Quick Coconut Lentil Curry

This coconut lentil curry has it all: it’s a fast and easy dinner idea that’s healthy and full of flavor. Perfect for weeknights!

Alex and I have been working on our repertoire of fast and easy dinner ideas for years. It’s a constant challenge, trying to figure out those standbys that are quick, healthy, and delicious at the same time! This coconut lentil curry comes from an idea I had one night trying to determine what to do with some kale from the garden. I ad-libbed with some lentils and a can of coconut milk we had on-hand, threw in some curry paste, and voila! It turned out so tasty that we decided to share it here. Keep reading for this coconut lentil curry recipe.

Another great curry? Vegetable Curry

How to make coconut lentil curry

This coconut lentil curry is a quick way to get to something on the table that tastes like it’s been cooking all evening! This is not an authentic Indian or Thai curry, just a coconut lentil curry inspired dish that’s a fast dinner idea. It has a fairly short ingredient list, so it’s feasible to make on a weeknight. The base of the curry is simple: just lentils, coconut milk, Thai curry paste, and tomato paste. (If you need a sub for coconut milk, head to our substitutes for coconut milk in curry.)

It’s also a great way to eat your dark leafy greens! You can throw in handfuls of any of your favorite greens. The easiest is throwing in handfuls of baby spinach that’s prewashed and boxed: or you can also add chopped kale or Swiss chard. When we talk to people about delicious ways to eat leafy greens, a curry is one of our top recs because the greens pick up all flavor of the lentil curry!

A secret ingredient: Thai curry paste

The secret to this coconut lentil curry is using Thai red curry paste. Thai curry paste has beautifully fresh flavors: garlic, lemongrass, and ginger. Grab a jar from the store in the international aisle, and it keeps for months in the refrigerator. Some Thai curry pastes are spicy and some don’t have too much heat. Our favorite brand of Thai curry paste is Thai Kitchen, and it doesn’t add much heat to the overall dish. If you can’t find it at your local grocery, here’s a link to Thai Kitchen red curry paste on Amazon.

Have you tried our coconut lentil curry? What are your favorite weeknight dinner recipes? Let us know in the comments below.

Related: 28 Day Healthy Meal Plan | 15 Best Lentil Recipes

This lentil curry recipe is…

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

Print

Coconut Lentil Curry with Greens


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (753 votes, average: 3.85 out of 5)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 46 1x

Description

This Coconut Lentil Curry is a 30 minute easy dinner idea that’s healthy and full of flavor; it’s a plant based recipe flavored with Thai curry paste.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked white or brown basmati rice, to serve (or Instant Pot basmati rice)
  • 2 cups brown or green lentils
  • 8 cups chopped leafy greens: spinach, kale, or chard
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 15-ounce can coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Make the rice according to How to Cook Basmati Rice (or Instant Pot Rice).
  2. Place the lentils in a saucepan with 6 cups warm water. Bring to a low boil, then boil for about 20 minutes until tender (taste to assess doneness). Drain, then add a few pinches of salt.
  3. Meanwhile, wash the greens, remove the stems and chop the leaves. (If using prewashed baby spinach, you can skip this step.) In your largest skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the greens and sauté for several minutes until tender and bright green.
  4. When the lentils are done, add them to the skillet with the greens. Over medium high heat, stir in the coconut milk, Thai red curry paste, tomato paste, kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Cook for a few minutes until heated through and the sauce is thickened.
  5. Taste and add a few pinches of salt if desired. Serve with rice.

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Thai Inspired

Keywords: Coconut Lentil Curry, Lentil Curry, Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Healthy Dinner Ideas, Healthy Dinner Recipe,

Looking for more plant based dinner ideas?

Outside of this coconut lentil curry recipe, here are some other favorite healthy dinner ideas (all vegan / plant based recipes!):

Looking for more fast and easy dinner recipes?

And, here a few more of our favorite fast and easy dinner recipes:

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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.

76 Comments

  • Reply
    Connie | Daydream In Color
    September 18, 2012 at 11:01 am

    This sounds delicious! I love lentils & I love indian food…it’s making me hungry!

  • Reply
    erin
    September 18, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I love lentils for a quick meal (of course, I think you could add curry to anything and I’d eat it!)

  • Reply
    Courtney Jones
    September 18, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Yum! I know what I’m having for dinner tonight now :)

    • Reply
      IG
      May 22, 2020 at 9:29 pm

      Made this for lunch and loved it. Lentils had just the right texture to them and it’s appropriately saucy. I added some onions and garlic and used canned spinach and it was perfect. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Reply
    swati
    September 20, 2012 at 9:13 am

    this is a real comfort meal! quite healthy and tasty, loved it. It turned out great!

