Slow Cooker Red Lentil Stew with Butternut Squash

A hearty vegetarian slow cooker stew with butternut squash, red lentils, coconut milk and a robust blend of spices. This stew is the perfect way to warm up on a cold day. Vegan + gluten-free.

It’s the perfect time of year for this cozy stew. It feels like spring should be right around the corner, but my guess is that half of the U.S. is still covered in snow and doesn’t feel like spring is anywhere near. So for those of you battling cold temps and wanting a simple dinner that will warm you up from the inside out, this stew is for you.

Bowl of slow cooker butternut squash and red lentil stew, topped with cilantro and green onions.

This veggie-packed stew is inspired by my Butternut Squash and Turkey Chili, which is cooked in the Instant Pot. I LOVE this chili so much, but recently wanted to try a completely vegetarian version with extra red lentils and this was the result. It’s so warm, comforting and amazing filling for a vegetarian meal. I love the combo of red lentils with butternut squash, and the unique combo of spices in this soup make it so delicious. I can’t wait for you to try it!

I know cooking lentils can be a little intimidating, but this method could not be simpler. I’ll answer some FAQs below, but don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any additional questions!

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Stew with Butternut Squash and Red Lentils in a slow cooker with a wooden spoon.

Can you put dried lentils in a slow cooker?

Yes! You can put dried, uncooked lentils in a slow cooker with liquid and they will cook through. For this recipe, you’ll put all of your ingredients for the stew in the slow cooker and it’ll work its magic.

Do you have to soak lentils before slow cooking?

Nope! Lentils are the one of the only dry beans that you don’t need to soak before cooking. You can soak them if you want to speed up the cooking process, but it’s not necessary. On thing to note: You should always rinse your lentils before cooking just to clean them off and remove any stones, debris or shriveled lentils. Once rinsed and sorted, drain and use as directed in the recipe.

Can you overcook lentils?

Yes, you can overcook lentils – they’ll end up getting super soft and mushy. Follow the directions in this recipe to make sure you don’t end up with mushy lentils from overcooking.

How to make Vegetarian Slow Cooker Stew

The ingredient list for this recipe might look long and intimidating, but almost half of the ingredients are spices you probably already have in your spice cabinet, so don’t stress!

Start by sautéing the chopped onion and garlic in a saucepan (or your slow cooker if it’s stovetop safe!) and add in the spices. I love seasoning multiple layers of a dish – it makes for awesome flavor!

Next, add your sautéed onion and garlic to the slow cooker along with the butternut squash, broth, tomatoes, coconut milk, lentils, tomato paste, and apple cider vinegar. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 6. You’ll know it’s ready when the lentils and butternut squash are soft and cooked through. Feel free to taste test to make sure.

Once the stew is cooked through, you’ll stir in your spinach (if using) and let it sit for a couple of minutes so the greens get a little wilted. Then it’s ready to serve! Enjoy on its own or serve over brown rice or quinoa if you’d like.

Bowl of slow cooker butternut squash and red lentil stew, topped with cilantro and green onions.

If you make this butternut squash and red lentil stew, please be sure to leave a comment and star rating below letting me know how it turns out. Your feedback is so helpful for the EBF team and other EBF readers.

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Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Stew


  • Author: Brittany Mullins
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 6

Description

A hearty vegetarian slow cooker stew with butternut squash, red lentils, coconut milk and a robust blend of spices. This stew is the perfect way to warm up on a cold day. Vegan + gluten-free. 


Ingredients

  • 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 5 cups)
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 114 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 114 oz can light coconut milk
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 23 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 12 cups chopped spinach (optional)
  • chopped cilantro and sliced green onions, for garnish
  • cooked brown rice or quinoa (optional)

Instructions

Slow Cooker:

  1. Add oil to a sauce pan or the base of your slow cooker (if it’s stove-top safe) and sauté onion and garlic for 3-5 minutes. Add spices (turmeric, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, sea salt and pepper) and cook for an additional minute.
  2. Combine sautéed veggies, butternut squash chunks, veggie broth, tomatoes, coconut milk, lentils, tomato paste and apple cider vinegar together in your slow cooker. Top with lid and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours, or until lentils and butternut squash are soft and cooked through.
  3. Add in spinach, stir and let stew sit for a couple minutes to allow the greens to wilt.
  4. Portion stew into bowls, top each bowl with fresh cilantro and green onions before serving. You can also serve the stew over brown rice or quinoa if you’d like.

