Curried Lentils

$3.48 recipe / $0.87 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.63 from 81 votes
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This recipe for Curried Lentils is a spin-off of the ever-popular Quick Curried Chickpeas. It always amazes me how a recipe with so few ingredients can have such big flavor! For this version, I subbed out chickpeas for lentils, added some diced carrot for color and sweetness (and because my New Year’s resolution is VEGETABLES!), and increased the curry powder. The result, although not exactly pretty, was so good that I couldn’t stop piling forkfuls into my mouth while I took the photos. Seriously, I couldn’t stop.

Top view of a skillet of Curried Lentils with wooden spoon

There are so many ways you can eat these Curried Lentils that I decided to present the recipe as the lentils themselves. They’d be great as part of an Indian platter with some creamed spinach and naan. You could stuff them into a pita as sort of a sloppy joe-like sandwich (but vegetarian, of course), or you could build a “bowl” meal with brown rice, a fried egg, and maybe even some spinach. Options, options, options!

This recipe made about four cups and depending on how you serve it, that should be at minimum four servings. Pretty stinking cheap. If you happen to have any left over, these lentils should freeze quite well.

Side view of a skillet of Curried Lentils with wooden spoon. Skillet sitting on colorful napkin on counter, with garlic and cilantro on the side
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Curried Lentils

4.63 from 81 votes
Ready in the blink of an eye, packed with flavor, and several different serving options. These Curried Lentils are a healthy go-to weeknight dinner.
Servings 4 1 cup each
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
Total 45 minutes


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1 medium onion ($0.32)
  • 3 medium carrots (1/2 lb.) ($0.55)
  • 1 cup uncooked brown lentils ($0.68)
  • 2 Tbsp curry powder hot or mild ($0.60)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce* ($0.59)
  • Salt to taste ($0.02)
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro (optional) ($0.40)


  • Spread the lentils out on a baking sheet to make them easier to see. Pick out any stones or debris. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pot, then add the lentils. Allow the pot to come back up to a boil, then turn the heat to low, place a lid on top, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Drain the cooked lentils in a colander.
  • Meanwhile, mince the garlic and finely dice the onion and carrots. Sauté the onion, garlic, and carrots in a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat until the onions are transparent (about 5 minutes). Add the curry powder and sauté for one minute more.
  • Add the cooked and drained lentils to the skillet, along with the tomato sauce. Stir and heat through (about 5 minutes). Turn the heat off, taste the lentils, and add salt if needed (I added about 1/2 tsp).
  • Top with fresh cilantro and serve over a bed of rice, with naan, or crusty bread.

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*If you live outside the U.S. and “tomato sauce” is not available, the closest product would probably be strained or puréed tomatoes.


Serving: 1CupCalories: 282.75kcalCarbohydrates: 48.83gProtein: 14.88gFat: 5gSodium: 254.1mgFiber: 10.75g
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How to Make Curried Lentils – Step by Step Photos

Bag of Brown Lentils

For this recipe I used brown lentils because they cook quickly and hold their shape. Brown lentils cook in about 20 minutes, whereas French or green lentils take closer to 45 minutes. Red and yellow lentils also cook quickly, but they tend to break down and turn into mush when cooked. I definitely wanted the lentils to stay whole.

Cooking lentils in a pot of water on the stove top

To cook the lentils, bring a pot with about 3 cups of water to a boil (the amount of water isn’t so crucial, just as long as there is enough for the lentils to move about freely, kind of like when cooking pasta. It will be drained off later). Once boiling, add 1 cup of dry lentils. Let the pot come back up to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, place a lid on top, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, test a lentil to see if it’s tender. If not, let it simmer for about 5 more minutes. Drain the lentils in colander once finished cooking.

Vegetables (carrots, garlic and onion)

Meanwhile, prep and cook the vegetables. Mince two cloves of garlic and finely dice one medium onion and three medium carrots (about 1/2 lb.).

Chopped veggies in skillet to Sauté on stove top

Add the garlic, onions, and carrots to a large skillet along with one tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté over medium heat until the onions become transparent, about 5 minutes.

Curry Powder added to veggies in skillet and mixed with wooden spoon

Add two tablespoons of curry powder and sauté for one minute  more (this toasts the spices and helps bring out their flavor). All curry powders are a little different, so you can start with one tablespoon and increase it to your liking. 

Tomato Sauce and cooked lentils added to veggie mixture in skillet and stirred with wooden spoon

Add the cooked and drained lentils, plus one 15oz. can of tomato sauce. Stir to combine and then heat through (about five minutes). Taste the lentils and add salt if needed. I added about 1/2 teaspoon.

Top view of a skillet of cooked Curried Lentils with a wooden spoon. Veggies on the side to stage.

Serve them hot topped with fresh cilantro (if you’re a cilantro person). 

Curried Lentil Bowl (curried lentils, rice and fried egg) sitting on an orange napkin and with a fork on the side

There are a lot of different ways you can eat these Curried Lentils, this yummy bowl being one of them. I added a bed of brown jasmine rice, the lentils, a fried egg, and some fresh cilantro. SO GOOD. 

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  1. This was really good! I had canned lentils on hand, so I subbed those in at step 2. I also used a food processor for the carrots and processed them smaller than the original recipe. I’m looking forward to making this again, and will probably try Jeffrey’s suggestion to sub in garam masala, too!

  2. This recipe is very tasty and has become a staple in my lunch rotation. I recommend swapping out one tbsp of curry powder for something like garam masala. I found that it made the recipe a bit less sticky while adding a bit of kick

  3. The recipe was absolutely spectacular. One question I have though is if the carrots are supposed to be a little hard still or if I should’ve sautéed them longer than specified.

  4. Unbelievable how good this recipe is with so few ingredients. I like to put it in hard shell tacos; works great with just this and maybe some hot sauce.

  5. Loved this recipe! I used a can of diced tomatoes drained instead of the tomato sauce.It was easy to make and punches a lot of flavor! It was delicious reheated the next day!

  6. This recipe was sooooo good. I added potatoes as well, cooked them for a little before adding the onions and carrots, and it was amazing. It was my first time ever trying lentils and I will definitely be making this again!!

  7. I have never been disappointed by any your recipes. Plus, on a limited income from social security the reduced costs for groceries is a tremendous boon! I thank you so much!

  8. This was my first budgetbyte recipe I didn’t like! After reading other reviews, I made sure to cut my carrots super small, yet they still were crunchy. The flavor is also not very good in my opinion. I do appreciate the salt guidance though. I’m always very lost when it just says “salt to taste” so having the 1/2 tsp starting point was great.