    • Reply
      Alex
      September 20, 2012 at 10:24 am

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    Kelly
    September 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Amazing! I said “this is my new favorite lentil meal” at dinner tonight and my two year old said “this is MY favorite lentil meal too” through a full mouth. Wonderful.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      September 25, 2012 at 10:17 pm

      Oh, how nice! The thought of a sweet 2-year-old saying this made my day :) Thanks for writing!

  • Reply
    Tess Danesi
    October 1, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    This is seriously delicious and super simple. I used spinach and kale, added a TBSP of coconut manna for extra creaminess (and because I had it in the house) and sriracha because I love heat and I have to say it’s a keeper!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      April 1, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      Oh, so glad you enjoyed it! Your additions sound excellent.

  • Reply
    Chris Rawstern
    January 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    This recipe sounds seriously delicious. I wish my husband would eat things like this. He might eat a little. Once. Then it’s all mine. Not that it’s a problem, but he could do with a little more of the greens and lentils in his diet. I could live on them. I will be trying this. I have everything but Kale. Maybe frozen spinach would do?

    • Reply
      Sonja
      April 1, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      Hi Chris, sorry for the very late response on this! Frozen spinach would most certainly work. You wouldn’t even need to saute it — you could just add it together with the lentils, coconut milk and spices. Let me know if you tried it out!

  • Reply
    Diane
    April 1, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Do you think it would be good with coconut oil instead of olive oil?

    • Reply
      Alex
      April 1, 2013 at 3:02 pm

      I’m sure it would be fine!

    • Reply
      Anonymous
      December 8, 2019 at 5:49 pm

      Hell yes it would Diane

  • Reply
    Russell
    March 27, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    I hit this with some onions, peppers, and cashews the other night, and of course a healthy amount of Sriracha – it left nothing to be desired.

    • Reply
      Alex
      March 28, 2014 at 9:15 am

      Glad to hear it! :)

  • Reply
    Rina
    January 12, 2019 at 8:36 pm

    Loved this healthy, easy weeknight meal. I think we might cook the lentils in a mix of water and veggie broth next time for a bit more flavor.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 14, 2019 at 3:34 pm

      That’s a great idea! Veggie broth would definitely add some great savoriness to the lentils! Thank you for making this recipe!

  • Reply
    Martin
    January 14, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Used Green Thai paste instead, came out well despite having to translate cups into metric ; )

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 14, 2019 at 3:34 pm

      So, so glad to hear this! Thanks for making it!

  • Reply
    Roshni
    January 19, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    So tasty! Made no substitutions and ate half of it by myself. I love the simplicity of the ingredients but how wonderfully they all come together.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 19, 2019 at 8:09 pm

      Oh we’re so glad to hear it! Thank you so much for making it!

  • Reply
    Kristin
    January 21, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Made this today with mustard greens, and it is absolutely delicious! I am torn between wishing my husband would eat it, and being glad I get to keep it for myself.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 22, 2019 at 12:18 pm

      Yum, mustard greens are such a good idea! Glad you got the entire thing for yourself – ha!

  • Reply
    Ali
    January 23, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    Made this tonight and it was a hit! I usually make coconut curry with chick peas so it was a nice variation using lentils. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Reply
      Sonja
      January 23, 2019 at 8:48 pm

      Oh we are so glad to hear that! Thank you so much for making it!

  • Reply
    Amber
    April 5, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    This sounds delicious!! Is it freezable or how long does it keep in the fridge for?

    • Reply
      Sonja
      April 5, 2019 at 12:29 pm

      Yes you can definitely freeze it! You can probably keep it for a few months (or more!).

  • Reply
    Anna
    April 6, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    Thanks for the recipe idea. I just made it and like it but found it lacking in flavor so I added garlic and ginger. Next time I’ll leave out the tomato paste because I didn’t think it worked. Thanks again, love to eat lentils.

    • Reply
      Sonja
      April 7, 2019 at 9:03 pm

      Thanks for letting us know!

      • Reply
        Angelique Hosang
        October 23, 2019 at 3:38 pm

        Yes, I was wondering why basic aromatics like onions or garlic were left out of this recipe.

        • Reply
          Sonja Overhiser
          October 24, 2019 at 8:10 am

          Good question! This curry was designed to be super quick, so the curry paste brings in all the flavor (it has garlic, lemongrass, etc).

