Inspired by a traditional Indian recipe that combines two tasty, high-protein legumes, this vegan lentil and kidney bean curry makes a filling, quick, and easy dinner. The original recipe uses 15 to 20 ingredients, many of which are spices. This nearly-instant version uses any one of several vegan varieties of delicious readymade Indian simmer sauces.
Whatever you add these sauces to takes on rich, complex flavors that can otherwise only be experienced at Indian restaurants (or if you actually follow the instructions of fine Indian home cooks; in the plant-based world, that would be Vegan Richa).
About readymade Indian simmer sauces
As for myself, I’ve always been too lazy to roast and grind and mix and measure all the myriad spices that add up to the amazing flavors of Indian dishes.
Indian simmer sauces, which burst onto the market within the last few years, have been a game-changer for me. Look for them in the international foods aisles in supermarkets and in natural foods stores.
Varieties come in a range of vegan options from mild to spicy, including Goan coconut, Kashmir curry, and Madras curry. My favorite for this particular recipe is Jalfrezi.
Some of them include dairy, so be sure to check labels. Some of the key ingredients in the vegan sauces are coconut milk, tomato, ginger, garlic, and of course, lots of spices. Here are more authentic-tasting recipes using Indian simmer sauce.
Dry or canned lentils — your choice
Speaking of time-savers, organic canned brown lentils are tasty and hold their shape nicely. I never remember to cook lentils in advance of when I need them. But if you prefer to cook your own, directions follow the recipe box.
Dry or canned; brown, green, or red, lentils are a bargain and packed with goodness. See lots more in our Guide to Lentils. See the tips just below if you plant to cook the lentils from scratch (not at all a difficult task!).
How to cook lentils
If you want to cook your own lentils, go for it! It’s not difficult and doesn’t take much time, but as I mentioned, as for me, it’s a matter of remembering to do so before I need them. Here are the steps:
- Unlike many other legumes, lentils don’t need to be presoaked. Rinse them and check for small stones.
- Though there are other varieties, brown or green lentils are best for this dish. Combine lentils with water in a large saucepan, using 3 parts water to 1 part lentils (i.e., 3 cups water per 1 cup lentils). Bring to a slow boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover to let the lentils simmer, leaving the lid ajar.
- Add more water if needed. Lentils don’t need to absorb all the water they’re cooked in, so you can always drain any excess off. Check them from time to time and and add more water if need be, but don’t stir too much. Drain any excess water before adding to another dish.
What to serve with lentil and kidney bean curry
You can serve this quick dish with rice or other grain. I happened to have some cooked black forbidden rice on hand, but you can use brown Basmati or white Jasmine rice, or even quinoa or couscous. For a heftier meal, add fresh naan or other flatbread to the meal, instead of or in addition to grain.
Add a simple salad or raita: Any kind of green salad works well, or make a raita by combining equal amounts of diced cucumber and tomato; dress generously with coconut yogurt and stir in some chopped cilantro.
Add some green to the plate: The perfect side dish is Indian-Inspired Mustard Greens with Spinach.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 12-ounce jar Indian simmer sauce, any vegan variety
- Two 15-ounce cans lentils, drained and rinsed
- 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Heat the oil in a small soup pot or steep-sided stir-fry pan. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
- Add the tomato, simmer sauce, lentils, kidney beans, and lemon juice. Turn the heat up and bring to a simmer, then lower it again and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until piping hot.
- Stir in the cilantro, season with salt and pepper (you may not need any salt at all, so taste first).
- Serve at once in shallow bowls, on its own or with hot cooked grain and/or fresh flatbread, as suggested in the headnote.
If you like this easy curry, you might also enjoy …
See more delicious vegan main dishes.