Recipe: Red Lentil Vegetable Curry

Happy Monday Everyone!

Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.

~ Albert Einstein

I hope you all had a truly fab weekend soaking up the spring sun and taking it all in!

As for us, we’ve got a new layer of topsoil in the garden and a clean fresh outlook – here’s to the new season…and Easter coming up!

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

~ Seneca

Today’s post is (once again) dedicated to the simple easy pleasures in life. Healthy food made delicious by the addition of simple (and rich) spices!

A vegetarian’s palette of inspiration is only as limited as the spice cupboard, and inexpensive staples can go from pretty meh to pretty mean in a few seconds with (just a little) bit of spice.

Indian spices in particular are so wonderfully varied, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with combos (but it can be done) – and there are a few easy ones that everyone should be familiar with.

They would be (for me): cumin (both ground and seeds), ginger, turmeric, black mustard seeds, coriander, garam masala (so many kinds!), cardamom..there are a few others – what are your classic faves?

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

~ Confucius

There are so many different spices to name but I’ve always had good luck preparing delicious veggie curries and bean dishes out of the ones listed above. They are known for being widely beneficial to digestion, and gentle and calming for the soul (maybe that part is just for me – anyone else?).

Side Note: Here in Vancouver – home to one of North America’s most widely celebrated Indian restaurants (Vij’s) – we are lucky to have a few high quality haunts (from budget to high-end) to frequent for a taste of the real thing. My recent (1st!) trip to London also brought me to Brick Lane, which was a very special experience, and I’ll never forget my 1st taste of that delicious lime pickle…amazing!

Alas, I don’t think a trip to India will ever be in the cards for me (but never say never), and I would never consider my home cooking a substitution for the real thing……but it isn’t all that hard, and cooking this way is:

Delicious, cheap, and good for you.

Straight up!

The Less:

Less complicated ingredients means you are more likely to make this. Less canned or jarred spice mixtures mean cleaner, simpler food. Less cream and animal based curries means lighter, cheaper meals. Less heavy beans means your body might not mind eating these (especially if you are sensitive to beans and legumes).

The More:

More flavorful vegetarian dishes in your repertoire means more yummy foods to cook often. More vibrantly colored food means more visual pleasure for your senses. More ginger and spices means more help for digestion. More cheap dinners means more money for other things. Straight up and simple, this dish a classic.

Red Lentil Vegetable Curry:

  • (2) tbsp olive oil, canola oil, or ghee
  • (2) tbsp black mustard seeds
  • (1) onion chopped (about one heaping cup)
  • (2) tsp salt
  • (2) tsp turmeric
  • (2) tsp cumin
  • (2) tbsp fresh chopped or grated ginger
  • (3) carrots, chopped (about one heaping cup)
  • (2) medium potatoes (about one heaping cup)
  • (1.5) cups canned diced tomatoes (1 398ml can)
  • (1) cup red lentils
  • (4) cups water
  • (1) lemon
  • black pepper to taste
  • fresh cilantro for garnish

The trick with this style of cooking is to have all of your spices ready and veggies chopped and ready to go.

Everything happens pretty quickly and even for experienced cooks it’s difficult to be prepping and measuring while the cameras are rolling. So be ready!

In a medium large pot, heat the oil on medium high. When hot, add the black mustard seeds and stir until they start to pop – don’t leave the stove – this takes about 30 seconds only!

Once the little seeds start dancing (and popping!), add the chopped onion and salt and cook, stirring about 5-6 minutes, or until golden. Add ginger and remaining dry spices and cook, stirring for one minute on medium heat. When spices are fragrant, add tomato and stir all well for about a minute or two until well integrated.

Hang tight – now you can almost step away….

Add lentils, chopped vegetables and water and stir all to well combine. Bring to a light boil on medium-high with the lid on. Once boiling temperature has been reached, turn the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 30-40 minutes stirring frequently to prevent the lentils from prevent sticking to bottom of the pot.

Once ready, add the juice of lemon. Simple, zesty, and ready to serve!

Serve with ground pepper, a dash of butter or olive oil, plenty of freshly ground pepper and chopped fresh cilantro – don’t forget the side of rice if desired and buttery naan bread too!

This will get more delicious the longer it sits in your fridge and I highly recommend making it a day before you serve it. I’ve been making this curry as long as I’ve been cooking it seems – it never gets tired, and it’s always incredible!

So there you have it! An easy dinner on a cold night, or a starter to a great Indian meal.

I’ve got a bit of this leftover and I am thinking tonight’s dinner may just consist of a bowl of curry..straight up and simple.

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.

~ Dalai Lama

On another (slightly ironic and very sad) side note – we went to go for said Indian last night at our families favorite budget haunt here in town, only to find it had been destroyed by a fire!