  • Reply
    Lois
    April 23, 2019 at 9:56 am

    8 Cups of spinach?

    • Reply
      Alex
      April 23, 2019 at 12:59 pm

      Yes! We use 8 cups loosely packed. It wilts down quite a bit.

      • Reply
        Anonymous
        April 23, 2019 at 2:39 pm

        Thank you!

  • Reply
    Shelly
    April 24, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    This was a hit with my 12 yr old and my 56 yr old ;) I made the mistake of adding too much salt so had to improvise and added about a cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk and a lot more curry paste. Also added onions. A very forgiving and adaptable recipe. Also love the insta pot method for rice. Thanks for a new healthy meal idea!

  • Reply
    Fran
    May 1, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    This sounds like an amazing recipe and I’d like to try it. Is there any information on nutritional value? With and without the rice? Trying to do the low carb, high protein, low sugar thing. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 2, 2019 at 9:42 am

      Hi! I updated the recipe card to include the nutrition. If you remove the rice, it’d reduce about 200 calories per serving.

      • Reply
        Fran
        May 2, 2019 at 6:31 pm

        Thank you!

  • Reply
    Kristine
    June 17, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    This is one of the best recipes of lentil out there <3 Thanks so much for sharing. I've only been using one recipe and now this. The only little change I made was sauteeing the spinach w/ garlic and onions. Followed you on instagram :)

    • Reply
      Alex
      June 18, 2019 at 9:29 am

      Wonderful! Thank you for the comment.

  • Reply
    Sally H
    June 18, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    Have had this recipe for a couple weeks and just made it tonight. I had bought some fresh beets for the week as well and cooked those up — saving the beet greens for this lentil recipe. Waste not, want not. Followed the recipe but cooked my lentils in 1/2 water, 1/2 chicken broth and used the beet greens. All I can say is “Y-U-M!!” Thanks for an amazing dish! Much appreciated.

    • Reply
      Alex
      June 19, 2019 at 9:04 am

      So glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    July 24, 2019 at 9:30 pm

    Would red lentils work in this? I know they cook faster..

    • Reply
      Sonja
      July 26, 2019 at 9:44 am

      Great question! Because red lentils get more mushy when cooked, it might turn out with more of a pureed like texture. But if you cook them until right before they fall apart, it might work! Give it a try and let us know what you think.

  • Reply
    Anna
    July 29, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Tasty and easy!!
    It wasn’t spicy enough for me so I added some cayenne pepper on top.
    I will definitely make this again and I’m planning to add some extra veggies in it!!

  • Reply
    Kelly Stewart
    September 3, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Hi I cant find red curry paste near me, what could I substitute and how much of it?

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      September 3, 2019 at 10:15 pm

      You could substitute the same amount of green curry paste! You can also order red curry paste online: here’s the red curry paste we use. Unfortunately it really carries the flavor here: so there’s no great substitute!

  • Reply
    Anonymous
    September 7, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    Is the coconut milk unsweetened?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      September 7, 2019 at 1:05 pm

      Yes!

  • Reply
    Gobnpo Yeshe
    October 2, 2019 at 12:10 am

    Hi – I have the Instant Pot mini (3 quart) – Can I just divide the measurements in half and still get the same good results?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      October 2, 2019 at 9:26 am

      Hi! I think so! We only use the Instant Pot for the rice in this recipe.

  • Reply
    LeNore in Ft Worth Texas
    October 7, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    Since I am not known for my healthy eating habits (am trying to change) I was a little skeptical about this recipe. Oh my goodness, it was really good! Great flavor! Thanks so much!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      October 7, 2019 at 7:54 pm

      Hah! So glad you enjoyed it :)

  • Reply
    Angel
    October 20, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    One of my new favorite healthy dishes! I would recommend to anyone who is looking to improve their eating habits with this recipe to use brown rice, you get a higher quality protein and lots more vitamins.

  • Reply
    Michele
    November 9, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    Is there a preference of brown vs green lentils? I am new to cooking with lentils so am uncertain of varying texture/taste. TIA for feedback!

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      November 9, 2019 at 3:49 pm

      Great question! We prefer brown lentils here because green lentils are a little more peppery in flavor. But it’s very subtle, so you could use either one!

  • Reply
    David
    November 11, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    I used green lentils.

