This gorgeous eggplant lentil curry is super easy to make, and comes together in one pot (so less cleaning up!). It’s vegan and vegetarian and absolutely delicious.
Why you’ll love it
- It’s a one-pot recipe! Need I say more?
- It’s full of delicious Indian-style flavors (I was thinking of sambar and dal when I made this).
- It’s a super economical recipe.
- It freezes well and is perfect for batch cooking.
- It cooks up in just half an hour.
- You can double the eggplant or add more veggies (like zucchini) for an even healthier dish and to bulk it out.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Find all the ingredients you need to make this aubergine lentil curry in the image below, and scroll down to see what substitutions can be made if you’re missing anything.
Tomatoes: Use medium-sized tomatoes. Don’t substitute with canned tomatoes as they won’t break down properly. Preferably, the tomatoes should be ripe (even over-ripe is fine) but if they’re a bit underripe you can still use them you just might have to add a little extra sugar.
Ginger: Use fresh finely grated ginger. If you can’t get fresh ginger you can use 1.5 teaspoons of ginger paste instead. Don’t use dried ground ginger.
Lentils: I use split red lentils for this recipe. You can also use split-yellow lentils. If you prefer a more firm lentil, you can use whole red or yellow ones but you will need to increase the cooking time and add extra water as needed.
Garlic: Use fresh garlic or substitute it with garlic puree (not ground garlic or garlic powder).
Sugar: Lots of people hate adding sugar to recipes but it really is necessary with some curries to get a restaurant-style taste, and the amount used here is quite small. Use brown sugar if you can, if not then cane sugar or white sugar will be fine.
Lemon juice: Use freshly squeezed lemon juice, not concentrate. You can add extra if you like as well as lemon goes so well with both eggplant and lentils.
Cayenne pepper: I use a quarter teaspoon here for a mild-medium level of spice. For a hotter curry (more of a medium-hot level) use half a teaspoon. If you don’t have cayenne pepper you can swap them out for chili flakes, or use one long mild chili pepper instead (chop it and throw it in with the garlic) for mild heat or two for a hotter curry.
Black pepper: Use regular preground black pepper here, no need to use freshly cracked black pepper.
Oil: Use any plain flavorless oil, such as canola or sunflower oil.
Onion: Use a regular brown or sweet white onion.
Cumin seeds: If you don’t have cumin seeds, you can use ground cumin instead. Simply use half the amount and add it in with the cayenne and coriander and skip toasting the cumin seeds at the start.
Salt: Both aubergine and lentils need to be well-salted so don’t skimp on the salt here. Do swap it out for a low-sodium alternative if you need to reduce sodium in your diet for health reasons.
Wholegrain mustard: Don’t have wholegrain mustard? Swap for black mustard seeds, or skip adding mustard altogether.
Coriander: Ground coriander is essential to this recipe, don’t omit it, and don’t use coriander seeds – they’re unpleasantly crunchy and don’t soften well.
Eggplant: Use one large eggplant (aubergine). If you want to add more eggplant try using two medium ones, or you can also use one medium eggplant and one medium courgette.
Vegetable stock: Stock gives this curry a lot more flavor than water so I don’t recommend omitting it. You can make some up with bouillon granules or a stock cube if you don’t have any to hand.
Optionally, you can add a little garam masala, coconut milk, or chopped fresh cilantro.
- Garam masala will enhance the flavors and give a more “traditional” curry flavor, but it is a bully of a spice mix so if you add it, only add up to half a teaspoon.
- Coconut milk, although optional, is something I highly recommend as it really perfects the consistency of the curry sauce and goes with all the South Indian-style flavors I was thinking of when I created this recipe. If you don’t like coconut milk, you can use cream or sour cream instead.
- Chopped fresh cilantro adds a pop of color and some lovely flavor which pairs well with the lemon juice in the sauce.
How to make it
The best tip for making this recipe in an easy and stress-free way is to have all your ingredients prepared (chopped, grated, etc.) and measured out before beginning as it tends to go quite quickly and you don’t want to burn any spices.
You can check out the process shots below if you’re unsure of any step or just want a quick look at how to make the recipe and what’s involved.
- Add the oil to a medium or large non-stick saucepan and heat on medium-high. When hot, add the cumin seeds.
