Hearty Lentil Stew

This tasty lentil stew is packed with hearty flavor and loaded with plant based protein. Perfect for a simple lunch or dinner!

Lentil stew

Here’s a cozy recipe that embodies the rhythm of soup season: this Hearty Lentil Stew! There’s something about the simple actions: chopping the onion, mincing the garlic, and listening for the sizzle of the veggies as they hit the hot oil. The rhythm of a big pot of soup or stew has been passed down through the centuries: and this one is a mighty delicious spin. The broth is flavored with tangy fire-roasted tomatoes, garlic and smoked paprika, and it’s full of vegetables and hearty lentils. It was a big hit over here, as lentil recipes usually are! It makes a simple lunch or dinner that’s nourishing for the body — and the soul, too.

Ingredients in this lentil stew

When it comes to eating healthy and plant-based, lentils are the rock stars of the food world. They’re full of plant-based protein and nutrients to keep you full all day long. This lentil stew is a simple way to eat more of them, perfect for easy lunches and dinner throughout the week. Here’s what you’ll need for this lentil stew:

  • Brown or green lentils: This is the most common variety you’ll find at the store. Avoid red lentils here because they fall apart easily when cooking (go to this Tuscan Lentil Soup instead).
  • Onion
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Garlic
  • Canned fire roasted tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Spices: smoked paprika, cumin and fennel seed
  • Vegetable broth and salt
  • Spinach or other leafy green
  • Parmesan cheese (optional): Parmesan is not required, but it adds big flavor!
Lentil stew

Use fire roasted tomatoes or best quality canned tomatoes

This lentil stew recipe calls for canned fire roasted tomatoes, which use in many of our soup recipes and our famous pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce. What’s the big deal about fire roasted tomatoes? These tomatoes are roasted over an open flame, which chars the outsides and develops their flavor. You’ll notice the flavor is much sweeter when you take a bite right out of the can. Other types of canned tomatoes taste bitter.

Fire roasted tomatoes have become widely available in the US, made by several different brands. If you can’t find them, use the highest quality canned tomatoes you can find. The type of tomatoes really makes a difference!

Mix up the leafy greens!

This last step to this lentil stew recipe is to add leafy greens! We try to do this in as many of our soup and stew recipes to load in the nutrients with good-for-you greens. This lentil stew uses baby spinach, but you can use any type of leafy green that you like. Here are a few options:

  • Baby spinach or standard: If you’re using standard spinach that’s sold in a bunch, make sure to wash it well! Then chop it into small pieces before using.
  • Baby kale: Baby kale wilts in just 1 minute, much like baby spinach.
  • Tuscan kale: Tuscan kale is our favorite variety of kale for cooking: it’s an Italian variety with a milder, sweeter flavor than curly kale, which can taste bitter and spicy.
  • Swiss chard: Another good option! When using Tuscan kale or chard, add the greens in the last 5 minutes of cooking (vs 1 minute for baby greens).
  • Collard greens: Chop them into small pieces and add in the last 5 to 10 minutes (collards take a little longer to cook).
Lentil stew

Variation: add more protein to this lentil stew

One fun way to add even more protein to this lentil stew is by adding plant-based sausage. It’s not until recently that we’ve felt comfortable adding plant-based meat substitutes to our recipes. In fact, we avoided them for 10 plus years because most of them were very processed! But these days, there are some vegan meat alternatives that are less processed and made with real foods.

You can add sliced vegan sausage here to make a vegan lentil stew that’s even more full of hearty flavor! Make sure to check the ingredients of the brand of sausage that you buy: some brands are still very processed. Also make sure that it meets your dietary needs: some brands contain gluten or eggs.

How to make lentil stew

How to make lentil stew: some tips

The steps of this lentil stew are very simple: as we noted up front, people have been cooking this way for centuries! Here are a few things to note about the process:

  • Chopping is the largest hands-on time (10 minutes). To speed it up, you can chop the veggies in advance and refrigerate until making.
  • Sauté, then simmer until the lentils are tender (30 minutes or so). The exact timing depends on your heat level and the lentils you use. It will be different every time!
  • Season to taste! The salt level varies based on the brand of canned tomatoes and veggie broth. Add a few pinches of salt until it pops!

Storing leftovers and make-ahead info

This lentil stew stores very well. It’s a great option if you want to meal prep it in advance and refrigerate until serving! Here are the particulars:

  • Store refrigerated for up to 4 days: the flavor improves over time
  • Freeze for 3 to 4 months
Lentil stew

Side dishes to serve with lentil stew

This lentil stew just needs a hunk of crusty bread and you’ve got a cozy meal! But here are a few more sides for soups and stews to make this an easy plant based dinner:

Lentil stew with brown lentils

This lentil stew recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Lentil stew

Hearty Lentil Stew


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (16 votes, average: 4.63 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This tasty lentil stew is packed with hearty flavor and loaded with plant based protein. Perfect for a simple lunch or dinner!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown or green lentils
  • 28-ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes (or highest quality canned tomatoes)*
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups baby spinach (or chopped standard spinach, kale or chard)
  • For the garnish: Parmesan cheese (recommended)

Instructions

  1. Finely dice the onion. Peel and finely chop the carrots. Chop the celery into small pieces. Mince the garlic.
  2. In a large pot, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook 3 to 4 minutes until just translucent. Add the smoked paprika, cumin, fennel seeds, and lentils and stir 1 minute. Add the canned tomatoes and their juices, vegetable broth, and kosher salt
  3. Bring to a simmer. Simmer covered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Remove lid and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the lentils are tender. Stir in the spinach in the last minute or so and cook until it wilts (if using kale or chard, add it in the last 5 minutes).
  4. Remove from the heat. Taste and season with additional salt and fresh ground pepper as necessary. For best flavor, garnish with Parmesan cheese. Stores refrigerated for up to 4 days and frozen for 3 to 4 months.

Notes

*Note: To add even more protein to this meal, add sliced plant-based sausage with the canned tomatoes. Review the ingredients of any plant-based protein you buy to make sure it’s as non-processed as possible and make sure it meets your dietary needs (some contain gluten or eggs). 

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Lentil stew

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

4 Comments

  • Reply
    Lauren
    December 18, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    I improvised to use up things I had around — used zucchini instead of celery and carrots, added some chickpeas for a little extra heartiness, and added in some freshly squeezed lemon juice with the spinach — and it was all lovely! Thank you for this great recipe!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      December 21, 2020 at 10:10 am

      So glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    Sheryl
    January 22, 2021 at 4:42 pm

    Could you please tell me the serving size?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 22, 2021 at 7:44 pm

      Sorry, we don’t have a cups measurement.

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