Quick Smoky Red Lentil Stew

Created by Laura Wright
4.94 from 65 votes

A quick and satisfying smoky red lentil stew, loaded with vegetables, spices, and chopped greens. Very pantry-friendly and simple to make.

An overhead shot of a quick red lentil stew, garnished with fresh herbs and slices of lemon.
An overhead shot of bowls of lentil soup and the cookbook "Pretty Simple Cooking"
An overhead shot of a creamy red lentil soup in a beige, braiser-style pot. A wooden serving spoon is dipped into the soup.
A head on shot of a kitchen cooking scene with vegetables on a chopping board, a braiser pot, a jar of lentils, and an open cookbook.

I can’t believe I’m sharing a pantry-friendly stew recipe here with you in April, but springtime in Ontario is a bit of a cruel joke, so here we are. Cozy and smoky red lentil stew is still necessary with these single digit temps. This quick pot is from a new-ish cookbook by Sonja and Alex Overhiser, the power duo behind A Couple Cooks!

Sonja and Alex are probably the most genuinely nice people you could ever meet. Their vegetarian cookbook follows with that same warm intent. It’s filled with 100 accessible recipes that will call to new cooks, but will also remind people like me to simplify and remember what is at the heart of cooking itself.

Their lessons for a good life in the kitchen are woven throughout Pretty Simple Cooking. Their words are honest, real, and truly felt. You know that they want you to be successful, to have fun, and to feel nourished and energized at the end of it all.

I went to this smoky red lentil stew on another day of unexpected snowfall. The base of onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and spices is super classic, but also smoky with an ample helping of smoked paprika. The red split lentils make for a good hit of protein that simmers to completion quickly. Perfect with crusty bread, a nice salad, and a heap of warm and fluffy grains.

This smoky red lentil stew hits the right note of comforting, easy-casual-healthy (as opposed to overly-prescriptive-and-joyless-healthy lol), quick, and easy to throw together on a whim. I know I’ll be making versions of it as we wait for warmer days.

For all my peeps that are still waiting on Spring: I’m here for you! Make some stew in the meantime. More soup inspiration in the form of a creamy white bean stew with kale, rosemary & lemon, or my golden coconut broth bowls with crispy tofu.

Two images show the base of a lentil soup being chopped and sautéed: carrots, onion, celery, and garlic.
A head on shot of a kitchen cooking scene with vegetables on a chopping board, a braiser pot, a jar of lentils, and an open cookbook. There is a white tile background and a wooden butcher block counter.
Two images show a quick lentil soup in both the pot it was cooked in and a white serving bowl.

Smoky Red Lentil Stew

A quick and satisfying smoky red lentil stew, loaded with vegetables, spices, and chopped greens. Very pantry-friendly and simple to make.
4.94 from 65 votes
An overhead shot of quick smoky red lentil stew in a beige, cast iron braiser-style pot. There is a wooden spoon sticking out of the orange stew. The stew is garnished with chopped parsley.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings 4


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, small dice
  • 1 medium yellow onion, small dice
  • 2 stalks celery, small dice
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 ¼ cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from ½ a large lemon)
  • chopped fresh herbs for serving (see notes)


  • From: Pretty Simply Cooking: 100 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes to make You Fall in Love with Real Food by Sonja & Alex Overhiser
  • Sonja and Alex suggest topping this stew with some plain Greek-style yogurt, chopped cilantro or parsley, and a squeeze of lemon. I didn’t have either of the herbs or any coconut milk yogurt on hand, so I just tore up some dill, added a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper, a drizzle of good olive oil, and the little lemon spritz.
  • I went completely by the book for this recipe! Just added one packed cup of chopped kale at the end and let it wilt into the stew :)
  • I’m not sure why, but I’m slightly obsessed with the idea of ladling this lovely stew into a piping hot baked potato. Could be great, right? Will update here when I try it.


  • In a large pot or deep braiser, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, and celery. Stir and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Add the garlic to the pot and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then, add the balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika, cumin, cayenne, and lentils. Give everything a big stir.
  • Add the vegetable stock, salt, and pepper to the pot. Stir and bring the stew up to a simmer. Cover the pot halfway with a lid and let the stew simmer for about 7-10 minutes, depending on your preferred doneness of the lentils. I went the full 10 minutes because I was aiming for a creamier texture. Stir in the lemon juice.
  • Serve the stew hot with chopped fresh herbs and extra lemon.
04/04/2018 (Last Updated 25/10/2023)
Posted in: autumn, carrots, earthy, gluten free, kale, lentils, main course, nut free, quick, refined sugar-free, salty, smoky, soup, spring, vegan, winter


Recipe Rating

  • Danny

    5 stars
    Great recipe!! It is so easy to follow and tasty. It’s my family favourite. Thank you.

