Curried Lentil Stew

Lentils, long popular in India, the Middle East, and Europe, have been gaining an enthusiastic following in the United States over the past few decades. This small, relatively quick-cooking pulse (defined by Webster's as "the edible seeds of various crops . . . of the legume family) is loaded with protein and fiber and extremely low in fat. Lentils provide folate, vitamins A and B, potassium, phosphorus, and iron ~ all without cholesterol. (Make any healthy-eating New Year's resolutions this year? You may want to cozy up to the lentil.)

There are several varieties of lentils. French green lentils cook a bit more slowly than other varieties but hold their shape well and are considered the gold standard for cold salads. Also known as lentilles de Puy, these lentils were originally grown exclusively in the volcanic earth of Puy, France. Red lentils, such as the Egyptian lentil, cook quickly but tend to lose their shape. Use these for soups, stews, and purees. Their pinkish red hue turns golden upon cooking. Brown lentils are the grocery-store standard. They are mildly flavored and cook in a jiffy. Don't overcook these or they'll turn to mush. Petite Beluga black lentils take on a glossy, caviar-like sheen when cooked.

Unlike beans, lentils do not need to be soaked before cooking.

Curried Lentil Stew

  • Olive oil

  • 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

  • 3 ribs celery, finely chopped

  • 1 medium onion, finely diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 tablespoons curry powder

  • 7 cups water

  • 1 pound dried lentils, rinsed and picked over

  • 3 teaspoons beef or vegetable bouillon

  • 1 cup tomato puree or 1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

  • 8 ounces frozen cut-leaf spinach (no need to thaw)

  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste

  1. 1. Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil into a dutch oven or stockpot and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add chopped carrots, celery, and onion to make a mirepoix*. Saute until the vegetables are just beginning to get tender. Add garlic and sprinkle the curry powder over the vegetables. Continue to saute, stirring, for another 2 to 3 minutes.

  2. Add one cup of water to the pot to deglaze, scraping up the browned bits at the bottom. Then stir in the remaining water, the lentils, and the bouillon. Place a cover on the pot at an angle so that steam can escape, and bring to a boil. Once the stew comes to a boil, stir, reduce heat, and simmer for about thirty minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Check the lentils for tenderness at about 30 minutes. When they are fairly tender, stir in the tomato puree and the spinach. Let simmer until the desired texture and consistency are reached. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper as necessary.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

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Recipe Notes

  • A mirepoix [pronounced Meer-PWAH] is a combination of diced carrots, celery, and onion sauteed ~ most typically in butter, but sometimes in olive oil or bacon drippings ~ and used to flavor soups, stocks, or sauces. A blanc version of the mirepoix replaces the carrots with parsnips or mushrooms.

  • This stew freezes nicely. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat the next day. If it thickens too much, just thin it with a bit of stock.

  • For an interesting flavor twist, stir in a splash of red wine vinegar or lemon juice. To make a delicious, more indulgent variation, stir in a cup of light cream or half and half right before serving.

  • I paired this with garlic-herb fried bread, a variation on naan, for a very satisfying lunch. If you want to make a heartier meal of it, add some sliced sausage, kielbasa, or cubed ham.


  1. I love curried lentils. I have all the ingredients for your stew in my pantry. Guess what I'm having this weekend? Thanks.

  2. Thanks for sharing this recipe. It looks and sounds delicious. I love lentils (all types) and am always on the lookout for new recipes.

  3. ~JohannaB: If you're a real curry fan, you may want to up the amount of curry powder. I keep it fairly mild because I'm serving kids, and it does get stronger while it sits overnight in the fridge (so leftovers are even better). I hope you like it! :)

    ~Pinkstripes: You're welcome! I think lentils are one of the best "convenience" foods available. So high in protein and low in fat, inexpensive, and no advance prep (unlike beans). I think 2009 might be the year of the lentil! :)

  4. This looks so tasty. I love soup recipes, and I've been meaning to use up some lentils. Thanks for the post!

  5. Yum, I love curried lentils. They're so flavorful and healthy. Yours looks great!

  6. 2009 the year of the lentil! I'm on board. I love these little guys. They are like quinoa on their health vs. conveinence ratio. Power houses! Plus, they taste great! Thanks for the lentil tutorial.


  7. I like using the yellow stuff for Dal. Somehow, having just a small bowl means I'm already full so it's really nice in that way.

  8. This turned out great. I modified a little because I wanted to eat it like an indian curry with rice and flatbread, so I used about half the water called for in the recipe. Also, i didn't have any curry powder, but I used what was left of a jar of mild curry paste that I had in the fridge. Delicious! Thanks

  9. Didn't have the spinach but the rest was a good start. I did add a few slices of fresh ginger and for curry powder I've found the "Sun Brand" "Madras Curry Powder" to give the best flavor. I didn't find that brand everywhere so I bought a case from Amazon and shared it with friends. With a little Major Grey's Chutney and rice it's one of my favorite meals. I sometime reheat with some raisins which can plump up overnight and or add cashews or banana slices. It's all comfort food!

  10. Most definitely a keeper recipe...... really tasty! I doubled on the spinach.

  11. I made this on Saturday (yes, in the NYC heat). I subbed a few tablespoons of tomato paste for the purée (all I had) but it was still spectacular. Next time I'll use the puree. Thanks for the great, easy recipe!

  12. Lori B. ~ You're welcome! I'm so glad you enjoyed this as much as I do! P.S. You're a girl after my own heart . . . I just made lentils with ham, and it was pushing 90. I was the only one in my family who ate it that night. :)


  13. Have made this recipe quite a few times and it never tastes the same, simply delicious every time though

  14. that sounds awesome!! i'm making this recipe, or some variation, this weekend! mmmmm!!!!!

  15. I made this recipe the other day, in bulk! I added chopped up red/yellow peppers and courgette to the mirepoix to bulk it out.

    I also added a tin of chopped tomatoes instead of the puree and then I added a tin of coconut milk, a chopped up potato and some cut up sausage also at the very end.

    I froze it for work also in portions and it was gorgeous. Great recipe.

  16. Hi. I found your website via Kalyn's Kitchen and I'm glad I did. I made the Lentil Stew last night, adding a 1/4 pound of kielbasa so my husband wouldn't feel "deprived." LOL. We give it two wildly enthusiastic thumbs up.

    I've been on the hunt for new South Beach friendly recipes, and I'm definitely adding it to my rotation.

    Linda K.

  17. I cooked this and it taste so great


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