It’s mung bean curry time! Fetch that bag of mung beans. Gather a few Indian spices, grab a can of tomatoes and another of coconut milk, mice some ginger and garlic, and don’t bite into the red chili. Save it for this flavorful vegan curry.
Oh my goodness, if you don’t have a bag of mung beans in the house, go buy them. I insist. And I promise you won’t regret it.
After all the curries I’ve made, you know the kidney bean, the cauliflower, the spinach, the chickpea, the kitchen sink curry (just kidding), there’s a new curry in town. And it’s a great one!
There are a few of the usual suspects like garlic, ginger, and chili. And of course, a few of our favorite curry spices like turmeric, coriander, cayenne pepper, and cumin seeds. I got so excited, I even toasted up a few black mustard seeds. Fancy, I know.
What’s different from all my other curries are those mung beans. Not the split kind, mind you, but those little dark green mung beans.
If you aren’t familiar with mung beans as little whole beans (they are a bit new to the U.S.), it's time to expand your horizons. Besides, you've probably eating bean sprouts, right? These are them pre-sprouting.
These little powerhouses have been around for thousands of years in India as a part of the Ayurvedic diet. They are so magical that they’ve even been considered a traditional medicine since 1500 – B.C.
Are mung beans the same as lentils?
Short answer, nope. Mung beans aren’t even beans. They are technically seeds that grow in a pod, so we now call them a legume. That puts them in the legume family of chickpeas, lentils, and beans, with differences.
It kind of reminds me of when we stopped calling Pluto a planet. Some of us old folks still call it a planet, but that isn't technically correct. And just like Pluto, it doesn’t really matter because they still hold their place in the world – the perfect ingredient for this yummy curry recipe.
What’s so great about mung beans?
Healthy, healthy, healthy! They are flush with nutrition. They’re exploding with iron, copper, potassium, magnesium, folate, fiber, and vitamin B6.
Another bonus. If you find beans challenging to digest, grab the mung bean tram. They won’t make you explode after eating them. And you don’t even need to soak mung beans, unlike its cousins such as the black bean or chickpea. Think mung when you think house quests.
And here’s the recipe to keep them asking for more.
Let's cook it!
When you say curry, I say layers of flavor. So, let’s build us some.
Start by announcing you are making yummy curry. I mean, start by toasting the cumin and black mustard seeds. Use the same heavy-bottomed pot you’ll use for the curry. Toast the seeds for about 1 minute. Keep them moving so that they don’t burn. You’ll start smelling them. That’s the curry announcement.
Don’t linger once the spices are toasted. Add the garlic, ginger, and a sliced or chopped red chili. Yes, a jalapeno will do the trick. And no, the garlic is NOT a misprint – 9 (nine) cloves. This is why you need a garlic press, my cooking friend. Or some slamming music to keep you mincing. Either will work.
We're now building layer 3. It's precisely (more or less) 2 minutes after we added the last layer. You’ve already got the first 2 spices in there, now add the rest. So dole out the coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and salt. You can omit the salt until the end if you want full salt control. Add the tomatoes at the same time.
We want our tomatoes to break down, so use crushed tomatoes, or if you are me, use canned cherry tomatoes and crush them with the back of a spoon. If all you have are whole tomatoes, no problem. Dice them up or give them a quick spin with your immersion blender. Don’t discard any juice. We want it all.
Now give all that a mix and let it cook for 5 minutes. Be sure to stir the bottom of the pot to pick everything up. We’re off and running now. Add the water (5 cups), add the rinsed mung beans. In 30 – 40 minutes, you’ll have tender mung beans. And then, like it could get better, it can. We’re adding a can of coconut milk, chopped cilantro, and lime juice. Yes, you can omit the cilantro. It’s true, it tastes like soap to some people. This curry is far too good to risk that. When in doubt, serve cilantro as a garnish at the table.
