This savory mushroom lentil stew with spinach is healthy comfort food to the max. Vegetarian, with vegan and gluten free options.
Why we love this recipe
Let me just put it out there: I’m the kind of woman who gets jazzed about mushroom lentil stew. At least when it tastes as good as this. This big batch of healthy comfort food is:
- Full of umami powerhouse ingredients
- Warming and satisfying
- Loaded with nutrients
- Vegetarian, with easy vegan and gluten-free options
- Make-ahead and freezer-friendly
What you'll need
Here's a glance at the ingredients you'll need to make this recipe.
- Cremini mushrooms are also called baby bellas. They have a mild flavor and meaty texture that's perfect for this dish. They brown nicely because they don't release nearly as much moisture as their white cousins (which, fun fact, are just a less mature version of the same cultivar).
- Brown lentils are what you probably think of as "regular" lentils and are easily available at most U.S. supermarkets. Green lentils are similar and will work well, too, if that's what you've got on hand.
- A good veggie broth adds layers of flavor to this dish without getting in the way. This is my favorite by far.
- A splash of soy sauce contributes savoriness. You can use any variety you like. If it's important to you that this recipe be gluten-free, be sure to use a certified gluten-free soy sauce. Tamari tends to be a good option.
- You might not be familiar with the optional ingredient Marmite, a popular British condiment with a deep umami flavor. You can leave it out if you have trouble finding it (or if you want this recipe to be gluten-free).
- If possible, use a good cultured, salted butter from grass-fed cows. It sounds fancy but doesn't have to be — Kerrygold is my go-to brand at the supermarket and isn't overly expensive. For a vegan, dairy-free version of this dish, substitute more olive oil for the butter.
- A little bit of heavy cream really rounds out the flavors. Choose the best-quality one you can. For taste, health, and environmental reasons, I always buy organic heavy cream. To make this dish vegan and dairy-free, you can omit the cream or substitute cashew cream.
- A touch of balsamic vinegar provides the subtlest backbone of sweetness and an earthy depth of flavor. A midpriced option is perfectly fine — save the fancy balsamic for drizzling.
How to make it
Here's an overview of what you'll do to make a satisfying pot of mushroom lentil stew with spinach. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.
- First you'll brown the mushrooms and set them aside.
- Next you'll create the base of the stew.
- Simmer the lentils until tender, and puree a little bit of the stew.
- Add the spinach, cream, and reserved mushrooms and simmer until spinach is wilted. Off the heat, stir in the vinegar. That's it!
Expert tips and FAQs
Yes yes yes. For a vegan/dairy-free version, swap in more olive oil for the butter, and omit the cream or substitute cashew cream. To make this recipe gluten-free, omit the marmite and choose a gluten-free soy sauce such as tamari.
You can. Try kale, chard, collards, mustard greens, or any other cooking greens that you like. Just be sure to give heartier greens a longer chance to simmer.
For sure. Like many stews (and many people), this one only gets better as it has a chance to rest. It will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a year and can be reheated in the microwave.
More favorite vegetarian stews
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter, divided
- 1 pound (454 grams) cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced on the thick side
- 1 large yellow onion, diced small
- 2 ribs celery, diced small
- 2 medium carrots, diced small
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon (16 grams) tomato paste
- 6 cups (1420 ml) good vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon marmite (optional)
- 1 dried bay leaf
- A few sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 cups (400 grams) brown lentils, rinsed and drained*
- 5 ounces (142 grams) baby spinach
- ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) balsamic vinegar
- Warm one tablespoon each of the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a 5-quart Dutch oven or other heavy lidded pot.
- Add mushrooms and cook, stirring just a few times, until nicely browned and reduced in volume by half. Remove mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.
- In the same pot, heat the remaining butter and olive oil.
- Add onion, celery, carrots and ½ teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about five minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for a minute.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook a minute more.
- Add the vegetable broth, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, soy sauce, marmite, bay leaf, and thyme. Raise heat to high.
- Rinse and drain the lentils and add to pot.
- When broth comes to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until lentils are nice and tender.
- Remove from heat and remove thyme stems and bay leaf.
- If you have an immersion blender, pulse it 4 or 5 times to puree the stew just a little bit. (Alternatively, transfer about two cups of the stew to a blender and puree it, then return to pot, or simply forego this step if you prefer.)
- Return the mushrooms and any accumulated juices to the pot along with the spinach and cream.
- Simmer briskly, uncovered, until spinach is wilted, about two minutes.
- Off the heat, stir in vinegar.
- Let sit for 10 minutes, then ladle into bowls and serve with good bread.
- For a vegan/dairy-free version, swap in more olive oil for the butter, and omit the cream or substitute cashew cream. To make this recipe gluten-free, omit the marmite and choose a gluten-free soy sauce such as tamari.
- If you prefer, swap in another dark leafy green for the spinach — try kale, chard, collards, mustard greens, or any other cooking greens that you like. Just be sure to give heartier greens a longer chance to simmer.
- Like many stews (and many people), this one only gets better as it has a chance to rest. It will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for a year and can be reheated in the microwave.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 394Total Fat: 13.2gCarbohydrates: 53.3gFiber: 9.3gProtein: 20g