Now we’re on the hunt for a new budget favorite – can’t wait to see what we find – and I hope they re-build and wish them well…lots of great memories and gratitude were had at that delicious place 🙂

How about you?

  • What are your favorite curry dishes with lentils?
  • Got any spices we should all add to the list?

I hope you are all starting a wonderful week – anyone tried the recipes for the Sweet Life Chews or Lively Cilantro Sauce?

I’d love to know how they turned out. Drop us a line – we’ll be so happy you did!

Yours in Less,


Filed under Cheap, Cooking, Family, Food, Gluten Free, Recipes, Rich & Simple, Savory, Soup, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

66 responses to “Recipe: Red Lentil Vegetable Curry

  1. That looks lovely! Great photos!

  2. A nice, healthy and delicious dal. This looks wonderful. I think red lentils would be in my top 3 curry recipes. I picked up some AMAZING spices this week on my trip away so I shall be blogging a curry or two VERY soon.

  3. I love the spice mix panch phoron, and cumin and coriander seeds are my “go-to” spices! Have you tried adding the spices at the end for this dish, like a daal? I’m definitely in the mood for some lentils–it’s been rainy here all weekend, and that’s the perfect time for some warming Indian lentils.
    **Side note, when I lived in London, I used to go to my local “ruby” (rhyming slang: Ruby Murray=curry) so often I received a Christmas card from them…

    • Lovely! Nice spice recommendations – love freshly toasted and ground coriander!
      I had such a great experience in London….it must have been wonderful living there and enjoying it regularly as a local 🙂

      • It was–I miss a lot about living in London, but meeting my husband right after moving home makes it all worth it!
        And toasting and grinding your own spices is the ONLY way forward. People who don’t really don’t understand what they are missing!

  4. I like your spice choices: I’m very fond of cumin and ginger, cardamom. Many Indian recipes also call for tomatoes, onions, turmeric and coriander seed. If I could only have my food cooked one way for the rest of my life I would choose Indian-style.

  5. CJ

    My roommate is obsessed with lentils and sweet potatoes…curry is a bonus! I will have to make this soon. Looks amazing!

    • IF you are looking for bonus points and good karma – (hey – who isn’t?!) – your roomie *might* just worship you if you make this…let us know how it goes! Happy Monday!

  6. I do LOVE this sort of meal Shira, and am bookmarking the recipe to try soon! Thank you!

  7. Happy Monday – – this curry sure brightens it up! The colors are beautiful and I know it tastes just as good as it looks!

  8. Will definitely try this. Looks delicious!

  9. ohh…I have everything except the mustard seeds and fresh ginger. I’ve never had Indian food but I may need to try this. I looks so good and like something we would like.

    • If you haven’t tried cooking it (Indian) yet, this was the first curry I ever learned….you can see it has legs! You could try it without those two, but they really do add the character….but it would still be tasty! Good luck!

  10. As usual – amazing! BTW, yesterday I have taken shots of turmeric and ginger which look like yours – for my post after the next post on a chicken curry. Of-course not as vibrant as yours – but just telling you before hand..)))

    Did I tell you that you are in my blog roll?

    • Yes – you did! that’s AMAZING (and ever so humbly flattering too) – THANKS! – if I did not thank you yet it was SOOOO on my list!! Love it – at least we know that great minds think alike – and I’ll be looking forward to your spice post! Always appreciate your wonderful comments – thank you! Have a wonderful day! 🙂

  11. Hello IPOM!

    I love orange. It’s my favourite colour in the WHOLE world – ergo, I love your post today!

    Not sure we’ll manage the lentil curry just yet… I always think of curries with pulses as winter food and the temperature hasn’t dropped enough yet. The mornings are very dark (for Sydney), though. Blech!

    I have made your lovely Lively Cilantro Sauce… (Do I get a prize for being the 1st?) It was lovely on lamb cutlets. Have to say, the kale pesto is still the winner for me (I had it AGAIN for breakfast this morning!)

    Talk soon, Jx

    • You just know how to make my day – don’t you?!
      I simply adore that you love the pesto that much – it’s pretty darned good all the time! And especially for breakfast! I just get such a kick out of folks making my recipes – so happy you tried it (I’ve been eating on my fajitas like it’s the only sauce on the planet!)
      I am also happy to provide (just a little) color therapy for you! PS – the curry is delish cold too…might be good with a spot of sprouted bread and kale pesto….!
      Happy Day to you! xo

  12. I looove a good curry. Actually just ate some Indian food on the weekend but I went the lazy route and ordered in take out. Probably will just make it myself next time because this looks divine! I’ve always loved Indian food for it’s ability to take simple ingredients and create out-of-this-world flavour!

    • Takeout is pretty sweet and often cheaper too! Nothing at all wrong the the lazy route (hehe – smart)! This recipe however is very economical and it keeps (and freezes) pretty well too, and not too many veggies to chop! 🙂 xo

  13. I really adore your photography, as well as curry! It looks delicious.

  14. Your pictures just brighten my day, so fresh and colorful 🙂

    Your awesome!

