Garam Masala Red Lentil Stew Recipe

This clean eating garam masala red lentil stew recipe is a hearty, tummy-warming bowl of deliciousness!

What do you do when you create a soup recipe from scratch, and in the end, you realize you didn’t add enough liquid for it to actually qualify as soup? You serve it with a smile and call it stew!

Clean Eating Garam Masala Red Lentil Stew sits in a white bowl on top of a large, wooden cutting board, served with flatbread wedges and a dollop of hummus.

If you are partial to Indian food, this dish is WONDERFUL! I fell head over heels in love with it. When I first made this recipe years ago, I made it with chicken broth. But now that I’m 100% plant-based, I switched out the chicken broth for vegetable broth and it turned out just as tasty as the chicken broth version.

I also adjusted the spices. When I first made this Clean Eating Garam Masala Red Lentil Stew, I went heavy on the curry and some folks didn’t like it with such a strong flavor. So I backed off of the curry and it really did mellow things out a bit. But in a good way. I can’t stop eating it.  So, so, so yummy!

Are Lentils Healthy?

Lentils are a superfood. They are a wonderful source of fiber, complex carbohydrates, iron, magnesium, folic acid, zinc, and potassium. They are also a wonderful source of plant-based protein. Lentils are very healthy.

And as for this specific dish, it’s vegan and gluten-free as well as dairy-free, soy-free, corn-free, and egg-free.

Do You Need To Soak Red Lentils Before Cooking Them?

Red lentils do not require soaking before cooking. At most, you’ll rinse them if they are dusty or need rinsing. Red lentils are very small and cook quickly, so soaking would be overkill.

Do Red Lentils Thicken Stew?

They do! Red lentils fall apart quite easily with cooking, so anything you put them in will naturally thicken. This is great for a red lentil stew, but can also be applied to other soups and stews as well. The trick is to make sure they cook long enough to fall apart. Thankfully, it doesn’t take very long for that to happen.

Red Lentil Stew Variations

While this stew recipe is pretty perfect as is, you can certainly add and subtract ingredients to get different variations of this recipe. You can also add almost any vegetables you like. Here are some ideas:

  • Add Spinach – Stir in some fresh spinach leaves into the finished, hot stew. They will wilt on their own in the heat of the stew.
  • Add Red Peppers – These will add a certain sweetness to the stew that only red peppers can add.
  • Add Cumin – For a varied flavor, consider adding one teaspoon ground cumin. And if you do, pair it with some coriander as well the two work well together.
  • Add Potatoes – Chop them into small to medium chunks and toss them into the pot to cook. This will not only thicken the soup, but add more heartiness to it. Note that if it gets too thick from the starch, you may want to add a bit more broth to get a better consistency.
  • Add Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes pair quite well with this dish. I highly recommend them.
  • Add Spice – If you love a spicy dish, try adding either chili powder, red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to this. While the curry powder offers a mild kick already, adding one or both of these will really take things up a notch!
  • Add Parsnips – If you want the texture of adding potatoes without adding all that starch, try parsnips instead!
  • Add Turmeric – While this won’t change the flavor a lot, it does add a lot of good-for-you benefits.
  • Add Smokiness – If you like a smokey flavor, add about a teaspoon of smoked paprika to this.
And overhead view of a bowl of this Clean Eating Garam Masala Red Lentil Stew. It's been sprinkled with a few freshly chopped herbs and has a side of flatbread wedges and hummus off to the right side of the bowl.

How To Serve Red Lentil Stew

You can serve this as a stand-alone dish, or you can pair it with other things. Some possibilities are:

  • Serve over a bed of rice – This also creates a complete protein for plant-based folks.
  • Serve with some homemade naan – This too will create a complete protein thanks to the grain and legume combo.
  • Serve over baked potatoes – This is a delicious way to top a potato for lunch or dinner.

Optional Garnishes

While the recipe doesn’t call for them, some optional garnishes you might enjoy are:

  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Grated, fresh ginger

Red Lentil Stew Ingredients

1 large yellow onion – chopped

1 tbsp. olive oil

3 cups dry, red lentils – rinsed

14 oz. can light coconut milk – no sugar added

6 cups vegetable broth – no sugar added

2 cups water

2 tsp. curry powder – or to taste

3 tsp. garam masala – or to taste

1 tbsp. garlic powder

1 lb. baby carrots – sliced thin

15 oz. tomato sauce – no sugar added

15 oz. garbanzo beans – rinsed and drained

Salt and pepper – to taste after cooking

How To Make Red Lentil Stew?

