I make this all the time, at least once a month. I just throw the carrots in with the onions. Also threw in some diced sweet potato recently, which was delicious.
A pro tip that I only just realized makes this 10x better is to drizzle some lime juice over the top when serving. It’s the missing ingredient I didn’t know was missing, really takes it up a notch.