- When the cumin seeds have begun to make crackling noises and have browned, add the wholegrain mustard, quickly stir and cover with a lid or use a spatter guard. The seeds will jump out of the pan otherwise and go everywhere.
- Cook the mustard seeds for one minute without stirring and then remove the lid.
- Add the chopped onion and mix well.
- Fry the onions for five minutes until softened and lightly browned.
- Add the crushed garlic, grated ginger, coriander, cayenne, and black pepper.
- Mix well and cook for one minute.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and cubed eggplant and toss to coat well with the spice mix.
- Fry for 7-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the eggplant has softened and the tomatoes have completely broken down.
- Add the vegetable stock, salt, and lentils. Stir well.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low-medium to keep at a lively simmer, and cook uncovered for between 7-10 minutes or until the eggplant is tender and the lentils are at your desired consistency.
- Add the lemon juice and brown sugar and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the optional ingredients (coconut milk, garam masala, cilantro) if desired.
Enjoy! Serve with fluffy basmati rice and naan bread for a lush restaurant-style meal. As with most lentil recipes, it’s also gorgeous with some Greek yogurt spooned over, or if you have time to make it, some tomato onion raita.
What you’ll need:
- A medium or large non-stick saucepan.
- A sharp knife.
- A chopping board.
- Measuring cups and spoons or kitchen scales.
- A garlic press (or finely mince the garlic)
- A fine grater or microplane (for the ginger).
- Don’t bother peeling the ginger before finely grating it. Very little peel makes it through the grater and the peel is so thin that it really doesn’t make a difference.
- Don’t bother peeling the garlic before using a garlic press to crush it. Just crush, then open the crusher and scrape out the skin and move on to the next clove.
- Squeeze the juice out of the leftover ginger pulp from grating to really get as much ginger flavor as you can.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Leftover curry can be stored in a tightly sealed container for up to four days in the fridge.
Yes! This curry freezes really well and is perfect for batch cooking.
Yes! Just add at the end when the lentils have cooked through.
No, split lentils do not need to be soaked (and I advise you don’t do it as they’ll disintegrate).
They’re the same thing. Aubergine is the original word for the vegetable and comes from French and is mainly used in Europe, while eggplant is used in North America because the original specimens brought there were white and resembled eggs!
Did you make this dish? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐and a comment below.
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- ½ Tablespoon cumin seeds
- ½ Tablespoon wholegrain mustard
- 1 large onion
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 inch ginger, finely grated
- 1 Tablespoon ground coriander
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 3 medium tomatoes
- 1 large aubergine (450-500g or 16-17.5 ounces)
- 1 cup split red lentils
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups vegetable stock (720ml)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ Tablespoon brown sugar
- Optional ½ tsp garam masala
- Optional, ¼ cup coconut milk (but highly recommended)
- Prep the vegetables and measure out the other ingredients. Eggplant should be medium dice (1-2cm cubes), smaller and they will be too soft, larger and they will take too long to cook through.
- Heat oil until hot on medium-high heat.
- Add cumin seeds.
- When the cumin seeds start crackling and browning, add the mustard seeds, quickly mix, cover (the seeds will sputter and “jump” out of the pan), and cook for one minute.
- Add the onions, mix well, and fry for around five minutes until softened and lightly browned.
- Add the crushed garlic, grated ginger, coriander, cayenne, and black pepper. Mix well and cook for one minute.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and eggplant. Mix well until coated with the onion and spices and fry for 7-10 minutes or until the tomatoes have completely broken down and the eggplant has softened.
- Add the stock, lentils, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low to maintain at a lively simmer, and cook uncovered for 7-10 minutes until the lentils and eggplant are cooked but not mushy and disintegrating.
- Add the lemon juice, brown sugar, and garam masala. Stir well and taste and add more salt if necessary. Stir in the optional ingredients (coconut milk and garam masala) if using. Enjoy!
Split yellow lentils can be used in place of split red lentils.
You can use cream or sour cream instead of coconut milk if you prefer.
Feel free to double up the amount of eggplant used or add in a zucchini.
This is a mild-medium level of spice curry. Increase cayenne pepper to half a teaspoon if you'd like a medium-hot level.
Amount Per Serving Calories 237Total Fat 8gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 0mgSodium 1182mgCarbohydrates 38gFiber 11gSugar 13gProtein 8g