Weeknight carrot and lentil stew brims with a unique flavor from a simple sauce of tomato and date paste, crunchy coriander seeds, and fresh mint. This savory winner of a plant-based meal needs less than 30 minutes of cooking time, 20 of which is just occasionally stirring the pot. Perfect when you need a quick meal but want uncompromised flavor.
Don’t let a dish calling our carrots and lentils lull you into thinking you're going to get a mindless pot of something, something. This isn't just a recipe to get another meal in the register. Despite the ease of cooking, the minimalist approach to ingredients, you’ll be pleased with the complex flavors wafting from this dish.
Coriander seeds – The only spice you’ll need (unless you add salt) are coriander seeds. I highly recommend that you used them. They have a flavor and crunchy, not hard, texture that is so pleasing. I added them to a quick green bean stir-fry the other week, and it was fab. I figured if it works with green beans and mushrooms, it’s gotta work with carrots and lentils. Oh, most definitely, it does!
Onions – Take a medium onion, peel it, cut it in half. Then lay it cut side down and slice. You end up with thin half-rings. Less tearful than dicing, sliced onions seem to have a bit more moisture. This makes oil-free sauteing simpler.
Garlic -4 cloves minced or pressed, your choice. If you are serving this dish to anyone sensitive to garlic, you can always cut that back. I didn’t find the flavor over-powered by garlic, but we’re all built differently. One person’s 1 clove can be another person’s 4 cloves.
Carrots – Aim for 4 cups of sliced carrots. That works out to be about 1 ½ pound. Smaller carrots such as baby carrots, will be sweeter, so you may want to cut back on the amount of date paste. For quicker prep, use carrots that are already peeled and ready to slice. They are a little more expensive, but if you have one of those wonky peelers like I do, pre-peeled can be sweet relief.
Tomato paste – Tomato paste is used to give the vegetable broth a bit more flavor. We are not intending to make tomato sauce, just adding a little healthy richness. That’s why we’re just using 2 tablespoons.
Date paste – After making this the first time, I decided to add 1 teaspoon of date paste. As already mentioned, if the carrots are on the sweet side, you may not need to add any. The same goes for the tomato paste. Some brands run on the sweet side.
Green lentils – green lentils retain their integrity after being cooked and have a robust, peppery flavor. As much as I love red lentils for making a creamy dal or soup, this recipe benefits from lentils that hold their shape so that that carrots don’t dominate. Otherwise, this becomes more of a spicy creamed carrots recipe.
Brown lentils are a suitable substitute if that’s what you have. Both green and brown will get tender in about 20 minutes.
Vegetable broth – This is a dish that really benefits from the addition of vegetable broth. You can use water, I’ve done that, but my preference stands with broth.
Fresh mint – Please don’t skip the fresh mint. It is the knot that keeps the bow tight. I mixed in ¼ of a cup directly into the pot and reserved the other half for garnishing individual servings.
Cilantro, coriander, and the seeds of the fruit
Growing up in the US, I only knew cilantro. When I moved to Europe, I spent weeks lamenting that it wasn’t available – only to discover it’s also called coriander. Cilantro crisis averted!
The leafy green stems and leaves we love to chop and sprinkle over tacos, curry, chili, and more, known as cilantro or coriander, don’t taste the same as their seeds.
Indeed, for some folks, the idea of fresh cilantro is enough to make them run away. What I might consider as citrusy and refreshing, you may think of as a mouthful of soap. Coriander seeds, on the other hand, don’t evoke such a response. They are earthy, tart, and have a floral aroma.
For this reason, fresh cilantro is not a substitute for coriander seeds. It will simply not be the same. If you need a substitution, use 1 teaspoon of ground coriander for 1 ½ teaspoon of coriander seeds. You’ll miss out on the crunch, but the flavor will be comparable.
How to make this recipe
Prep everything before beginning, then grab a medium-sized pot.