Roughly chop your onion and place it into a large pot with the oil. 

Cook the onions until they are translucent. In fact, if you know how to caramelize onions, go for it.

Add your red lentils to the pot and stir.

Add the coconut milk to the pot and bring to a low boil.

Add all other ingredients. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently to keep the beans from burning on the bottom of the pot. Keep this at a low simmer.

Stew is finished when the lentils are soft and fully cooked.

Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Instant Pot Red Lentil Stew

If you prefer to make this in an Instant Pot pressure cooker, you can make the switch pretty easily.

  1. Sauté the onions in the oil on the sauté setting on your Instant Pot.
  2. Add in all the other ingredients and set the IP to cook for 10 minutes on high pressure.
  3. Allow for a 10 minute natural release, and then open the steam valve to quick release any remaining steam.
  4. Add salt and pepper as needed.

How To Store Red Lentil Stew

This will keep well in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to 4 days.

Can You Freeze This Stew?

It freezes very well! Pack it properly and freeze for up to 8 months. I highly recommend freezing this in portions instead of one big block.

Recipe Supplies

More Healthy Indian-Style Recipes

Garam Masala Red Lentil Stew Recipe

Copyright Information For The Gracious Pantry
Clean Eating Indian-Style Red Lentil Stew Recipe

Garam Masala Red Lentil Stew

This wonderful bowl of comfort is perfect on a chilly, windy evening. Serve this with some flatbread and hummus for a well rounded meal. I used my chickpea flour flatbread recipe. You can find the link to that recipe listed above.
4.17 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Indian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 14 cups (approximately)
Calories: 256kcal


  • 1 large yellow onion (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cups dry, red lentils (rinsed)
  • 14 oz. can light coconut milk
  • 6 cups vegetable broth (no sugar added)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp. curry powder (or to taste)
  • 3 tsp. garam masala (or to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 lb. baby carrots (sliced thin)
  • 15 oz. tomato sauce (no sugar added)
  • 15 oz. garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained)
  • salt and pepper (to taste after cooking)


  • Roughly chop your onion and place into a large pot with the olive oil. 
  • Cook the onions until they are translucent. In fact, if you know how to caramelize onions, go for it.
  • Add your red lentils to the pot and stir.
  • Add the coconut milk to the pot and bring to a low boil.
  • Add all other ingredients. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently to keep the beans from burning on the bottom of the pot. Keep this at a low simmer.
  • Stew is finished when the lentils are soft and fully cooked.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.


Please note that the nutrition data below is a ballpark figure. Exact data is not possible.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 256kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 618mg | Potassium: 674mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 4845IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 59mg | Iron: 4.7mg

This recipe from the Gracious Pantry archives, originally posted 4/9/2010.

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  1. I made this dish with the 1 tablespoon curry & 3 tablespoons garam marsala & OMG, it was horrible. Completely overspiced! I’m thinking this was a misprint & it should be teaspoons not tablespoons of both spices. I ended up straining the stew & dumping out 3/4 ths of the liquid. Then put it back in the crockpot with a new can of tomato sauce & cocount milk. Then it tasted very good like I thought it should : )

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Sharon – I’m sorry you had that experience! I do tend to like strong spice. The measurements were correct, though I’ve altered the recipe now so that others won’t have the same experience you did. Thanks for letting me know!

  2. I made this dish and it was AWESOME! I’ve had hit or miss situations with my crock pot. I did add a teaspoon of salt, 1 tsp Tumeric Powder, 1 tsp Chili Powder (for a kick but I thought it needed more) and I substituted the tomato sauce with a can of tomatoes. I also used Garlic Olive Oil to add a little something. I WILL MAKE THIS AGAIN!

    1. Anonymous says:

      Kat – that’s wonderful! Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. graciouspantry says:

    Wonderful! I’m happy you both enjoyed it!

