Coconut & Red Curry Lentil Stew With Sweet Potatoes

February 12, 2020
10 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Prop stylist: Amanda Widis. Food stylist: Anna Billingskog.
Author Notes

This hearty, fragrant stew is just the ticket for nights when you want big, bold flavors without a lot of fuss. It brings together red lentils, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and coconut milk—all balanced and enlivened by a few tablespoons of Thai red curry paste. This recipe is a mish-mash of ideas from soups and curries I’ve tried over the years, including this Sweet Potato–Coconut Curry and the Curried Lentil, Tomato, and Coconut Soup from Ottolenghi's Simple.

The flavors work so well together: the sweet potatoes and creamy coconut milk nicely temper the heat of the red curry paste, canned tomatoes bring tanginess and brightness, and two kinds of coconut (oil and milk) amplify the stew’s rich, sweet notes. (I recommend unrefined virgin coconut oil versus refined varieties for its fuller, purer coconut flavor.) One of my favorite details is the addition of grated lime zest and fish sauce, which add so much dimension to this already flavor-packed stew. To make the dish completely vegan, you can successfully swap out the fish sauce with soy sauce or coconut aminos mixed with rice vinegar and a big pinch of kosher salt.

Because Thai red curry paste can vary quite a bit in spiciness, start with a lesser amount of red curry paste in Step 2 and add more to taste once the lentils are tender. To simplify prep, use a Microplane for grating the ginger, garlic, and lime zest. If you don’t like cilantro, or have it on hand, add arugula, chopped chives, or a few handfuls of hardy greens (such as kale, spinach, or chard) near the end and simmer until tender. —EmilyC

  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
  • 2 tablespoons unrefined virgin coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 to 1 1/4 cups)
  • 2 sweet potatoes (16 to 18 ounces in total), peeled and chopped into 3/4-inch chunks
  • 1 pinch kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 4 teaspoons finely grated ginger (from a 3-inch piece)
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 3 tablespoons red curry paste (such as Maesri or Thai Kitchen)
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes (with juices)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro (leaves and tender stems)
  • 1 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 lime finely grated zest (juice reserved for finishing the dish)
  • 2 1/2 cups water, plus more to thin, as needed
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce, or to taste; see note about a vegan substitute
  • 1 tablespoon (per person) Greek yogurt or sour cream, to serve
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves, to serve
In This Recipe
  1. Heat coconut oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 4 to 6 minutes, until softened. Add sweet potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook for 5 minutes (stirring often), or until the outsides lose their firmness.
  2. Push the sweet potatoes to the side of the pan and add ginger, garlic, and red curry paste. Cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant, then stir together with the sweet potatoes.
  3. Add red lentils, tomatoes, cilantro, coconut milk, lime zest, and water. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft, about 20 minutes, thinning with more water, if needed. Season soup with fish sauce, then off the heat, add the lime juice (start with 1 teaspoon and go from there). Taste again. Need more fish sauce or salt? Add a bit more. Need more heat? Add a few red pepper flakes.
  4. Divide among bowls and top with a dollop of yogurt and a little cilantro. (Make-ahead tip: stew can be made up to 3 days in advance; gently reheat before serving.)

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  • EmilyC

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.