There are several ways to break the coriander seeds. If you have a pestle and mortar, that’s one way. You can also place the seeds in a shallow bowl or rimmed plate. Carefully use the handle of a dinner knife or another kitchen utensil with a sturdy end and mash the seeds. Finally, you can add them to a spice grinder and pulse them a few times. You don’t want them ground, just broken.
Now, heat the pot and add the onions and coriander seeds. Sauté the onions, moving them constantly until they start to soften and become a bit translucent.
Once the onions are soft, add the carrots and garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Watch the heat so that the onions don’t start to stick to the bottom. If they do, add water a tablespoon at-a-time.
The best way to add the tomato paste and date paste is to create a space in the bottom of the pan. Mix the two together first, then with the rest of the ingredients.
Be sure you rinse the lentils before adding them. Sometimes, bagged lentils will accumulate a bit of dust. You may notice that a few of the lentils are different colors. That's normal. Remove only the really dark ones if you see them. It’s uncommon, but just in case, I thought I’d add that tip.
For 1 cup of lentils, you need 3 cups of broth. Once you bring the pot to a boil, lower the heat to a slow simmer. You can either cover the pot or simmer the lentils uncovered. I’ve only recently started cooking lentils without covering them. I find it easier to keep an eye on them. It also helps to remind me to stir them every now and then.
The lentils should be tender once most of the liquid is absorbed. If you like lentils a bit saucier, add another ½ a cup of vegetable broth. Lentils are notorious for sticking to the bottom of the pan, so if you need more cooking time, don’t be afraid to add more broth. Green lentils don’t break down the way the red ones do, so more cooking time to let the liquid cook down won't hurt them.
If you do not have whole coriander seeds, you can replace them with fennel, cumin, or caraway seeds. The flavor will be slightly different with each substitution.
You can serve this dish with rice, quinoa, or a grain of your choice. Bread or flatbread for scooping up lentils is a delicious accompaniment. This dish goes well with a simple green or cucumber salad.
Lentils do not require soaking like beans. You only need to rinse them to remove any dust or debris.
Side dish ideas
weeknight carrot and lentil stew
Weeknight carrot and lentil stew brims with a simple sauce, coriander seeds, and fresh mint for a satisfying winner of a quick plant-based meal.
- Prep Time: 15 min
- Cook Time: 30 min
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: stews
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 ½ tsp. coriander seeds
- 1 medium onion, halved, then sliced thin
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
- 4 cups of carrots, peeled and sliced (about 1 ½ pound)
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. date paste (or another liquid sweetener)
- 1 cup of dry green lentils, rinsed
- 3 cups of vegetable broth
- ½ a cup of fresh mint leaves, chopped or torn
- Break the coriander seeds using the handle of a knife, a mortar, and pestle, or by spice grinder. Break the seeds into pieces. Don't pulverize them into powder.
- Pre-heat a medium pot over medium heat. Then add the onions and coriander seeds. Sauté the onions for 5 minutes until they soften and become translucent.
- Stir in the carrots and garlic. Cook the carrots for 3 minutes. If the onions begin to stick, add water or broth a tablespoon at-a-time.
- Make a space in the bottom of the pot and add the tomato paste and date paste and mix the two. Stir the mixture into the rest of the ingredients.
- Add the lentils and vegetable broth. Bring the ingredients to a low boil, then decrease the heat until the ingredients are slowly simmering. You can cover or leave the pot uncovered and continue cooking until the lentils are tender and the broth is absorbed.
- Once the lentils are done, remove the pot from the heat, then mix in half the mint. Use the remaining mint to garnish individual servings.
- You can serve this with rice, quinoa, bulgur, or another grain of choice.
- It is best to use green or brown lentils for this recipe. Red lentils will break down so that the texture more like creamed carrots.
- Coriander seeds have an entirely different flavor than fresh cilantro or coriander. If you want to substitute for coriander seeds, use 1 teaspoon of ground coriander. You will miss out on the crunch of the broken seeds, but this will retain most of the intended flavor.
- This dish will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can also freeze it.
Keywords: carrot and lentil stew