Butternut Squash Red Lentil Stew

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This butternut squash lentil stew features red lentils, coconut milk and a robust blend of spices. Recipe has instructions for the slow cooker or stovetop.

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 butternut red lentil stew topped with parsley. Crusty bread is beside the bowl.

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.

Bowl of butternut squash red lentil strew topped with parsley.

Can You Overcook Lentils?

Yes, you can overcook lentils. It’s not as easy to notice with red lentils because they’re softer than green or brown lentils, but when lentils are overcooked they 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!

  1. Sauté: 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!
  2. Slow cook: 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.
  3. Enjoy: 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 butternut red lentil stew topped with parsley. Crusty bread is beside the bowl.

Love Lentils? Try These Other Tasty Lentil Recipes:

If you make this butternut squash 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.

Butternut Squash Red Lentil Stew

5 from 16 votes
This butternut squash red lentil stew features coconut milk and a robust blend of spices. This stew is the perfect way to warm up on a cold day. Vegan + gluten-free. 
Bowl of butternut red lentil stew topped with parsley. Crusty bread is beside the bowl.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings 6

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
  • 1 – 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 – 14 oz can light coconut milk
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 cups chopped spinach, optional
  • chopped cilantro and sliced green onions, for garnish
  • cooked brown rice or quinoa, optional

Instructions
 

Slow Cooker:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Add in spinach, stir and let stew sit for a couple minutes to allow the greens to wilt.
  • 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:

  • 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.
  • Add butternut squash chunks, veggie broth, tomatoes, coconut milk, lentils, tomato paste and apple cider vinegar to the pot.
  • 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.
  • Add in spinach, stir and let stew sit for a couple minutes to allow the greens to wilt.
  • 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.

Instant Pot:

  • Add oil to the base of your Instant Pot 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 before pouring in vegetable broth.
  • Add in butternut squash chunks, tomatoes, coconut milk, lentils, tomato paste and apple cider vinegar. Press Cancel, lock the lid in place and move the pressure valve to Sealing. Select Pressure Cook or Manual; make sure the pressure level is set to High. Set the cooking time for 8 minutes. When pressure cooking is complete, allow the pressure to reduce naturally for 5 minutes, then release the remaining steam by moving the pressure valve to Venting. Press Cancel, then carefully open the pot.
  • Add in spinach, stir and let stew sit for a couple minutes to allow the greens to wilt.
  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/6 of recipe Calories: 281kcal Carbohydrates: 43g Protein: 11g Fat: 8g Fiber: 8g Sugar: 7g
Course: Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: butternut squash and red lentil stew

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Recipe Rating




    49 comments
    1. Leanne
      March 24, 2021 AT 3:31 pm

      Hi, I am super excited to make this recipe, but was wondering if it can be fully cooked and then frozen? Trying to find some go to meals for the freezer that I can just take out and heat up on the stove. Thanks!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        March 25, 2021 AT 12:46 am

        Yes, this stew is freezer-friendly!

    2. Justine
      January 27, 2021 AT 2:12 pm

      Can it be done in the pressure cooker? I have a slow cooker but I kind of enjoy having my meal prep done in 30 minutes.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        January 27, 2021 AT 6:54 pm

        Hey Justine – I haven’t tried it, but I imagine it would be just fine! I would follow the same instructions for my instant pot garlic lentil soup recipe.

    3. Elyse
      November 21, 2020 AT 2:26 pm

      This is so good. I made it on the stove. It is just delicious. Thank you!

      1. Brittany Mullins
        November 21, 2020 AT 6:56 pm

        Ahh yay!! I’m pumped to hear you enjoyed this stew, Elyse. Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a review. I really appreciate it. 🙂

    4. Helen
      October 18, 2020 AT 12:05 pm

      5 stars
      Love this. Made it stove top didnt have lentils so used 1 can chickpeas one can canelli beans and at the end just put in hand blender for to thicken slightly. Served over little brown rice. Love the flavours so quick to make. Thank you

      1. Brittany Mullins
        October 19, 2020 AT 12:45 pm

        Ahh yay! So glad this recipe turned out for you, Helen. I’m glad the chickpeas + cannellini beans worked well!

    5. Michele Way
      October 17, 2020 AT 9:19 am

      5 stars
      This recipe was absolutely delicious, I’ll definitely be making it again! Thank you.

      1. Brittany Mullins
        October 17, 2020 AT 3:22 pm

        I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe, Michele. Thanks for making it and for coming back to leave a comment + star rating. It means the world to me. 🙂

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