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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 we use in many of our soup recipes and our famous pizza 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

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


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


  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ tablespoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 ½ 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)


  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.


*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
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Lentil stew

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you’ll want to make again and again.

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  1. 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!

  2. This is my new favorite soup!!! I did change a few things though I added 1 Pound of ground beef. I also used chicken broth instead of vegetable. Needless to say I’m not a vegetarian but this is the best vegetarian soup I’ve ever eaten lol;)

  3. This was incredibly tasty and I will definitely make again, as my husband will eat lentils (but not beans). The paprika really adds a lot of flavor. Like another reviewer, I used chicken broth (is what I had); I used up a half can of tomatoes and didn’t have more, so I added tomato paste and some extra water, as well. Chopped kale and put in with about 10 minutes to go. My 16yo son, myself, and DH all enjoyed it.

    It would be helpful to know the serving size so that one readers can use it to gauge the dietetic information (as those are typically based on a set amount). Something to consider.

    Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Made exactly as printed except used chicken broth. It took longer for my lentils to cook so simmered til ready. This is more than four servings. After a heart attack my husband on a healthier diet and this is perfect.

  5. This was so, so tasty! and simple to make. I cooked it with the lid on the whole time because I like stews a little soupier.

    I added 1.5 vegan sausages thin-sliced just a few minutes before the end to keep them from getting tough.

    A winner!

  6. The hearty Lenten stew is absolutely delicious. I loved it and want to buy your book!!

    1. Thank you! I was skeptical of that amount of paprika, and after reading your comment decided to do 1.5 teaspoons instead. We wouldn’t have liked it with 1.5 Tablespoons! Plenty smoky enough. Will only do 1 tsp next time.

  7. Thank you so much for this recipe. It will be a mainstay in our family, as everyone loved it. I added slices of Hempler’s sausage to increase the protein and used curly red kale. As an editor for Cell Press journals, I am learning about plant-forward eating, including the EAT-Lancet diet as published recently in One Earth, so I am very keen on finding recipes to help me participate in our nutritional sustainability.

    1. We don’t as usually we’ve found packaged lentils to be clean, but you can rinse and check for bad ones if you like!

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