  4. This recipe was absolutely delicious! I added a little ground turkey because my son thinks a main dish must include meat. I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago and have enjoyed every recipe I’ve tried. I hope you’ll keep this site up for years to come!!!

    1. graciouspantry says:

      I plan on it! Thanks!

  5. graciouspantry says:

    My slow cooker is a 5 quart if that helps. I wouldn’t go any smaller than a 4 quart or any larger than a 6. This meal will freeze just fine. Enjoy!

  6. graciouspantry says:

    The red lentils did not expand like the brown lentils do. At least not for me. So yes, I did end up with 6 servings. The nutrition data I post is only a ballpark figure, and every calculator on the web will give you different numbers.


    That was just delicious. I loved it so much. I had to make a few changes due to ingredients not being in my cupboard so I didn’t get to have the beans and I had to use green lentils and coriander seed powder instead of garam masala (tastes totally different but I had to be inventive!). Very excited to try it again with the correct ingredients.

    I have made a few of your recipes since starting on my clean eating and then raw way of eating and your website is by FAR my favourite. I still eat a few cooked things because I love your recipes.

    (p.s – your walnut chocolate fudge is UNBELIEVABLE!!)

    Jess xoxox

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Thanks so much! Glad you’re enjoying my recipes! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. How long does it take for the lentils to become soft? Trying to decide if this is a weeknight meal or not ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks for the amazing recipes!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      It can take about 30 minutes, give or take. Depends on the lentils.

  9. WOW!! Made this for dinner and it was AMAZING!! I added some fresh shrimp and chiles and it was out of this world good! I was in red lentil heaven ๐Ÿ™‚ It made my house smell soooooo fantastic. So aromatic and exotic. I just LOVE your website!! Every recipe i make (and i make alot!! Lol) ALWAYS turn out amazing! You make eating clean so simple, interesting, and DELICIOUS!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Kaileigh – Awwww, thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. This recipe is delicious – and healthy… I wasn’t too sure that DH or teenage boys would like it, but they raved about it. I added 2 stalks of celery and an extra tspn of curry powder.
    Definitely a winner for our family.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tracey – Fantastic! So glad everyone liked it! ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. Matt Benton says:

    This was not a bad recipe, but I would suggest adding the carrots with the coconut milk and maybe some water or chicken broth before I add the beans, to soften them. It takes longer to cook the carrots than the lentils.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Matt – Thanks for your feedback! I found the carrots cooked the same, but I guess that could depend on their thickness. Glad you liked it though!

  12. Matt Benton says:

    I was wondering. Is the reason for adding the garbanzo beans to the recipe, to make it a complete protein meal?

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Matt – No. I just thought they tasted good. You can leave them out if you prefer.

  13. This recipe is delicious… I can’t stop eating it! Only modification I made was to use fresh garlic in with the onion as I didn’t have garlic powder and a tablespoon of coconut sugar for added sweetness. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe – it will definitely be a regular for me and I have already shared it around the office!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Ashleigh – Thanks! So glad you enjoyed it! ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. 5 stars
        This comment is about 10 years overdue… I’ve literally been making this recipe for my family of 6 since you first created it, Tiffany! I was one of your first followers in the BA! :). It’s one of our family’s absolute favorite plant based meals. We *love* all the spices and actually use *more* curry and GM than called for (and salt and pepper), and I usually serve it over coconut rice. I’ve passed this recipe on so many times to vegan/veg friends, and meat eating friends just looking to get more plant based meals in their diets – everyone loves it. It always amazes me that my Texan, meat and potatoes husband, will consistently get a second helping of this, it’s that good. Thank you for creating it!

        1. Mehridith – Thank you so much!! I’m so happy you’ve been enjoying it for so long! I’m honored that my recipe is so enjoyable for you and your family. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Can you use red AND brown lentils, or brown instead of red lentils? Would cooking time change? Also would shredded carrot or omitting carrot work?

    1. Cristina – They are not interchangeable, unfortunately. Red lentils cook MUCH faster than brown or green lentils. The carrots, you can do whatever you want with those. But the lentils, not so much. I do have quite a few brown lentil recipes though. Just type “lentil” into the search bar. A bunch will come up for you.

  15. Marilyn Madison says:

    5 stars
    Great, just as written. I will make it again and perhaps try some of the optional additions.