Spicy & flavourful Indian style Vegan Keema Lentils. This lentil Keema recipe is a quick and easy dinner that can be cooked on the stovetop in under 30 minutes, or in a slow cooker.
It's no secret that I love spicy food and in my pre-vegan days I used to love to order the keema dishes from our local Indian restaurant.
As keema literally means 'minced or ground meat', it's not a particularly vegan friendly dish, but green lentils can make a really good meat substitute, so I was inspired to create my own take on a vegan keema recipe and it's become quite the family favourite!
What Is Keema?
Keema, also known as Keema, Queema, or Kheemaa, is a popular dish in North India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It is usually made with minced lamb, mutton, or goat and is served as a main dish with rice, naan or pav buns. It's also used as a filling for samosa, paratha, and naan.
In this vegan version we are replacing the ground meat with green lentils. They get cooked up with a mixture of spices, onions, garlic, and stock until the liquid has mostly evaporated. This concentrates the flavours and the resulting Keema Lentils are absolutely packed with flavour.
This Vegan Keema recipe can be cooked in a pan on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, or in an Instant Pot (with some modifications). The results are almost identical except that in the slow cooker and Instant Pot it is a little harder to evaporate the liquid off completely so you might end up with lentils that are a little soupier than they would be if cooked in a pan.
This recipe uses cooked or canned green lentils but there are instructions in the recipe notes if you prefer to use dried green lentils. You can also replace the green lentils with vegan ground beef if you prefer. Just be sure to saute it with the onions until browned before proceeding with the recipe as directed.
Feel free to throw in some veggie additions such as spinach, frozen peas, chopped fresh tomatoes, cauliflower or cubed potatoes. This can turn into a great clean out the fridge kind of meal!
Tips For Storing Leftovers
Leftovers keep well in the fridge for up to five days. You will find that the flavours just keep on developing and it gets better and better the longer it sits. It also freezes very well for up to 3 months.
Serve with coconut basmati rice, plain rice, coconut lime rice, naan, paratha, or my super quick no yeast flatbreads. A dollop of vegan yogurt and a sprinkle of cilantro are very nice additions too!
If you try this recipe, let me know how you like it by leaving a comment and rating below! And be sure to join my mailing list for more deliciousness!
- 1 tablespoon oil , or a few drops of water for oil-free
- 1 large onion , diced
- 3 tablespoons fresh ginger , grated
- 6 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons garam masala , or curry powder
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3 cups canned/cooked green lentils , see recipe notes if you wish to use dried green lentils or are using an Instant Pot
- 1½ cups (360 mls) vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Add oil to a pan and turn heat to medium. Add the onion and cook until translucent.
- Add the ginger and garlic and carry on cooking for one minute more.
- Add the spices and the chili flakes and cook for about a minute or until fragrant, stirring continuously.
- Add the lentils, stock, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Stir well and cook uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated (about 10 - 15 minutes). Stir every so often.
- Serve with rice and garnishes of choice.
Slow cooker method
- Put all of the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 3 to 4 hours (or a little longer to suit your schedule).
- In the last 10 to 15 minutes take the lid off the slow cooker to let some of the liquid evaporate.
Instant Pot Method (use dried green lentils & extra stock)
- Turn Instant Pot to saute. Add the oil and onion and cook until translucent.
- Add the ginger and garlic and cook for one minute more, cancel the saute function, then add the spices and chili flakes and let them cook in the residual heat, stirring frequently for a minute or two until fragrant.
- Add 1¼ cup (238 grams) dried green lentils (they must be dry/uncooked for the Instant Pot version), the stock (you need extra for the Instant Pot - a total of 4 cups 960ml), soy sauce, salt, and pepper, and stir.
- Put the lid on, seal the vent and cook for 12 minutes on manual high pressure, then allow the pressure to release naturally.
- Open the lid. The lentils will be cooked and ready to serve immediately, but if you prefer them thicker, turn the Instant Pot to saute and allow them to simmer gently until reduced to your liking.
We’ve been looking to add more vegetarian meals. This was a hit with my husband and myself. He even had seconds.
Carol Kirk says
Hi, Mel, I don’ t have any lentils in the pantry, but I do have a bag of tiny matpe beans that I’ve used for another recipe. We love lentils, but could I try these beans as a substitute for now? If so, are there any changes you would recommend? Thanks !
A Virtual Vegan says
Hi Carol. I have never seen or heard of matpe beans until now, so have never cooked with them and I don't know what they taste like. That makes it a bit hard for me to answer. Lentils are the best option for this recipe. If the matpe beans taste beany then it probably won't be as nice with them. The only thing you might need to change if you use them is the amount of liquid added. Whether it would be more or less I can't say. It depends how much they absorb. And if you up the liquid you might need to up the spices/seasoning too. Sorry I can't be more helpful!
I made these today and they are lovely. Plan to try using your suggestions for the slow cooker too. Thank you for a lovely recipe.
A Virtual Vegan says
I'm so pleased you enjoyed it Sarah!
Made this for a couple of friends this evening. It was a huge hit with vegans and meat eaters alike. It is flavoured just like the beef keema we sometimes have. The only suggestion my friends had was to add green peas at the end of cooking next time.
A Virtual Vegan says
So glad you all enjoyed it Andrea. Green peas are a great addition!
Just made this in my Instant Pot and served over brown rice. Delicious and just the right amount of heat!
A Virtual Vegan says
Great to know it works well in an Instant Pot. I'll try that next time I make it! Glad you enjoyed it Robin :)
Made these tonight for dinner! Yummy! :)