  • Justine

    5 stars
    Absolutely love this easy and flavoursome recipe. I added spinach to it. Thank you for a great recipe, definitely be making it again! :-)

  • Amy

    5 stars
    I threw in cilantro and a decent amount of black pepper maybe 1/2 tsp salt and a cup of grape tomatoes while it was piping hot.

    When I made myself a bowl I added a spoonful of fat free yogurt and dove in. This is really great. Delicious.. will be making again.

    • Laura Wright

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed it Amy. Thanks for leaving this comment and review!

  • Aleksandra

    5 stars
    I just made it for dinner and it was delicious. Perfect balance of flavor and spice. I added a handful of fresh baby spinach at the end and let it wilt. Even my 8yo daughter, who is reluctant to trying new foods, liked it and ate the entire serving.

  • Connie Lee Bills

    5 stars
    Loved this red lentil stew! The smoked paprika was awesome and the sautéed veggies stayed al dente. I also added lightly sautéed spinach and mushrooms since I had them made it was great! Thank you!

  • Georgina Bailey

    Lovely recipes but as someone who has cooked weekly with lentils for many years… this is not long enough a) for lentils to be properly cooked and b) to allow development of flavour in a lentil stew.

    At LEAST 30 mins low bubbling

  • Peter

    5 stars
    Worked like a charm! Made with homemade chicken stock and added frozen spinach. Be sure to let the lemon juice have some time to integrate otherwise it’s quite sharp.

  • Ulrike

    5 stars
    Firstly, tastes good, secondly, good ingredients, thirdly, quick. Increased comin to 1 tsp. and cayenne to 1/2 tsp. Tasted even better for lunch the second day, added a handful of spinach.

  • Angie

    5 stars
    Just made this. It is soooooo good! Super flavorful! Really love it!

  • Alice

    The flavor is good but the texture needs improving imo. It was somehow too thin, even for a stew. Do you think it could be ground for serving as pasta sauce, or would there be a way to thicken it with something creamy? Thank you, Laura.

  • Mary

    5 stars
    This was so fast, simple and SO delicious!! I will definitely make again (and double the recipe) My children gobbled this up!!! My friend who was over asked for the recipe. Thank you for sharing!!!

  • Rita

    5 stars
    I topped with Greek yogurt and fresh dill. Simple, warming and delicious!

  • Paul

    1 star
    Followed the Instructions to a tee. It was way too spicy and the flavor was awful. Wound up down the garbage grinder

  • Janet Davies

    5 stars
    Hi hi, i’ve just discovered your site and oh my goodness, this recipe is delicious! The only changes I made were no celery and no balsamic because I didn’t have any in the house, upped the cumin to about a teaspoon and I substituted Rancho Gordo Castillo Spanish Pimenton (smoky) for the paprika. Really good, and so fast and easy in a cold winter night.

  • Laura

    5 stars
    This meal came together so quickly! I doubled the recipe and added 1 can of coconut milk at the end. It was even better for lunch the next day. 

  • Laurie Gorecki

    5 stars
    Excellent recipe!  Hearty and satisfying with balanced flavors. I’ve made it twice so far.

  • Juanita

    5 stars
    Just finished dinner. This was fabulous!! We are Spanish and this dish felt like home. So full of flavor. Did not miss any animal products. We will make this again!

  • Siobhan

    Made this with just a few changes: swapped fennel for celery, added a red bell pepper, used leftover cooking liquid from a pot of beans in place of the veggie stock. Absolutely delish, and so simple. Thank you!

  • Jana

    So delish! So filling! I served over roasted potatoes. Very good!!

  • Elisa

    Made this tonight because I unexpectedly had a bag of split red lentils. Like you, made the recipe exactly, without fresh herbs, but with some kale past its prime from a recent farm box. Delicious! The squeeze of fresh lemon was especially nice.

  • Sophia Campbell

    Amazing food
    Thank you for sharing

  • Maria

    Very tasty!
    I will have the leftovers for breakfast, over idli!

  • TK

    OMG!! Made this Evening and it was DELLIcious!!!
    Thank You for a Simple Delicious Meal!!

  • Cynthia Tilghman-Lee

    The smoky red lentil stew recipe is perfect! I added collard greens and substituted the salt and pepper with Lawry’s seasoning salt. Yum!

  • Lindsey

    This recipe was delicious! We added two chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, more cumin, TJ’s lemon pepper, and TJ’s garlic salt. Thank you for sharing this recipe. We are trying to add more vegetarian dishes to our menu and this was a hit!

  • Ciaran Welch

    Does the lemon juice go anywhere apart from finishing

    • Laura

      It is only stirred in at the end. You have the option to serve the soup with extra lemon wedges as well!

