This creamy sweet potato lentil curry with red lentils and coconut milk is easy to make in 40 minutes in just one pot.

Sweet potato and red lentil curry in a bowl with rice and a wedge of lime. A spoon rests in the bowl and there are two more small spoons beside the bowl on the counter.

Introduction

This Indian-inspired sweet potato and red lentil curry recipe features a flavourful combination of sweet potatoes, red lentils, coconut milk, and a spice blend of turmeric, cumin, and garam masala.

With its creamy texture, nourishing ingredients, and warming spices, this curry is the perfect comfort food for warming up on a cold day. It’s not overly spicy, so family-friendly, especially when paired with rice and warm naan, pita bread, or roti for scooping the creamy curry sauce.

If you’re looking for a vegetarian curry that’s easy to customize, makes great leftovers and is sure to be a hit with the whole the family, give this recipe a try!

If you enjoy it, you’ll have to get this Vegan Thai Red Curry Vegetables with Tofu, Butternut Squash Curry, Cauliflower Chickpea Curry, Easy Vegetable Curry with Tofu and Red Lentil Cauliflower Curry on your list to try next.

And if you happen to have some extra sweet potatoes on hand, we love this sweet potato lentil soup, sweet potato pie, stuffed sweet potatoes, sweet potato breakfast bowls or sweet potato cookies.

Ingredient Notes

All the ingredients needed for making a vegan sweet potato and red lentil curry. Each ingredient is labelled with text.

Please note the complete ingredient list is located in the recipe card below. This section covers notes on specific ingredients and any possible substitutions.

  • Coconut Oil: Coconut oil works well for sautéing for curry recipes. You can substitute olive oil, avocado oil or another cooking oil if you prefer. For an oil-free recipe, you can use water.
  • Sweet Potato: You’ll need 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes. This recipe would also work with squash of choice such as pumpkin or butternut squash.
  • Spices: The recipe calls for turmeric, cumin, coriander and garam masala. If needed, youc an substitute 1.5 tsp mild curry powder.
  • Onion: The recipe calls for yellow onion but you could substitute white onion or shallot if needed.
  • Ginger: Fresh ginger is best for flavour but you could substitute 1 tsp ground ginger if that’s all you have.
  • Mild Curry Paste: Look for an Indian mild curry paste. It should be labelled just as such, “mild curry paste”.
  • Lentils: This recipe uses red lentils but green or brown lentils also work. If you’re using brown or green lentils, the curry will need slightly longer cooking time.
  • Chopped Tomato: You can use fresh tomato or canned diced tomato. If you’re using fresh tomato, add them when you add the garlic and ginger. If you’re using canned diced tomato, strain off most of the juice or scoop out about 1 cup of the diced tomatoes and add them when you add the coconut milk.
  • Coconut Milk: Use canned coconut milk. You can use light coconut milk or full-fat/regular coconut but I prefer full-fat for a creamier finish.
  • Broth: Any vegetable broth works.
  • Cilantro: If you don’t like cilantro, you can omit it.
  • Lime Juice: You can substitute lemon juice if needed.

Variations & Additions

  • Thai-Inspired: To swap this for Thai flavours, swap the spices and Indian curry paste for 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste or yellow curry paste.
  • Squash Lentil Curry: Swap the sweet potato for butternut squash or any other winter squash.
  • Leafy Greens: Stir in a few handfuls of baby spinach or chopped kale at the end.
  • Chickpeas: You can swap the lentils for chickpeas, use 1 19 oz can chickpeas and reduce the vegetable broth to 1 cup.
  • Extra Vegetables: Other vegetables that work well are green peas, bell pepper, green beans, zucchini, cauliflower and carrot. You can add up to 2 cups diced veggies when you add the lentils.
  • For Spicy Curry: Add up to 1 tsp red pepper flakes with the rest of the spices.
  • Tofu: To add tofu, stir in baked tofu or pan-fried tofu at the end or serve on top.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Brown the sweet potatoes.

Heat 1 tbsp of the coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the cubed sweet potato and a season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Cook it for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until browned, then remove it from the pot.

The sweet potatoes will finish cooking in another step – we’re just building flavour here!

Cubes of sweet potato cooking in a large pot with a wooden spoon in it.

Step 2: Saute the aromatics.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the rest of the coconut oil to the same pot along with the onion. Cook the onions until tender, about 4-6 minutes, stirring often.

Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring often.

Minced onion, garlic and ginger cooking in a large pot on the stovetop.

Step 3: Toast the spices.

Add the curry paste, turmeric, cumin, coriander and garam masala and cook for another minute, stirring constantly until fragrant.

Minced shallot, garlic, ginger and curry powder cooking in a large soup pot with a wooden spoon.

Step 4: Cook the curry.

Add the coconut milk, vegetable broth (or water), lentils and sweet potato. Season it with a pinch of salt and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.

Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low or you have a gentle simmer. Cook for about 18-20 minutes until the lentils are sweet potato are tender.

Coconut milk, diced tomato, sweet potato and broth cooking in a large pot on the stovetop.

Step 5: Add final seasonings.

Finally, stir in the lime juice and cilantro and season to taste with salt.

Overhead view of a pot of sweet potato red lentil curry with cilantro in it.

Serve the curry with freshly white or brown rice, warm naan, pita or roti, lime wedges and topped with toasted coconut flakes and more fresh cilantro, if desired.

