Smoky Vegan Lentil Stew

1-PotVeganLentil Stew

Two ingredients—smoked salt and smoked paprika—can make a big flavor change in this smoky vegan lentil stew. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.

Photography Credit: Erin Alderson

When it comes to vegetarian and vegan cooking, lentils are a favorite ingredient of mine. Lentils are fairly inexpensive, and they’re a total workhorse in recipes. I’ve been known to use them as a vegan sloppy joe base, make them into meatball-like bites, and put them to work in about fifty different versions of soups, chilis, and stews.

Plus, unlike their bean counterparts, lentils don’t need to be soaked and can go from pantry to bowl in about 30 minutes!

Vegan Lentil Soup

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I like to keep three different varieties of lentils on hand: red, brown, and black:

  • Red lentils are actually lentils that have been split in half. This causes them to break down and makes them perfect for creamy stews and curries; this also means they cook the quickest.
  • Brown lentils, like the ones in this stew, hold their shape but absorb all the flavors, and are the most versatile. They can be used in soups, stews, or in something like a lentil-loaf. If I can find them, I use green lentils as a swap for brown lentils.
  • Black lentils are beautiful and I typically reserve them for salads and grain bowls because they hold their shape and color well.

I’m using brown lentils in this recipe because they hold up well throughout the cook time. These lentils are really the basis for the texture of the stew.

The Fresher the Better

If you’re picking out bagged lentils, check the date for when the lentils were packaged or when they expire. If you’re buying from a bulk bin, ask how often the products are cycled through and make sure you’re buying lentils that have not been sitting for more than six months.

Lentils older than a year can be tougher to cook and often stay crunchy, even after long cooking.

Vegan Stew Recipe with Lentils

Smoke It If You’ve Got It!

For this lentil stew, the smoky essence from smoked paprika and smoked salt provides the smoky flavor.

I love keeping both of these ingredients on hand, but it’s really the smoked salt that adds depth—it reminds me a bit of sitting next to a campfire on a chilly night, which is why I love it in this stew. Smoked salt can be a purchased at most spice shops or online.


Lentils and tomato products don’t always get along — the acid in tomatoes can prevent the lentils from fully softening, leaving you with crunchy lentils. This is why for this lentil soup, I save adding the tomato paste for last.

Vegan Stew Recipe


Finally, this stew makes an easy dinner during the cooler months. Serve it with a simple side salad and crusty bread.

You can also play around with toppings. More fresh herbs, whole milk yogurt, or even a sprinkle of salty cheese such as feta can be a nice finish. You can also add a dash of Frank’s hot sauce to perk things up if you like.

 More Easy Weeknight Soups

Smoky Vegan Lentil Stew Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1 1/2 cups diced carrots (about 2 large carrots)
  • 1 cup diced celery (about 2 to 3 medium stalks)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup diced Yukon gold potatoes (about 1 medium-sized potato)
  • 2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 4 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley, for garnish
  • Bread, for serving


1 Cook the vegetables: Place a stock pot over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil followed by the onion, carrots, celery, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the vegetables are tender and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and potatoes, cooking for another 2 minutes.

2 Simmer the stew: Add the lentils, smoked paprika, smoked salt, thyme, bay leaf, and vegetable broth or water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.

Cook uncovered until the lentils are just about tender, 22 to 24 minutes.

3 Add the tomato paste: Stir in the tomato paste and lemon juice, and cook for another 5 minutes until the lentils are completely tender. Taste and add more smoked salt if desired.

4 Serve: Divide the soup into 4 bowls and top with fresh parsley before serving. Leftovers will keep for up to 5 days refrigerated.

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Erin Alderson

Erin Alderson is a photographer/videographer living in Sacramento, CA. She currently runs Grove Haus Studio, focusing on capturing the stories behind food/farms through visual media and recipes. Erin can also be found sharing fresh, vegetarian recipes on her site, Naturally Ella.

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7 Comments / Reviews

No ImageSmoky Vegan Lentil Stew

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Trish

    My husband and I loved the flavor balance in the dish. Very well done. Thanks!


  2. Jarrett

    Turned out as you expected it would – tastes of broth and lentils. Probably wouldn’t make again. I just don’t see how this recipe can come together tasting amazing.

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Cari

    Can this be made in a crockpot/slow cooker?

  4. Nick

    I made this without celery (adding an extra carrot) and substituted a sweet potato for the Yukon Gold.

    The result was delightful, and this is now hands-down my favorite lentil dish. The smoked salt was a next level addition, while my lentils (this might have to do with the suggestion to add the tomato paste at the end) turned out just a bit more evenly cooked than in other lentil dishes I’ve made in the past. Really pleased with this.


  5. b

    I made this *without the smoked salt*. When I reviewed the ingredients I somehow missed it. I did have smoked paprika, however and it turned out wonderfully.


Vegan Stew RecipeSmoky Vegan Lentil Stew