Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils with Spinach

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. 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!

Close up overhead view of Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils with Spinach on a plate with curry roasted carrots, rice, and naan.

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.

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! 

Close up of Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils and Spinach being stirred in the skillet

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.

 
A hand dipping a piece of naan into the Creamy Coconut Curried Lentils with Spinach on a plate with curry roasted carrots
Print Recipe
5 from 19 votes

Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils with Spinach

These rich, creamy, and earthy Coconut Curry Lentils are an easy and delicious vegan option for dinner or weekly meal prep!
Keyword: meal prep, Vegan Dinner
Total Cost: $6.29 recipe / $1.57 serving
Author: Beth - Budget Bytes
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 45 mins
Servings: 4 1.25 cups curry lentils + 1 cup rice

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

*The potency of curry powder can vary quite a bit from brand to brand and with freshness, so you may need to add more to your liking. 
**If your vegetable broth does not contain a lot of salt, you may need to add salt at the end to really make the flavors pop.
Tried this recipe?Mention @budgetbytes or tag #budgetbytes on Instagram!

A hand dipping a piece of naan into the Creamy Coconut Curried Lentils with Spinach on a plate with curry roasted carrots

Step by Step Photos

Minced garlic and grated ginger being sautéed in a skillet with a wooden spatula

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.

Sautéed onion and curry powder in the skillet

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.

Dry lentils being poured into the skillet

Add 1 cup dry brown lentils to the skillet…

Vegetable broth being poured into the skillet

Along with 2 cups 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.

Lentils after being simmered.

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.

Coconut milk being stirred into the skillet

Stir in one 13oz. can of coconut milk. 

Simmered coconut curry lentils with a wooden spatula

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.

Fresh spinach added to the skillet

Turn the heat off and add about 3 cups (or three handfuls) of fresh spinach to the skillet.

Spinach wilted into the coconut curry lentils

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.

Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils with spinach on a plate with rice, naan, and curry roasted carrots.

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

Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils in a glass meal prep container with rice and curry roasted carrots

And of course I meal prepped this. :)

A forkful of Creamy Coconut Curry Lentils being lifted from the plate