    • Aw, thanks! That’s so wonderfully kind of you! So glad I can be of service and make (just a little) difference in your day – that makes MY day! 🙂

  15. Love the pictures.. everything looks so vibrant! i have a 24 spice rack and another bunch of spices and mixes in the cabinet:) i cant live without fennel, nigella and carom seeds(Saunf, Kalonji, Ajwain in hindi). try one of these in combination with your current spices in any dish, and you might find some combinations worth using again and again!

    • Hi Richa! Fennel is wonderful and the funny thing is I have box labeled ‘Indian Spices’ with all the delicious and slightly harder to identify spices in them…just waiting for the right recipe as I am not sure how to use them! I love these suggestions – thanks!

  16. This is my most favorite go to dish and so funny I made it this evening for dinner!
    I love making dhals one because it is so simple once you learn the process, two I almost always have the ingredients for it in the cupboard or the fridge, and three it’s just the bang this little budget tight couple needs in their buck – so affordable, so many nutrients, and so much flavor. Someday I’d love to do a tour de curries and taste all the different homemade versions! Cheers to curry!

    • So true Hillery and also too funny! I agree this is the easiest and most resourceful style of cooking there is – there is no end to the uses and possibility for this knowledge – so happy to share that with you and others – and I hope your meal was wonderful! Cheers indeed! 🙂

  17. Sarah

    Shira, I’m loving your blog. Ridiculously, as much as I love to cook, I’ve yet to try making any of these amazing recipes. I’ve been a lazy chef and do my blog surfing after I’ve been to the grocery store.
    But enough is enough! I’m shopping for coconut chews and red lentil curry tomorrow!!
    BTW, do you have a cookie recipe that the kids can take to school (i.e. no nut products)?
    Hope to see you soon, Sarah

    • Love this Sarah – and I am so glad! Julie mentioned it was tough sourcing both the lentils and the black mustard in Whistler…if you find them let her know or see how she made out in the end!
      You are such a terrific cook yourself – I’d be honored to have you cooking IPOM style!
      Working on the cookies….I’ll have something up for you soon! See you soon ,yes, it’s been too long!
      😉 xo

  18. Shira, I wish we were neighbors so we could cook together! I think we love a lot of the same things. I’m so sorry about your favorite budget Indian place–but at least you have Vij’s! We’ve only eaten there once but I think it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had in a restaurant. I haven’t made the cilantro sauce yet but I have all the ingredients! I had better do it tomorrow before the cilantro starts to get soggy. 🙂

    • I know Emmy – I could not agree more with that! 😉 🙂 Glad you have experienced Vij’s too – a treat for sure and we are so lucky! We’ll find another haunt but what a sad thing when a restaurant burns down 😦
      Have fun with the sauce – let me know how you like it!!

  19. Love lentil curry! Yours looks divine! I usually add cayenne pepper, coriander powder,ground cardamom and ground cloves to mine. Spice chaos!

  20. Really impressed with the recipe presentation. Good job!

  21. dhal is always cooked in our hows, couldn’t afford not to!

  22. I had forgotten about that wonderful quote from Confucious…very true! …the recipe looks good to try since lentils and spices are staples in my diet, thank you for sharing this.

  23. Looks so yummy! My go to easy & delicious meal is definitely red lentil dal… it makes me so happy and satisfied. Playing around with different spices always makes the kitchen so fascinating. Love this recipe!

  24. Margaret

    Tried the red lentil curry and it tastes as delicious as it looks in your pictures. Great recipe,Shira!

  25. So excited to try this recipe! How do you think sweet potatos would do in place of regular potatos???

  26. Will have to try this! And more of your great recipes. Thanks for your recipes, quotes, and perspective!

  27. How did I miss THIS? Yum!!

  28. Making this tonight for my dinner! YUM

  29. Pingback: Killer Kale Pesto and Giving a Helping Hand | Paint Your Landscape

  30. Renee K

    One of my fav clean eating meals which I now make on a weekly basis I just swap potato for sweet potato, use chopped really ripe roma tomatoes in place of tinned ones and sometimes add a bit of chicken when I need extra protein. I have also swapped lentils for black beans (turns a terrible colour, but tastes great) .. thanks for teaching me how to make curry!

  31. Sarah

    This was divine! Thanks for sharing this excellent dish – we will make it again soon!

  32. Sarah

    new year’s resolution #1 – try new and healthy vegetarian recipes. i don’t need to go any further than your blog! grocery shopping today but i have a feeling i won’t find black mustard seeds in whistler. substitutes or just leave it out?

    • I am afraid no substitute that you will find in Whistler either! I think you might be surprised in the Indian section….I hope you are! Keep me posted 🙂

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