  • Philip Morton

    I love this recipe. I’ve been expanding my reportoire to include more legumes and less meat. This one hits the spot. One thing I like to do is to add grilled halloumi cheese to give it a bit more umami.


  • Danni Liu

    this recipe is so so so tasty ! I cooked it for 30 mins instead of 10, so the lentils becomes mushy creamy , but again so so so good !

  • Micah

    I just made this tonight and tried it over baked potatoes, as suggested. Yum! I definitely recommend it that way. I also added in 8 oz of sliced mushrooms before the lentils. My husband loved it too so I will definitely be making this again.

  • Lindsey

    Just made this tonight, it was absolutely amazing! Added some coconut milk to make it creamy, and some potatoes as well just for fun :) Thanks for sharing!

  • Claire Goldberg

    Do you think I could replace the smoked paprika with chipotle pepper in adobo?

    • Laura

      Yes definitely! Just as long as you enjoy a bit of spice ;)

  • Kathy Duckett

    So good! Really hit the spot for a healthy comfort meal. Just made it tonight. Only adjustment was adding a little coconut milk I happened to have in the fridge. It didn’t need it but sounded good. I also didn’t add onion as my teenager hates anything with onion (sigh).

  • Charlene

    I guess I am in the minority here..made this tonite and it is definitely ‘not a keeper’. Lets just say I am glad we had leftovers in the fridge to fall back on.

  • Kim Hutchinson

    I added a big handful of chopped kale at the end and then topped with lemon juice and fresh dill. Delicious. I especially like the addition of lemon juice and dill. Thank you!

  • Natalie

    Whenever I feel sick, I’m also craving for some stews like this. They are so healthy and yummy. I have to ask my bf to do it for me tonight xD

  • Shilpa Kumar

    Lovely recipe! HaHa! Spring can seem like a cruel joke in these parts!

    Those mugs you have are gorgeous!

  • Ann

    Made this tonight ~ absolutely fantastic. So many good flavours. Only adjustment I made was increasing the cumin to 1 tsp. So good. Thank you!

  • judith scott

    i subscribe to quite a lot of food blogs. sometimes i have enough time and forethought to prepare the meal sent to me on a particular day. today was that day. i had all the ingredients and without hesitation put this little dish together and found it DELIGHTFUL,filling,tasty. i added chard into the stew,chopped a bit of cilantro and green onions. wished i had a dollop of yogurt,but i call this GOOD! thank you.

  • Cassie Thuvan Tran

    You have no idea how much I love the smell and flavor of anything smoky. Smoked vegetables, especially bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, eggplant, and Brussels sprouts, are always winners in my book! I have rarely ever had smoky beans, let alone a pulse stew! So, this is a recipe definitely worth trying. Sonja and Alex are probably amazing individuals as well. I bet their cookbook has more wondrous recipes!

  • Miranda

    It was -21 with the windchill in Ottawa this morning. Spring is such a cruel joke! Half of me craves the switch to lighter dinner options and to be done with soups/stews, but with this weather it’s just not an option yet. This stew looks great, maybe my last stew of the season?!? One can hope :)

  • Ushmana

    Coming from Nepal, lentil stew is a basic necessity for dinner here. I am so glad I found this recipe, time to spice things up with my lentil stew for tonight! Thanks!

  • Alana

    I bet this would be good over a baked SWEET potato! Baked potato would be good, too, but I think the sweet potato’s creaminess would pair well with the stew. I can’t wait to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Amanda

      I tried it over a sweet potato and indeed it was quite good! Great base recipe. Thanks to Laura, Sonja, & Alex for the recipe and Alana for the idea!

  • Marcy youker

    love your recipes, i like vegetarian recipes, will try it, thanks. Oh can I use regular lentils?

    • Laura

      Thank you so much! You can use regular lentils, but they may require some more liquid and extra time to cook. Also the stew won’t seem as “creamy” because the red split lentils tend to break down in stews and soups like this.

  • thefolia

    What a yummy bowl of goodness…I’m soaking my lentils now…happy feasting.

  • Patricia Scarpin

    I cannot believe how easy this is to make! It looks amazing and it is perfect for the fall – it has just started here. Wonderful and nutritious, yum!

  • Mary

    Love your recipes!

  • Aria smith

    It’s looks colorful, thanks for sharing such a delicious vegan recipe!!

  • lauren moses

    Did you use cooked or raw lentils?

    • Laura

      They are raw split red lentils.

  • Ti Reed

    This looks amazing. My 14 year old has turned to a vegetarian diet and I can’t wait to make this for her AND check out that cookbook.

  • barbara

    Love your recipes