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Slow cookers are perfect for making soups, stews, and chili. This healthy vegan and vegetarian slow cooker lentil stew recipe is simple, nutritious, and delicious.
If you are looking for a meal that is hearty and warm on a chilly evening, this is what you want. Serve this with a green salad on the side and enjoy with a piece of crusty garlic bread for a very satisfying meal. It’s also a great recipe for meal prep!
Is Lentil Stew Healthy?
Goodness, yes! Lentils are packed with nutrition! And when you add in other vegetables and a good quality broth, you end up with a very nutritious bowl of stew. That being said, there are some ingredients you don’t want in a healthy stew. Check the “About The Ingredients” section below for recommendations.
Can Lentils Be Overcooked?
They can! They can get mushy if overcooked. In my experience though, this only truly matters in specific dishes. In a stew like this, I don’t find it matters much. Everything still tastes the same. But if it matters to you, just keep an eye on your lentils in the last hour or two of cooking.
Can Lentils Be Soaked Too Long?
Yep! If they sprout, you soaked them too long. The truth is, you don’t really need to soak lentils. But if you do, 24 hours is usually the limit.
Do Soaked Lentils Produce Less Gas?
Yes, it will help with gas if you are sensitive. Again, if you soak them, limit it to 24 hours. More than that won’t really do much.
Do You Have To Rinse Lentils?
That depends on how much you value your teeth. You want to rinse lentils, not only to rinse off any dust or debris but also to make sure there are no rocks in your lentils. Small rocks do occasionally end up in lentils. So it’s better to be safe than sorry and sitting in the dentist’s chair.
Should You Soak Lentils Before Slow Cooking
As with many things in the food world, the answer is yes, no, and it depends.
No – Lentils, unlike beans, do not require soaking. What they do require is a good rinse.
It Depends – You can soak them if you want to reduce the cooking time by about half.
Yes – You should soak your lentils if they are old lentils. Old lentils take forever to soften. So to keep cooking times normal (as per the recipe), you’ll want to soak them. What constitutes “old”? There is some debate over that. Lentils can last for years if stored properly. But they seem to get harder (in my experience), after about a year. Sometimes a bit less.
Is This Gluten-Free?
It is if you make sure the lentils (cross-contamination with some brands) and broth are gluten-free.
Can This Be Made Vegan?
It already is! The only way it wouldn’t be vegan is if you use chicken broth instead of vegetable broth. But as written, the recipe is vegan.
Slow Cooker Lentil Stew Recipe Variations
If you want to add even more nutrition to this and maybe even switch up the flavors a bit, here are some additions:
- Fresh parsley for garnish or any herbs you prefer.
- Grated parmesan for garnish or any cheese you prefer.
- Red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar – Add 1 to 2 tablespoons.
- Tomato paste – This will thicken up the sauce of the stew.
- Pasta – Serve some of this over pasta (or rice!) for a complete protein meal.
- Butternut squash – You can replace the sweet potatoes with it, or add it in addition to the sweet potatoes. Either way works. If adding additional, add approximately 1 to 2 cups.
About The Ingredients
Brown lentils – Rinsed
Red lentils – Rinsed
Sweet potato – This amount called for is approximately one large sweet potato.
Carrots – These can be baby carrots or regular carrots. Even tri-colored carrots would be great here.
Celery – Slice or chop this small for better overall texture.
Red onion – This is approximately one large onion. Chop small for better texture.
Garlic – Yes, you want the whole head of garlic. I put all my garlic cloves through a garlic press, but you can also mince it if you prefer.
Vegetable broth – You can also use chicken broth if you prefer. Just make sure there is no added sugar (typically in the form of “dextrose” in any meat-based broth)
Can diced tomatoes – Make sure there is no sugar added.
Ground cinnamon – This is optional but tasty.
Bay leaves – Make sure you remove these before serving the stew.
Salt and black pepper – to taste
How To Make Slow Cooker Lentil Stew
Rinse your lentils and place them in a slow cooker crock.
Add the cut sweet potatoes and carrots.
Add the celery and onions.
Add either minced garlic or pressed garlic to the crock.
Add the diced tomatoes and broth.
And finally, add the spices.
Give it a good stir to combine everything, then cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Once cooked, give everything another stir. If you need extra liquid at this point, feel free to add more broth to get the consistency you like. Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves!
Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
How To Store Slow Cooker Lentil Stew
Keep this in the fridge for up to 3 days (if made with chicken broth) or 5 days (if made with vegetable broth). Store it in an airtight container.
How To Freeze Slow Cooker Lentil Stew
I recommend portioning this out into single servings for easier defrosting. Pack it in an airtight container and store it in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Can You Make This On The Stovetop?
Yes! Sauté the onions in a bit of oil first, along with the other veggies. Then add everything else and cook until the lentils are soft.
Can You Make This In An Instant Pot?
You can, if you have a larger Instant Pot. You need a large pot to fit everything, or you may want to consider cutting the recipe in half if you have something smaller. Follow the instructions as indicated, but set the Instant Pot to high pressure and cook for about 1 hour.
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Slow Cooker Lentil Stew Recipe Card + Video
Slow Cooker Lentil Stew
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- 1 Slow Cooker (6 quart size or larger)
- 1 cup brown lentils (rinsed)
- 2 cups red lentils (rinsed)
- 3 cups cubed sweet potato (½ inch chunks approximately)
- 2 cups cubed or sliced carrots
- 2 cups sliced celery
- 1½ cups chopped red onion
- 1 medium head of garlic
- 6 cups vegetable broth (you can use chicken broth if you prefer)
- 28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
- 2 tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional, but tasty!)
- 2 medium bay leaves
- Rinse your lentils and place them in a slow cooker crock.
- Add the cut sweet potatoes and carrots.
- Add the celery and onions.
- Add either minced garlic or pressed garlic to the crock.
- Add the diced tomatoes and broth.
- And finally, add the spices.
- Give it a good stir to combine everything, then cook on low for 6-8 hours.
- Once cooked, give everything another stir. If you need extra liquid at this point, feel free to add more broth to get a consistency you like. Don't forget to remove the bay leaves!
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.