Let’s talk vegetarian, shall we? More particularly, this delicious vegetarian lentil and mushroom curry with wild rice.
Over the past few months, particularly with Lent, I’ve made a few changes to our diet. I used to eat a primarily vegetarian diet in college and grad school because of my grocery budget and busy schedule. As I did more and more distance running, however, meat became a larger part of my diet.
And meat certainly isn’t going anywhere in my diet; however, sustainability issues and the benefits of eating less meat have resurfaced as a priority. That’s for another post altogether, though!
After stomach issues throughout marathon training last fall, I stopped eating beans for most of my plant-based protein. Aside from some hummus (because let’s be real, one week of Whole30 and you would find me eating hummus by the spoonful), I cut beans out of my diet and noticed a significant improvement.
However, this left me in a bit of dilemma, as beans are one of the best plant-based sources of protein. I avoid tofu like the plague because of texture and soy. So what else could I eat for meatless protein?
Enter lentils, that little delicious legume that’s gentler on sensitive stomachs and more palatable to meat eaters. Admittedly, I had avoided lentils after making some brown lentil burgers in college that tasted like dirt and sadness. Although that experience also taught me to rinse my grains and beans, so there’s a silver lining.
But red lentils? Red lentils are milder in flavor while still having that meaty taste and ability to adapt any flavor. And so two meat-lovers added a vegan dietary staple to their weekly diet.
My current favorite red lentil dish is this lentil and mushroom curry with wild rice, which I adapted from this red lentil curry. The umami-rich combination of the mushrooms and lentils satisfy any meat-lover’s cravings, but this dish is vegan.
Indian food is perhaps one of my favorite cuisines for a meatless meal. The aromatic spices, the rich sauces, and the comfort food feeling of digging into a big bowl of curry make it so delicious and satiating that you barely realize there’s no meat. You can stuff a good curry full of vegetables and still feel as if you’re eating a decadent meal, but instead you’re getting lots of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and plant-based protein.
Don’t skip the coconut milk in this recipe! Since plant-based proteins don’t contain a lot of fat, you need fat to help your body absorb all of the vitamins found in the legumes and vegetables. Plus, the coconut milk creates a creamy and irresistible sauce and balances the spicy heat with a bit of nutty sweetness.
Red lentils make an excellent addition to any runner’s diet, whether you eat meat on a regular basis or follow a vegetarian/vegan diet. A single serving contains 20% of your daily iron, 13 grams of plant-based protein, 14 grams of fiber, and generous doses of magnesium, folate copper, potassium, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
Red lentils offer similar nutritional benefits as beef, minus the carbon footprint. (Not that you should cut out beef completely unless you want to, but most Americans do eat too much beef.)
Mushrooms provide another fantastic alternative to meat, whether you pair them with another plant-based protein or use them to decrease the amount of animal protein in a meat dish. Mushrooms have a meaty flavor and texture, similar to lamb or beef and add an additional serving of vegetables to this plant-filled meal.
- 1 ½ cups wild rice, rinsed
- 2 ½ cups water or stock
- ½ tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
- 2 cups coconut milk (full fat or from the carton)
- 1.5-2 cups chicken stock (if not vegetarian), vegetable stock, or water
- 8-10 cremini mushrooms, cleaned
- 2 handfuls of green beans, ends removed
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 tablespoon garam masala (more for a spicier dish)
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek
- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Garnish: cilantro and plain Greek yogurt
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring the 2.5 cups of water or stock to a boil and combine with the rice in an ovenproof baking dish. Cover and cook the rice in the oven for 40 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and with a fork when done.
- While the rice is cooking, melt the coconut oil in a wide pot over medium heat and then add the shallots. Cook the shallots for 5-8 minutes until they begin to soften and brown.
- Add the coconut milk and broth to the pot. Bring to a boil, add the lentils and tomato paste, and reduce to a simmer. Stir in the garam masala, fenugreek, paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Let the lentils simmer for 22-25 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the lentils are soft (but not mushy) and the liquid has turned into a thick sauce.
- While the lentils cook, chop the mushrooms and green beans and cook them over medium-low heat until they are soft and release their juices.
- Once the lentils are done, remove from heat and stir in the mushrooms. Serve the curry over rice and garnish with cilantro and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt if desired.
- Store leftovers in a sealed container in your fridge for up to 3-4 days.
The only way to make this recipe better? Serve it up with some homemade naan.
Linking up with Foodie Friday!
What are some of your favorite meatless meals?
Love or hate curry?
What are your weekend plans?
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