Coconut Curry Lentils

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Coconut Curry Lentils are ridiculously quick and simple to make! To have these saucy, tasty lentils on the table in a hurry, we use a few short-cuts including already minced ginger and garlic, canned lentils, and a simple seasoning blend.

Coconut Curry Lentils

These speedy and simple Coconut Curry Lentils are part of our Back-To-School Lifesavers — a series of recipes that are intended to have little (or no) veggie chopping, minimal prep time, around 10 ingredients or less (not including pantry staples), and use kid-friendly ingredients. Click here to see all the recipes in the series!

Coconut Curry Lentils

We are obsessed with lentils at my home, and I’ll admit I almost never use canned lentils. But when the cravings hit and it’s one of those busy school weeknights, I’ve found just what a great time saver canned lentils can be! They especially work well in a creamy curry since they don’t need to be as firm to still be tasty (like you’d want in a lentil salad.) 

These curried lentils are ridiculously simple to make with very minimal prep and the meal is incredibly nutritious and ultra flavorful. It’ll be hard to believe you whipped it all up in about 20 minutes or less! 🙂 


While this meatless meal may seem like it’s lacking protein, lentils are actually an incredible source of plant-based protein and fiber. 1 cup of cooked lentils yields about 19 grams of protein!

Coconut Curry Lentils Spiciness

As written, this curry is very mild (erring more on the sweet side than spicy depending on the coconut milk used). 

If you’d like to add some more heat, I’d recommend some cayenne pepper (start with 1/8 teaspoon) and add that in with the other seasonings. Red pepper flakes are another option to add some kick.

Ingredient shots-- images of the garlic and ginger used in this dish

Short-Cut Ideas

Here are the main shortcuts we employ for these easy coconut curry lentils:

  • Quick garlic and ginger. We love Dorot’s® garlic and ginger cubes. They have crushed garlic and crushed ginger that you can keep handy in the freezer and pop into this (and other) recipes when needed. (Check if your local store carries them; they’re typically found with frozen veggies in the grocery store). Another option is to use refrigerated garlic paste and refrigerated minced garlic. 
  • Shallot. We do add in a diced shallot, which requires a bit of chopping, but you can use the food processor if you’d like to quickly pulse it up!
  • Canned lentils. Lentils aren’t hard to prepare and can be made fairly quickly, but they’ll either dirty another dish or make this dish take longer start to finish as you’d need to wait for the lentils to simmer and become tender. Using canned lentils is a great shortcut here and they work in a curry since the dish is on the creamy side to begin with.
  • Simplified seasonings. A lot of the curry recipes we’ve shared have a mile-long list of seasonings — you all know how much I love seasoning! 🙂 But when time is tight or you don’t have a whole arsenal of seasonings, this recipe comes to the rescue. We aimed to keep the seasonings as simple as possible while still ensuring a good flavor. 

Process shots-- Sauté shallot, ginger and garlic in oil; add curry paste and seasonings; continue to sauté.

Coconut Curry Lentils Ingredients

Beyond the aromatics and lentils, here are the other main ingredients:

  • Coconut milk. I highly recommend using full-fat coconut milk for the best flavor and thickness. Additionally, the natural sweetness in the full-fat coconut milk will balance the spiciness of the seasonings. Lite coconut milk doesn’t thicken quite as nicely and won’t give the rich full flavor that regular coconut milk provides. Look for shelf-stable, unrefrigerated cans of coconut milk. You’ll find canned coconut milk on the international aisle, with Latin or Asian products. Here’s an article outlining the best brands to use. I personally use Imperial Kitchen® since I can find it easily at my local grocery store.
  • Yellow curry powder. Curry powder is another ingredient that varies a lot from brand to brand. We’ve tested this curry with Great Value®, Simple Truth Organic®, and McCormick® — all work similarly and are mild. If you’re not a heat lover, add curry powder slowly and to taste. You can always add a touch of sugar at the end to balance spiciness if needed. 
  • Lemon juice. A little bit of fresh lemon juice is the perfect finishing touch for these coconut curry lentils. It adds vibrancy, freshness, and ties everything together! A citrus juicer makes adding fresh lemon juice a breeze.

Process shots--add coconut milk to the sautéed aromatics and simmer; add lentils and lemon juice; mix well and serve.

This curry comes together so quickly that we don’t want to be spending loads of time on the sides, right?!

