Creamy Coconut Lentil Curry

Curry is one of our favorite comfort foods. It’s hearty but not heavy. Spiced but not spicy. Creamy and silky but not fatty and greasy. Made from pantry-staple ingredients and designed to work with any budget, this creamy coconut lentil curry is as easy as it gets!

Is this Curry Recipe Healthy?

YES! The ingredients in this vegetarian/vegan curry recipe have numerous health benefits. The stars in this recipe are the lentils and spices.


Lentils of all varieties are a great source of plant-based protein. They are also high in complex carbohydrates and fiber. Fiber is important for digestion, gut health, stable blood sugar, healthy cholesterol, and cancer prevention (1).


Many of the spices in this recipe have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties (2). Turmeric in particular has been shown to be especially effective in decreasing inflammation (3). Combine turmeric with black pepper to maximize absorption – black pepper increases turmeric bioavailability by 2000% (4)!

For more information on the health benefits of specific food groups, check out our article on Food As Medicine.

Culinary Tips for the Best Lentil Curry

Chop the onion and garlic using a proper knife hold.

Measure out all ingredients before you start cooking. Once the onion starts cooking, things move quickly!

If the lentil curry looks too soupy, simmer it longer to reduce the liquid, but remember it will thicken as it cools.

If doubling or tripling the recipe, don’t double/triple the spices. Use the recommended measurements of spices, then taste after cooking to see if it needs more and adjust to taste. Keep in mind that flavors will continue to develop over time, so don’t go overboard!

Ingredient Substitutions

If you’re missing a few ingredients, don’t worry! There are many easy substitutions that will still ensure recipe success.

  • Curry Powder: Use 1 Tbsp. in place of turmeric, cumin, and coriander. 
  • Whole Coriander Seeds and/or Whole Cumin Seeds: Use 1 Tbsp. whole seeds in place of 1 tsp. powder.
  • Fresh or Candied Ginger: use 1 Tbsp. grated fresh or chopped candied ginger in place of 1 tsp. ground ginger.
  • Lentils: substitute orange or yellow split lentils, brown, crimson, black, French, brown, or green in place of red split lentils. Cooking time should remain the same for orange or yellow split, but will increase with other varieties.
  • Canned Tomatoes: if you don’t have crushed tomatoes, use diced tomatoes. This will slightly alter the texture and flavor. Alternatively, you can blend diced tomatoes in a blender or food processor before adding them to the pot. Fire-roasted tomatoes also work in this recipe.
  • Reduced-fat Coconut Milk: use in place of full-fat coconut milk.

Curry Recipe Variations

Want a bit more heat? Add ¼ tsp. of cayenne powder.

Want to turn this into a creamy coconut lentil curry soup? Add 1 more cup of water.

Want more veggies in your curry? Toss a few handfuls of spinach in with the coconut milk and let it wilt for a few minutes before serving.

Want a bit of crunch? After cooking, top with sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, or crushed whole grain tortilla chips.

Don’t have red split lentils? Try our Instant Pot curry recipe made with green lentils!

Homemade Curry Serving Suggestions

We recommend pairing this curry with a whole grain to increase plant-based protein and fiber content. Here are some of our favorite pairings:

  • Whole Wheat Pita Bread or Naan
  • Quinoa
  • Brown Basmati Rice

What to Do with Leftover Curry

Be sure to let the curry cool completely on the counter (within 2 hours) before placing it in the fridge. Leftover curry is great for an easy, healthy lunch. The curry will thicken as it cools, so you may need to add a splash of water before reheating.

If you don’t plan on eating the leftovers within 3-4 days, cool completely (within 2 hours), cover, then place in the freezer. For optimal freshness, store for up to 3 months in the freezer. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this Creamy Coconut Lentil Curry recipe and how you made it to YOUR taste!

Want more plant forward dinner recipes?

Try out these other fan favorites!

Four Bean Chili

Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos

Vegetarian Tostadas

Creamy Coconut Lentil Curry
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
25 mins

This Creamy Coconut Lentil Curry recipe is naturally vegetarian and vegan, highly nutritious, and packed with warming and flavorful spices. Made with minimal prep time, this recipe is perfect for a quick, easy, and healthy weeknight dinner!

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian, Vegetarian
Yield: 4 3/4 cups
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ small onion (~½ cup)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup red split lentils
  • ½ – 13.5 ounce can full-fat coconut milk (slightly less than 1 cup)
  • Salt & pepper to taste (¾ -1 teaspoon salt recommended)
  1. Heat a 3-4 quart saucepan over medium high heat. Add oil.

  2. Once oil is shimmering, add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring frequently.

  4. Add the tomatoes, water, and lentils to the saucepan and stir. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 13-15 minutes or until lentils are soft and curry is thickened.

  5. Add coconut milk, salt, and pepper, and let simmer for 5 minutes uncovered. Sprinkle individual servings with desired garnishes. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Serve creamy coconut lentil curry over quinoa or brown rice, or with whole wheat pita or naan bread. 


Optional Garnishes:

Lemon or lime juice

Chopped cilantro or basil


Any lentil will work for this recipe, but cook times will need to be adjusted.

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