Got questions? Here are a few answers
What do I serve with my most awesome curry? We like serving this curry over rice, but you can also go all uber nutrition and use quinoa. If I can be so bold, try a few potato flatbreads or go cross country and serve it with pita bread.
What if I don’t use coconut milk? I get it. Coconut milk is somewhat high in fat. Use a cup of plant milk and add ¼ - ½ tsp. of coconut extract (you’ll need to test this for yourself). That’s my skinny fix.
Can I go green? Yes indeed! Add chopped spinach after you add the coconut milk. If you use chopped kale, add it a bit earlier to allow it to soften up.
Can you freeze this curry? Seriously? You have leftovers? Yep, it’s a dream to freeze. Try making this ahead and put your name on it if you take it out of the house.
How long does it keep in the fridge? My rule is 4 - 5 days. I’ve never kept it that long, but that’s the cooked legume rule. Keep it in a sealed container. It’s the safest practice not to store it with the rice.
I can hear you now, yes, there are split mung beans (moong dal) out there. I’ll be upfront. I’ve not tested them with this recipe, and I don’t believe the texture or consistency of the curry would be quite the same. Not that it wouldn’t be tasty. Just different. If you want a substitute for mung beans (and you don’t, really), try pigeon peas or snow peas.
Trying a new curry recipe always makes my world brighter. Cooking and ingredient that isn’t often in the front of my mind, like that far away Pluto non-planet, gives it an exotic appeal. Maybe my gushing is leaning to the extreme, but just writing about my new beloved mung bean curry kind of makes me happy. Well, that deserves another batch for sure. Peace.Print
mung bean curry
Creamy mung bean curry loaded with Indian spices and coconut milk is easy to make and a flavorful plant-based feast guaranteed to please.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Main Courses
- Cuisine: Indian
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
- 1 Tbsp. black mustard seeds
- 9 cloves garlic crushed (about 3 Tbsp.)
- 2 Tbsp. freshly grated or minced ginger
- 1 red chili or jalapeno sliced or finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 - 14 oz. (400 gm.) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 ½ cups mung beans, rinsed and picked through to remove any stones
- 5 cups of water
- 1 - 14 oz. (400 ml.) can of coconut milk
- 1-2 medium limes, juiced
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- Start with a heavy bottom medium pot. Heat that to medium and add 1 Tbsp. of cumin seeds and 1 Tbsp. of black mustard seeds. Toast the seeds for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Don’t let them get too brown. Toast them just enough that they start to release their aromas.
- Immediately add the garlic, ginger, and red chili. Saute for 30 seconds to allow the chili to soften.
- Add 2 Tbsp. of coriander, 1 tsp. of turmeric, 1 tsp. of cayenne pepper, and 1 tsp. of salt. Just mix this around with your spoon and then add the tomatoes. If you need to break the tomato pieces up, use the back of a spoon against the side of the pot. Be careful that you don’t splatter tomato everywhere.
- Allow the tomato mixture to cook for 5 minutes so the tomatoes can start to break down. Stir a few times to pick up any garlic or spices that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Add 5 cups of water and the mung beans. Stir them about so they are not just in one place. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.
- Cook the mung beans for 30 - 35 minutes until they are tender.
- Once the beans are tender, add the coconut milk, chopped cilantro, and the juice of 1 lime.
- Allow it to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Taste and add more lime juice or salt to taste.
- Serve over rice if desired.
- Be sure you have all the ingredients ready through the point where you add the water and mung beans. You don’t want to risk burning the cumin and mustard seeds.
- If you just whole rather than crushed tomatoes, you may need to dice or puree them before adding them to the pot. Be sure to add the juice.
- The total cooking time for the beans may vary depending on the age of the mung beans and the cooking heat. Mung beans do not require soaking.
- Add a few cups of chopped spinach to green up this dish. Add it at the end of the cooking process and cook it just enough to wilt it.
- I’ve not tested this recipe with split mung beans. If you use them in place of the whole beans, the texture will be different. Try substituting pigeon peas or snow peas if you can’t find mung beans.
