« Recipe for cornbread with fresh corn and herbs | Main | Recipe for raita (Indian yogurt and cucumber condiment) {vegetarian, gluten-free} »

Recipe for slow cooker Indian-spiced lentils {vegan, gluten-free}


This week, Chelsea, my summer intern, moved into her dorm, where she and three friends will share a suite with a kitchen and a brand new four-quart slow cooker. A few weeks ago, we tested this super-easy, budget-friendly recipe for slow cooker Indian-spiced lentils, paired with a cucumber raita that I'll post here later this week. Lentils, hardy and healthy, take particularly well to the spices that also warm up curries: cumin, coriander, ginger, and garam masala (which contains a bit of each). We used small brown lentils, the kind you can buy in bulk in an Indian grocery, but any brown or red lentils would be perfect. You can make this on the stovetop in a heavy pot or Dutch oven, but the lentils will tend to stick as they absorb liquid, so be sure to stir from time to time. Serve over basmati or brown rice, or add to stew or soup.


Slow cooker Indian-spiced lentils

From the pantry, you'll need: brown or red lentils, ginger paste or ginger root, garlic, onion, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, cayenne pepper, kosher salt.

Serves 8.


2 cups small brown lentils, rinsed and drained
1 tsp ginger paste or grated fresh ginger root
3 cloves garlic, minced, or 1-1/2 tsp garlic paste
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves or stems, chopped (optional)


In a 3-quart slow cooker, add all ingredients. Stir to combine, and cover with water to within 1 inch of the top of the cooker.

Set to HIGH and cook for 2 hours, or cook on LOW for 4 hours, stirring once or twice during that time and checking that there is sufficient water in the cooker. If the lentils have absorbed most of the water before they finish cooking, add enough water to cover the lentils again.

After the cooking time, taste, and season with salt and cayenne pepper as needed. Add fresh coriander, if you wish, and serve hot. Or, pack into small containers, let cool completely, and refrigerate or freeze.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Spiced lentils with squash and raisins
Punjab five jewels
Slow cooker lentil and brown rice soup with preserved lemons and garlic sausage
Vegan barley and lentil pilaf with mushrooms and spinach
Sweet potato, lentil and raisin stew

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Indian spiced lentils with chicken slow cooker recipe, from A Year of Slow Cooking
Lebanese lentil salad with garlic, cumin, mint and parsley, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Armenian red lentil patties, from Cate's World Kitchen
Slow cooker squash stew with garbanzo beans and red lentils, from Andrea Meyers
Curried red lentil, chickpea and red kale soup, from Food Blogga

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


Hi Lydia,
Have a question or two.
(1)Since I have no experience of Slow cooker, my query is, can you not use any oil or butter in slow cooker dishes?
(2) Secondly you can try this out on stove top or in slow cooker, where you do not put cummin powdered or whole, but just boil the brown lentil with enough water, salt, turmeric, garlic and ginger, half a cup if chopped tomato till well done. Then u smash it a little with back of the ladle and let it simmer. Once you get a good consistency of the dish, switch off the cooker or stovetop. In case u can take onions raw, chop onions, fine, tomatoes, chooped(1/2 cup), green chillies(optional), and cillantro(chopped fine)and add to the dish. Dont cook once cillantro is added.

You can have this with loaf, steamed rice, pita bread any thing. On the side you can take a cool cucumber raita.

Pls let me know if you like the variation.


I had a slow cooker in college, but I wish I knew how to make tastier fare like these lentils as Chelsea does.

I love lentils and have been coming across great recipes like this one for the past couple of days. Haven't made them in a slow cooker yet, so it's about time. Comes in handy when it's as warm as it is here today. The kitchen stays cool!

Arundhati, I'm not an expert in slow cooking, either, but I do know that the slow cooker doesn't lose moisture as happens when you cook on the stove top. So, most slow cooker recipes don't include much oil. And butter is something that will break down with long cooking. In this dish, you don't need any oil, because there is plenty of water in the pot. Of course you can cook lentil dishes on the stove, and the seasonings you suggest will make a delicious dish -- just something that's a bit different from this one. The advantage of the slow cooker is that you can let it cook itself, and it won't heat up the kitchen.

Jeanette, I wish I'd had a slow cooker in college. Now that I'm using mine on a regular basis, I can imagine all the dishes I could have made in my dorm, if only I'd known how to cook back then!

Kellypea, I'm new to the slow cooker party, but I already have three (3-, 4- and 7-quart) and I'm having lots of fun making everything from soup stock and black beans to bread pudding. Best part is not heating up the kitchen.

This is my first attempt to make Indian style food, I really like the taste of cumin, and I think I succeeded.
Everyone says the taste is very special.

I love lentils!! I make lentil soup (with carrots, celeri and onion) every week. It's one of the best source of vegetable protein. Now enhancing the lentils with Indian spices is a great alternative which I have to try. Spices are now known for helping combat fat after all. Thanks for sharing!

I wondered when you'd be posting a recipe with garam masala. :) Yum!

Deena, stay tuned. A Facebook fan sent me another great recipe that uses garam masala.

I bet this would make the house smell just wonderful!

Ok that's it. I'm getting a Crock Pot.

Nicole, it really does (my slow cooker lid isn't very tight fitting).

EB, I just bought a small slow cooker at our local discount store for $12.99. As they say, just do it. I've had so much fun learning how to cook real food in the slow cooker. Wish I'd done it years ago.

This is full of flavor! I took 2 cups off to make a dip/spread, blending and adding 1/3 cup almond meal.

Susan, you're a rock star. What a great idea. Just proves that these are truly versatile lentils!

I LOVE LOVE LOVE cumin - I would list it as my favorite spice! Funny I don't cook mush "indian" food with it mostly I see it as a "tex-mex" kinda spice. Will have to try this recipe!

I just put these in the slow cooker. I subbed a couple items and added a tomato that needed to be used. I also added a 1/2 cup brown rice in place of a 1/2 cup of the lentils. It smells great and it will be super with tandoori chicken that I'm making and possibly some Naan. I also have cucumbers in the garden so a raita may be in order too. Thanks for the recipe, it will be a great addition to our family menu.

i have this in my slow cooker right now with a few changes: i used vegetable stock and water combo, added some "salsa verde" i had in my freezer, and since i had no fresh garlic, i used roasted garlic chips. hopefully it will turn out well!

This looks great! I just bought a new slow cooker - my son wanted a slow cooker for his college apartment, so I gave him my old one. (Perfect excuse to buy a new one for me!)

I'd only had lentils once in my life until last year, because I thought they were bland and flavorless. Now that I've seen recipes that have more seasoning, I'm in love! I can't wait to try this recipe, because I love Indian food.


I have only a 5-quart slow cooker. How the recipe will change? Still the same amount of water - till within 1 inch of the top of the cooker?


Namagirl, slow cookers need to be filled by at least half in order to cook properly. I would increase the recipe by 50% to make it in a 5-quart cooker.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.