A bowl of sweet potato and lentil curry with rice topped with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro. A spoon rests in the bowl.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use green lentils in this recipe?

Yes. Substitute 1 cup green or brown lentils for the red lentils and simmer 5-10 minutes longer until they’re tender.

Can I make it without lentils?

Yes. To make this curry without lentils, omit the red lentils, or swap for 2 cups cooked chickpeas, and reduce the broth to 1-2 cups, starting with 1 cup and adding more if needed to adjust the consistency as the sweet potato cooks.

Do I have to peel the sweet potato?

I didn’t but if you prefer a smoother texture, you can if you like!

Can I add spinach to this recipe?

Yes, if you’d like to spinach add up to 4 cups fresh spinach or baby spinach once the lentils have finished cooking and stir until wilted.

Recipe Notes

  1. It’s not totally necessary to brown the sweet potato in step one but I like the flavour and texture it adds. To save time/effort, you can skip this step and add the sweet potato when you add the lentils and simmer until they’re tender.
  2. You could also roast the sweet potato tossed in a little olive oil, salt and pepper at 425 under tender and stir it into the curry at the end.
  3. For spicy curry, add up to 1 tsp red chili flakes with the rest of the spices.
A large pot of sweet potato and red lentil curry with pieces of fresh cilantro in it. A wooden spoon rests in the pot.

Slow Cooker Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients except the lime and cilantro into your slow cooker.
  2. Stir everything together to ensure all the ingredients are well combined.
  3. Cover the slow cooker and set it to cook on the low setting for 5-6 hours or high setting for 3-4 hours.
  4. About 30 minutes before serving, check the consistency of the curry. If it’s too thick, you can add a bit more vegetable broth to reach your desired thickness.
  5. Once the sweet potatoes and lentils are tender and the flavors are well melded, the curry is ready.
  6. Add the lime juice and cilantro, taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed.

Instant Pot Instructions

  1. Add the garlic, ginger and 1 tbsp of coconut and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the spices and curry paste and saute 1 more minute, stirring continuously.
  3. Add the sweet potato and saute a few more minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add everything except the cilantro and lime, seal and cook for 5 minutes on high pressure.
  5. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes then release any remaining pressure.
  6. Carefully open the lid and stir in the lime and cilantro.
Close up of a bowl of sweet potato lentil curry with rice and a wedge of lime.

Storing & Reheating

  • Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
  • It will thicken after storing but you can thin it out by stirring in extra broth or water.
  • To freeze, cool completely then store in an airtight container or heavy duty freeze bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating.
  • Reheat leftovers in the microwave until heated through or in a saucepan on the stovetop, adding a little vegetable broth if needed to adjust the consistency.

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Scroll down to the comment section to leave a star rating and review.
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Overhead view of a sweet potato and red lentil curry in a bowl with rice and a wedge of lime. A spoon rests in the bowl and there are two more small spoons beside the bowl on the counter.

Sweet Potato Lentil Curry

  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan
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Description

This one pot sweet potato lentil curry is packed with flavour and nutrition and ready to enjoy in less than 40 minutes.


Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, divided (30 g)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes (approx. 5 cups, 665 g)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced (150 g/1 ¼ cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1-inch piece ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp Indian mild curry paste (20 g)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp garam masala 
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed (210 g, or green or brown lentils)
  • 1 cup canned or fresh diced tomatoes (230 g, approx. 34 Roma tomatoes)
  • 1 (398 mL) can coconut milk
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water (1000 mL)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (20 g)
  • ½ lime, juiced 
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Brown Sweet Potato: In a large pot, over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp coconut oil. When the pot is hot, add the sweet potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 6-8 min, stirring occasionally, until browned. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. The sweet potatoes will finish cooking in another step.
  2. Cook Onion: To the same pot, add the remaining coconut oil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the onions. Cook for 4-6 min, stirring often, until tender.
  3. Add Garlic & Ginger: Add the garlic and ginger. Cook for another 2-3 min, stirring occasionally. If you’re using fresh diced tomato, add it now, if you’re using canned diced tomatoes reserve for now.
  4. Add Spices: Add the curry paste, turmeric, cumin, coriander and garam masala. Cook for another 1 min, stirring constantly, until fragrant, to toast the spices.
  5. Add Liquid, Lentils & Sweet Potato: Add the coconut milk, broth or water, lentils and reserved sweet potatoes. If you’re using canned diced tomato, add those now as well. Season with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 20-25 min, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and sweet potato are tender. If using green or brown lentils, increase cooking time to 25-30 minutes or until tender.
  6. Add Seasonings: Stir in lime juice and chopped cilantro, reserving from cilantro for topping, then season to taste with salt, if needed.
  7. Serve: Serve with cooked rice, naan, lime wedges and garnished toasted coconut flakes and more cilantro, if desired.

Notes

You can use light or full-fat coconut milk to preference.

Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days. Note that it will thicken considerable after storing. You can thin it out by stirring in a bit of broth or water when you reheat it. To freeze, cool completely and store in freezer bags or a sealed container for 2-3 months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/6th of recipe
  • Calories: 356
  • Sugar: 9 g
  • Sodium: 442 mg
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Carbohydrates: 52 g
  • Fiber: 9 g
  • Protein: 11 g

Keywords: sweet potato lentil curry, sweet potato and red lentil curry