Stovetop:

  1. Add oil to a large stockpot. Once hot, add onion and garlic and sauté for 3-5 minutes. Add spices (turmeric, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, sea salt and pepper) and cook for an additional minute.
  2. Add butternut squash chunks, veggie broth, tomatoes, coconut milk, lentils, tomato paste and apple cider vinegar to the pot.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil. Once bubbling, reduce heat to medium and simmer the stew uncovered for about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the butternut squash is fork-tender and the lentils are cooked, reduce heat to low.
  4. Add in spinach, stir and let stew sit for a couple minutes to allow the greens to wilt.
  5. Portion stew into bowls, top each bowl with fresh cilantro and green onions before serving. You can also serve the stew over brown rice or quinoa if you’d like.

  • Category: Lunch/Dinner
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/6 of recipe
  • Calories: 281
  • Sugar: 7g
  • Fat: 8g
  • Carbohydrates: 43g
  • Fiber: 8g
  • Protein: 11g

Keywords: butternut squash and red lentil stew, slow cooker red lentil stew

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    18 comments
  1. made this yesterday for supper and it is most excellent. thankfully we have leftovers to enjoy it again. Thank you so much for a great recipe.

  2. Hi Brittany,
    This dish sounds delish!
    I’ll be cooking it on the stove but want the squash and the lentils to be just right. How small/big do I cut the squash to even cooking time?
    Thanks!

  3. Really enjoyed this dish. Iam on the road a lot and this dish is delicious room temp or hot. I ate it like a chunky dip with rice crisps.

  4. Recipe sounds delicious but I do not have a slow cooker or instantpot. Could you do this stove top and if so how long should it be cooked? Thanks!

  5. Loved this! It was so easy to make and the kids loved it without any meat. Thank you so much 😊

  6. I loved the flavors. My batch came out more soupy than like a stew. Thank you for posting nutritional information. I will make it again

  7. I love the flavors!

    My stew has a lot of liquid and the lentils are a bit firm for my taste, so next time, I’ll try cooking for 6 hours on low rather than 3 hours on high.

    I made this batch for my lunches this week. Rather than stirring in the spinach to the whole pot, I added a bed of spinach under the stew in my container — 2 minutes in the microwave and a quick stir, and it’s delicious! Thank you!

  8. I’m still in dubio about wether to buy an InstaPot or slowcooker. Why would you pick one over the other? Since you’ve posted two similar recipes, one for the InstaPot and one for the slowcooker. Does the slowcooker produce more flavor? Are you limited in use of ingredients for the InstaPot?

    • Hi Ellen. So I have both the slow cooker and Instant Pot and I love both, but I can see why you’d want to pick one over the other because they’re both quite big and I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a ton of storage space in my kitchen. That said, I think it totally depends on how you like to cook. If you like the set it and forget it approach, the slow cooker is where it’s at because it’s pretty hands off and you can set something, let it cook for 3-8 hours without any hands-on work. The Instant Pot is great for quick cooking because you get all the flavor of a slow cooker meal but in a minimal amount of time. That said there is some added hands-on cooking involved because you have to wait for the machine to pressurize, cook and then depressurize. And some recipes call for the natural release method and some will call for you to release the pressure manually. Overall, I love the Instant Pot for making things like beans and brown rice… they cook perfectly and really fast. Overall, it’s a tough call but I think if I was just going to buy one at this point I’d probably buy the Instant Pot because you can typically make anything you’d make in your slow cooker in the Instant Pot, but faster and I love that fact that you can sear or sauté things in the Instant Pot before cooking. his is great for sautéing onions and garlic as a base for a soup. You do have to be careful about overcooking in the Instant Pot though. It’s easy for things to turn to mush if you cook them for too long. Sorry for the long reply. I hope this somewhat helpful?! Overall recommendation: Instant Pot.

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