Gluten-Free · Main Meals · Rice Dishes · Vegan

Red Lentil Curry with Pilau Rice

Red lentil curry is a quick and cheap homemade vegan meal. Packed with the perfect balance of spice and sweetness, this curry makes a filling lunch or dinner served with fragrant, golden pilau rice.


I’m serving you up not just one recipe, but two with my Red Lentil Curry and Pilau Rice recipes.

I absolutely love Indian food. My friend, Niketa, is from India and, as you’d guess, she makes the most incredible, traditional Indian food. On my visits to her house, she’s cooked me homemade samosas and fried pea kachori, lots of amazing curries and also vegan biryani.

Her food has a beautiful blend of spices and tastes out of this world!

When Niketa isn’t making me her tasty Indian recipes, we love to get into the kitchen and create some of our Indian favourites at home.

We make this Chickpea Tikka Masala recipe very often. Now I’ve turned my attention to perfecting a red lentil curry/dahl. You can’t beat a good curry, whether it be for a quick weekday dinner or a homemade takeaway-style meal at the weekend.

Lentils are a fantastic source of protein for anyone following a vegan lifestyle. I always have a big pack of lentils in my kitchen cupboard and there’s numerous ways to incorporate them into recipes. I make many vegan dishes using red lentils, including pastistio (an amazing Greek pasta bake), vegan bolognese and curries.

Vegan food certainly isn’t boring or repetitive, it’s every bit as tasty and exciting! Lots of vegan recipes are also super affordable and make filling and satisfying meals you’ll want to make again and again.

This lentil curry goes with many different sides. Bombay potatoes, onion bhaji, samosas and rice. We often eat this curry with basmati rice, but make it extra special and serve with pilau rice.

Pilau rice is rice that’s flavoured with bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and turmeric. The last ingredient gives the rice its glorious golden colour. I braise my rice in the oven. This is the method I was taught at culinary school and I’ve stuck to preparing it that way ever since.

Serve the curry with Bombay potatoes, poppadoms or naan bread. I make my homemade naan bread using this recipe

This curry tastes amazing on the day you make it, but if you do happen to have any leftovers, taste the curry the next day – it’s even better!

The amount of times, I’ve made a bigger batch and we’ve had leftovers, all I need is a bit of bread to tear and scoop this curry up with! We’ve even been known to eat this straight from the fridge and spread it in a sandwich!

Serve the curry hot or cold, sprinkle with extra nigella seeds or some chilli or coriander.


Red Lentil Curry with Pilau Rice

Red lentil curry is a quick and cheap homemade vegan meal. Packed with the perfect balance of spice and sweetness, this curry makes a filling lunch or dinner served with fragrant, golden pilau rice.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4
Author What Jessica Baked Next


Red Lentil Curry:

  • 200 g (1 cup) dried red lentils washed and drained
  • 1 vegetable stock cube or pot
  • 2 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium brown or red onion diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger I use frozen ginger for ease
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 teaspoons curry powder I use medium curry powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin (ground or seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper optional
  • 3 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 400ml can coconut milk I use full-fat
  • 1 tablespoon mango chutney
  • 2 very generous pinches of nigella seeds (roughly one teaspoon) optional

Pilau Rice:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2-3 bay leaves tear to release even more flavour
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 300 g long grain rice
  • 600 ml boiling water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon baking block or dairy-free spread optional


To Make The Red Lentil Curry:

  • Take the rinsed lentils and add them to a medium saucepan. Add the vegetable stock cube/pot and cover the lentils with boiling water - add enough to just cover and go above the lentils by about 1 cm. Bring up to the boil, cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat down to low and gently simmer the lentils for 10 minutes. When the water is absorbed, take the lentils off the heat. 
  • Meanwhile, as the lentils cook, heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic and ginger along with salt and pepper for 5 minutes until softened and starting to brown.
  • Add the spices to the pan and toast for a minute until fragrant. Now add the tomato purée and cook for a further minute. Add the coconut milk, mango chutney and nigella seeds (if using), stir to combine, then cover the pan with a lid and simmer the sauce for 5 minutes. 
  • Now add the lentils to the pan and stir the lentils into the curry sauce. Simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes. Serve hot with the pilau rice or your choice of sides.

To Make The Pilau Rice:

  • Preheat oven to 200°C / 180°C Fan / 400°F / Gas Mark 6. Heat the oil in a large (oven safe) saucepan on a medium heat. Add the cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, turmeric and cumin seeds. Gently cook, just toast lightly stirring constantly for a minute until fragrant - be really careful not to overheat the spices.
  • Now add the rice and toast for another minute and coat thoroughly in the spices. Season with salt and pepper, then cover with the boiling water. Stir the rice, with a fork, turn the heat up to high and leave on the heat until the rice comes up to the boil. Once boiling, cover the pan with a lid and braise in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Once the rice is ready, remove from the oven and if desired, discard the cardamom, cloves, bay leaves and the cinnamon stick. Using a fork, finish the rice by mixing in the tablespoon of dairy-free spread or baking block. Leave the rice on the side with the lid on for 5 minutes to allow the spices to infuse, then serve alongside the curry.
  • The curry and rice will keep stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Chickpea Tikka Masala

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