Coconut Curry Lentil Serving Suggestions

When we make Coconut Curry Lentils, we generally serve them with rice and naan. But in true “back-to-school recipe lifesavers” fashion, the sides need to be just as easy. Here are our secrets to the quickest sides:

  • Toaster naan. Store-bought naan is definitely best warmed through, but instead of taking the time to char it over an open flame, just toss it in the toaster right as you’re finishing the curry. You can purchase smaller-sized naan that is made for the toaster. (Stonefire® makes this; it’s usually labeled as mini naan.)
  • Boiled rice. If you haven’t boiled rice before, you are going to be thrilled with the ease and speed. All you’ll need to do is throw some basmati rice in boiling water, boil it for 5-7 minutes, and voila — perfect rice! 


Want to save even more time (and dishes?) grab ready/microwaveable basmati rice instead!

Coconut Curry Lentils with rice, on a plate

Coconut Curry Lentils Storage

One of the best things about this recipe is how well it stores — it tastes even better on day 2! So, if you’re in need of true lifesaver recipes, make a double batch and save one half to serve later on in the week — that way when your family inhales batch #1, you can let them know more is coming later. 🙂

To store: Let the curry cool and then package in air-tight containers in the fridge. Reheat in a pan or skillet large enough to fit all the leftovers. Add a pat of butter or coconut oil to the pan and heat to medium-high. Once the oil is melted, add in the curry. Cover and heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently until warmed through to personal preference. Don’t cook too long or you run the risk of making the lentils mushy. If needed, add an extra splash of coconut milk or vegetable broth/stock to thin the curry out a bit more, as it will thicken from being stored.

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Coconut Curry Lentils

5 from 1 vote
Coconut Curry Lentils are ridiculously quick and simple to make! To have these saucy, tasty lentils on the table in a hurry, we use a few shortcuts including already minced ginger and garlic, canned lentils, and a simple seasoning blend.
Print Recipe

Coconut Curry Lentils

5 from 1 vote
Coconut Curry Lentils are ridiculously quick and simple to make! To have these saucy, tasty lentils on the table in a hurry, we use a few shortcuts including already minced ginger and garlic, canned lentils, and a simple seasoning blend.
Course Dinner, Main Course, Vegetarian
Cuisine Healthy, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword Coconut Curry Lentils
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 549kcal
Author Chelsea Lords
Cost $7.21


  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1-2 shallots diced (~1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons EACH: minced ginger & garlic cubes Note 1
  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry powder Note 2
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon EACH: paprika & ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3 tablespoons red curry paste Note 3
  • 1 can (13.5 oz.; 400mL) full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) lentils, drained & rinsed
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1-3 teaspoons sugar, salt, cilantro
  • Serving Suggestions: Note 4


  • AROMATICS: Melt butter or oil in a large pot (cast iron will cook quicker) over medium-high heat. Once melted, add diced shallot, ginger cubes, and garlic cubes. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in the curry powder, cumin, paprika, turmeric, red curry paste, and salt to taste (I add 1 teaspoon fine sea salt). Sauté for 1-2 more minutes or until very fragrant.
  • COCONUT MILK AND LENTILS: Shake the can of coconut milk and then pour it in. Stir, heat still over medium-high, until the coconut milk begins to bubble and thicken, about 3-5 minutes. Meanwhile, thoroughly rinse and drain the lentils. Add the lentils in and stir.
  • FINISHING TOUCHES: Remove pot from heat and stir in lemon juice. Add sugar (if needed and to taste preference -- it will depend on how sweet your coconut milk is or how spicy curry paste is). Adjust seasonings here; add more salt, curry powder, etc. to taste depending on how bold you like your curry. Serve over rice with warmed naan if desired (Note 4) and with fresh cilantro if you have any on hand! Enjoy!


Recipe Notes

Note 1: Garlic and ginger cubes: To make prep seriously quick and easy, we use Dorot garlic and ginger cubes (6 are the equivalent of 2 tablespoons). Alternatively, you can use pre-minced garlic and ginger paste here.
Note 2: Curry powder: We've tested this recipe with Simple Truth Organic yellow curry powder and Great Value Organic yellow curry powder -- neither were overly hot/spicy. Reduce quantity if using a hotter curry powder and you're concerned about heat.
Note 3: Curry paste: We use Thai Kitchen which is quite mild (perfect for kids!). If you use another brand, test it first; you may want to use slightly less or compensate by adding in some sugar.
Note 4: Side dishes: To keep the sides as simple as possible, use toaster oven naan that you can simply throw in the toaster to warm through, and here's the quickest/easiest way to get perfect basmati rice (It must use basmati for this to work!)
  • Fill a large pot with water and set it to boil.
  • Once the water is at a rolling boil, salt the water and add in rice (as much as you'd like!).
  • Cook without reducing the heat, for 6 minutes (taste test to ensure it is tender) and then drain and fluff with a fork. Easy!

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 549kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 27g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 19mg | Potassium: 1075mg | Fiber: 18g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1804IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 84mg | Iron: 11mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.


I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.

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