When I was a student living in London, I learned that grabbing a whole to-go box of curry was actually cheaper than getting a Subway sandwich. Unfortunately, those curries were absolutely loaded to the brim with cream, butter, and fatty meats- not very friendly on the waistline! If you’ve never had curry before, or have been too nervous about all of the steps and ingredients, never fear my friends. I’ve made this delicious coconut curry easy to follow and very adaptable. Best of all, it’s lightened up (and packed with super-charged flavor) by using Vita Coco coconut water. And did I mention the whole recipe is vegan? All right, enough already, let’s get our curry on with the coconut curry!
– Check your curry paste to make sure it’s vegan. I like Thai Kitchen brand- it says it’s vegan right on the label. I prefer Thai Kitchen organic coconut milk as well.
– If you are meal planning for the week, make a big pot of brown rice (more than what you will use for serving). Then you’re halfway done in your next meal (try this great Mexican dish).
Coconut curry serving options: I like my curries a bit thinner, served over a scoop of chewy rice. It’s all about the different textures. It is equally delicious adding less coconut water and keeping it thicker like a stew. Toasted whole-wheat naan served on the side is also great for serving.
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cooking oil: olive or coconut
6 cloves garlic
1 inch of fresh ginger, grated (or ½ tsp ground ginger)*
1/2 cup chopped onion
½ tsp cinnamon*
1 tsp curry powder*
2 tsp salt*
2.5 cups chopped veggies of your choice (I used baby bella mushrooms and zucchini)
1.5 cups red lentils*
1 package extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry
1/8th tsp red pepper flakes*
4-11.1 oz Vita Coco boxes
1 can unsweetened organic coconut milk (I highly prefer regular and not light for this recipe)
3 tbsp red curry paste
juice of one lime
fresh chopped cilantro and lime wedges for serving
indicates ingredients that can be purchased in your dry bulk section
Optional for serving: steamed brown or wild rice, whole-wheat pita bread
Pre-step: Open your can of coconut milk and leave it open and uncovered in your fridge for at least 8 hours, preferably over night. This allows the creamy part of the milk to rise to the top, away from the watery portion on the bottom.
Place a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of the oil of your choice, along with the chopped onion, 2 or 3 cloves of garlic (depending on how much you love garlic), ginger, cinnamon, curry powder, and salt. Cook for 4 minutes.
Add in the two cups of chopped vegetables, and allow to cook for 4-5 minutes, until heated through but still firm. We’re going for different textures in the coconut curry, and nice, crunch veg is key. Once they are nice and crunchy, remove the vegetables into a bowl and set aside. Add the lentils into the same pot, along with 3 cups of Vita Coco coconut water (2 of the 11.1 oz cartons is 3 cups exactly). Turn the heat up to high and bring to boil. Allow to boil for one minute, and then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Cover pot and allow the lentils to cook until soft and the water has reduced by about half, around 15 minutes.
While the lentils are cooking, put another sauté pan on the stove, high heat. Add another tablespoon of the oil of your choice, along with another minced clove or two of garlic (or you can leave the garlic out if you aren’t a garlic lover). Carefully cube the tofu, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add to the sauté pan. You’ll notice in the picture I chose a too-small pan and ended up cooking the tofu in two batches. Allow the tofu to cook until golden on both sides, and remove to a plate and set aside.
Remove the lid on the lentils and give them a good stir. They should be very soft. At this point, it’s up to you and the consistency you want from your coconut curry. I went ahead and added another 2 cups of Vita Coco, which made the curry like a slightly thin soup. If you want it thinner, add more coconut water. If you’d like it thicker, add less. Add back in the vegetables and the red pepper flakes and allow it to cook for another 3 minutes. If you want a completely non-spicy coconut curry, then go ahead and leave the pepper out. But if you want a little contrast to the sweetness of the coconut, add the pepper for a nice, rounded flavor.
Remove the can of coconut milk from the fridge, being careful not to shake the can. Remove as much of the thicker part of the milk and add to the curry. I did this 1-tablespoon at a time, and was able to add about ¾ cup of the milk to the pot. This might seem like a lot, but you are making a big ole pot of curry here. Again, you can do this according to taste, depending on how creamy you’d like the curry.
Gently fold in the tofu, being careful not to break it up. Stir in the juice of one lime.