Keywords: mung bean curry
Very tasty. I made a few adjustments (I always do!)...Cut coriander powder to 1 Tbsp, increased turmeric to 3 tsp, extra ginger (about 3 Tbsp) and used 8 oz of coconut milk (I had a partial can to use up). The lesser amount of coconut milk made it rich and creamy enough for my taste. I soaked the mung beans overnight, and also substituted 1/2 cup yellow lentils for 1/2 cup of the mung beans (I only had 1 cup mung beans). Finally, I added a 10 oz bag of frozen cut spinach at the end for more veggies. The basic recipe is very flexible, and the texture of the lentils fit well with the mung beans. I'm sure split mung beans would also be good.
Love your spinach addition! What a great idea and one I'm going to try. I'm so happy you were able to make adjustments to suit - that's what cooking should be about. Recipes are the guides, but you get to make it how you like it. Cheers, Denise
I just made this mung curry and it was delicious! I added spinach instead of the cilantro and ginger powder instead of fresh as I did not have these ingredients at home. I found it a bit to watery for my taste so next time I’ll add less water.
I love your idea about spinach! This is the perfect curry for that. I sometimes cut the liquid back when I don't place to serve this with rice too. Thanks for trying this recipe - I'm excited that you liked it. It's one of our favorites.
No mention of oil. Do you start with a tablespoon of oil in the pan? 5 star if you answer!!
Hi, we don't use added oil in any of our recipes. That's why there's no mention of oil 🙂
Love this recipe! Made it twice so far! First time I used spinach instead of cilantro and today I used beetroot leaves (Swiss chard) both versions were pretty good!
So glad to hear that you love this curry as much as we do. It's a great one for adding greens - especially when they are in season.
Just made it. It's absolutely delicious. The coconut milk and lime juice make an incredible touch. I'm looking forward to trying out other Indian cuisine dishes 💖
Thanks so much for your kind review. I appreciate it! Indian cuisine is probably our favorite too. Amazingly versatile too! They are a great way to enjoy food and healthy food at that 🙂
Great recipe. As some have mentioned, it is a bit watery, but the flavor came out great. Next time I might cook the mung beans separately to reduce the water. Used a dried, toasted chile de arbol ion lieu of the red chili, gave it a great smoky heat.
I was nervous how much water there was, but the beans actually quickly soaked it up (still a tad too watery for my liking).
Thanks for commenting. I think I'll adjust the recipe per your recommendation and adjust the amount of broth. The nice thing about stovetop cooking is that you can always add more liquid. There's an Instant Pot version of this recipe coming soon and that required less liquid too. Cheers, Denise.
Loved your recipe. I am from India and my family is vegetarian. Am eating this since childhood and couldn't resist this recipe when I read the title. Sharing with you another portal where all recipes are vegetarian and you can try some more - https://www.tarladalal.com/
Ruth Anne Henault
Hi Denise - liking your site! I too found this very soupy - 5 cups water to only 11/2 cups beans but I made as is first time / reduced coconut milk, added some cooked pintos I had, will add greens - chard or Brussels sprout leaves I have . It is still a soup 🙂 thank you
Hi, thanks for the review - I redid this recipe last night (it's so yummy). After a little experimenting, I used 2 cups of mung beans. I started with 4 cups of water but ended up at 5 by the time the beans were done. After adding the coconut milk, it makes a creamy but less watery texture. I'll be updating the recipe soon (with pictures) to reflect this.
This recipe was delicious- I had a bag of mung beans in the pantry and this was a great way to use them. I switched up the spices and used curry powder and garam masala. I also had curry leaves so I used some of those as well. Was delicious served with garlic naan and sautéed cabbage. Thanks!
So happy you enjoyed this - it's still a favorite around here. Great suggestions on substitutions too. I love garam masala in spinach curry, so I'm sure it's great with mung bean too. Thanks for the kind comments. 🙂