    I began by cooking the lentils as prescribed. At the same time, I cubed three organic chicken breasts and seasoned them liberally with salt pepper and garlic, and browned them in a dutch oven on medium heat for a couple minutes before adding 1 packet of thai red coconut curry starter (powder + water) and letting the chicken sit in that for a few minutes. I also sauteed a mix of spinach, kale and chard, half a red onion chopped in long thin slices, and added minced garlic at the last minute to avoid burning it. I added all that to the dutch oven with the chicken, added a mostly drained can of diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. I took the second packet of thai curry starter that I had bought and blended it with the can of coconut milk before pouring that on top of everything, and adding the lentils in with salt and pepper. It was PHENOMENAL. Obviously the chicken wasn’t necessary, but it ended up so tender it just fell apart when I touched it with a fork. This recipe was super easy, straightforward, and will absolutely be a staple in my family’s cooking rotation! Thanks so much.

  • Reply
    Leia
    November 14, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    I cut up an onion before realizing I don’t even need it for this recipe, so I went ahead and made this recipe and the chickpea curry! Both were so fast and easy to make, and now I have really tasty food for the week :) It’s not easy to find time to cook with a four month old, ans your website has been so helpful with so many great plant based dinner ideas that are so easy and fast to put together. Thank you!

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      November 14, 2019 at 8:27 pm

      This makes us thrilled to hear! I’m so glad you found the chickpea curry to use up your onion! It really means a lot that you’ve been able to find plant based dinner recipes that fit into your lifestyle — big win!!! It’s really encouraging to us. Thanks for the note!

  • Reply
    Heather
    November 24, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    This is the second recipe on your site that I’ve tried and you guys are 2/2! Even one of my kids tried it, which is huge! I’ve bookmarked the page and will continue to explore. Thanks again!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      November 24, 2019 at 8:02 pm

      You’re welcome! So glad the kids even are getting into it :)

  • Reply
    Trisha McCarthy
    November 30, 2019 at 1:44 pm

    I made this as soon as I read the recipe and really loved it. I will definitely make again. Lentils can be a little blah, but this recipe made them enjoyable and me wanting more. I did add a little lemon juice to the recipe for a little more zing! But I add lemon juice to everything. I also drained the lentils and maybe I shouldn’t have, since I ended up adding vegetable broth to make it a little more soupier.

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      November 30, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      So glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  • Reply
    Sean
    December 10, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    This was delicious! The only thing I added was some scorpion pepper puree for an extra kick. This was extremely filling and IMO at least 8 meals if you are serving it with an equal volume of cooked rice. Had dinner for two and meal prepped lunch for myself for six days. I’ll definitely be making this curry many more times in the future!

  • Reply
    Cristina
    January 24, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    This sounds delish. I’m curious if you think it would freeze well? I’ve never frozen a lentil dish before but I’m looking for healthy meals I can cook in bulk and freeze for easy future meals. Thank you for all your great recipes!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      January 24, 2020 at 1:11 pm

      Yes, this should freeze well if you let it thaw overnight in the fridge.

  • Reply
    Larry in Chile
    April 10, 2020 at 11:59 am

    Did it. Because of quarantine, I was thankful for your coconut milk alternatives as we’re out. Quite good and I’lll add it to the rotation of dishes that we eat. Be well.

  • Reply
    Susanne
    May 11, 2020 at 7:36 pm

    Tonight I wanted to finish up a batch of lentils I cooked this weekend. When I found this recipe I saw that I had everything but the greens. So I quickly got a bag of spinach by the supermarket around the corner. It was so easy to make and delicious. The red curry paste I have is a bit spicy but I like it. To finish the potatoes I had bought for another recipe a month ago I cooked those and served the lentil curry on that instead of serving it with rice. It was a great combination. Thank you for the recipe.

    • Reply
      Sonja Overhiser
      May 12, 2020 at 10:40 am

      So glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply
    Nicole
    May 28, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    Hey fellow bloggers! Want to let you both know that I posted your recipe on my blog and linked to you! Thanks for the inspo! Came out great. I hope my followers enjoyed it as much as I did! If you’d check out my blog, I’d be so grateful.

  • Reply
    Aubrey
    June 5, 2020 at 8:39 am

    Do you recommend substituting a cauliflower rice or quinoa for the regular rice as a healthier alternative?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      June 5, 2020 at 11:04 am

      Quinoa would be great!

  • Reply
    Rachel
    June 11, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    Loved this recipe!! I used fresh baby spinach with a little diced garlic and onion sautéed with it and otherwise just followed the recipe and it turned out fantastic, we have a new addition to our regular meal rotation. This was my first dish ever with lentils and you’ve made me a convert, thanks for the great recipe!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      June 11, 2020 at 8:23 pm

      So glad you loved it!

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