Smoky Vegan Lentil Stew Recipe

When it comes to vegetarian and vegan cooking, lentils are a favorite ingredient of mine. Lentils are fairly inexpensive, and they’re a total workhorse in recipes. I’ve been known to use them as a vegan sloppy joe base, make them into meatball-like bites, and put them to work in about fifty different versions of soups, chilis, and stews.

Plus, unlike their bean counterparts, lentils don’t need to be soaked and can go from pantry to bowl in about 30 minutes!

Erin Alderson

Which Lentils to Buy

I like to keep three different varieties of lentils on hand: red, brown, and black:

  • Red lentils are actually lentils that have been split in half. This causes them to break down and makes them perfect for creamy stews and curries; this also means they cook the quickest.
  • Brown lentils, like the ones in this stew, hold their shape but absorb all the flavors, and are the most versatile. They can be used in soups, stews, or in something like a lentil-loaf. If I can find them, I use green lentils as a swap for brown lentils.
  • Black lentils are beautiful and I typically reserve them for salads and grain bowls because they hold their shape and color well.

I’m using brown lentils in this recipe because they hold up well throughout the cook time. These lentils are really the basis for the texture of the stew.

The Fresher the Better

If you’re picking out bagged lentils, check the date for when the lentils were packaged or when they expire. If you’re buying from a bulk bin, ask how often the products are cycled through and make sure you’re buying lentils that have not been sitting for more than six months.

Lentils older than a year can be tougher to cook and often stay crunchy, even after long cooking.

Erin Alderson

Smoke It If You’ve Got It!

For this lentil stew, the smoky essence from smoked paprika and smoked salt provides the smoky flavor.

I love keeping both of these ingredients on hand, but it’s really the smoked salt that adds depth—it reminds me a bit of sitting next to a campfire on a chilly night, which is why I love it in this stew. Smoked salt can be a purchased at most spice shops or online.

Add the Tomato Paste Last

Lentils and tomato products don’t always get along — the acid in tomatoes can prevent the lentils from fully softening, leaving you with crunchy lentils. This is why for this lentil soup, I save adding the tomato paste for last.

Erin Alderson

What to Serve With This Vegan Stew

Finally, this stew makes an easy dinner during the cooler months. Serve it with a simple side salad and crusty bread.

You can also play around with toppings. More fresh herbs, whole milk yogurt, or even a sprinkle of salty cheese such as feta can be a nice finish. You can also add a dash of Frank’s hot sauce to perk things up if you like.

More Easy Weeknight Soups

Cantonese-Style Lobster with Ginger and Scallions Recipe
Cranberry Margarita – A Couple Cooks
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