This red lentil dal recipe is thick, creamy, and full of Indian spices. It’s the ultimate vegan comfort food, and can be made in one pot using pantry staples.
Dal is an Indian soup made from split pulses (lentils, peas or beans), and varies greatly by region. I was introduced to it when I visited Nepal, and it was love at first bite: rich, thick, and full of spices!
While there are a million ways to cook it, I wanted to share my method, which is simple and made with pantry staples that are easy to find in North America.
My lentil dal recipe is also on the thicker side, but it is still perfect for scooping with naan bread or mixing up with rice.
Why you’ll ♡ this dal recipe
- it’s made with ingredients easily found in North America
- it is made in one pot
- it’s vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and meal prep friendly
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Which ingredients will we need?
- red lentils– which are cheap, shelf stable and always in my pantry
- spices– curry powder, turmeric, garam masala, cumin, ground coriander and salt
- aromatics– finely chopped onion, minced garlic and finely grated ginger
- tomatoes– one 15 oz can (juices included)
- stock– vegetable for vegetarians, homemade bone broth if you are not
You are going to be blown away by the flavors created by these simple pantry ingredients!
Building layers of flavor
There are two very important steps for building flavors in this dal recipe:
- sauteeing our aromatics– we start by sauteeing an onion, and then add in garlic and ginger at the end so they don’t burn
- sauteeing our spices– this is key to building flavor in this dal recipe! Toasting your spices for a few minutes really helps to enhance the flavors
After sauteeing our aromatics and spices, we add a bit of stock into the pot, scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, and add in the rest of our ingredients.
Simmer for 30 minutes and that’s it!
Can I use green lentils or another type of pulse in this recipe?
Traditionally, dal is made with many different types of split pulses, however this recipe was specifically developed for red lentils and has not been tested with other types.
Can I cook this dal in an Instant Pot?
I bet you could, however I have not tried it myself. I would try pressure cooking for 5 minutes with a 10 minute natural pressure release (don’t skip the sauteeing steps). Let me know if it works for you if you give it a try!
Is it spicy?
This recipe is not spicy at all and is kid-friendly; I used a medium curry powder. You could make it spicy by adding in a chile when you add the stock; alternatively you could play around with cayenne to add some spice (not traditional, but I find it easier to control spice levels with cayenne versus fresh chiles)
Can dal be frozen?
YES! It freeze/thaws great, and can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Here are two ways you could freeze your dal.
- portion out with rice and freeze in these 2 cup meal prep containers
- freeze big batches in these reusable plastic freezer jars
More Indian recipes
- Easy Chicken Curry
- Slow Cooker Chicken Korma
- Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Lentil Curry
- Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala
- Slow Cooker Butter Chicken
Red Lentil Dal Video
Watch the video below to see how this recipe comes together (it’s so simple!) You can find more of my recipe videos on my YouTube channel.
Easy Red Lentil Dal
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (or ghee)
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tablespoons ginger (minced)
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups stock
- 1 1/2 cups red lentils
- 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (including juices)
- Heat oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for 5-7 minutes, until soft.
- Make a space in the onion and add the minced garlic and ginger. Add a bit of extra oil if needed. Cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.
- Add all the spices: curry powder, cumin, coriander, garam masala, turmeric and salt. Stir to coat onions and cook for 1-2 minutes, until spices are fragrant. Be careful not to burn: stir occasionally and keep an eye on them.
- Add around 1 cup of stock, and use a spatula to scrape all the bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Add the rest of the stock, the lentils and diced tomatoes. Stir, cover, bring to a simmer, then cook (covered), for 30 minutes. You will want to stir occasionally to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Serve with rice and naan bread.
- This red lentil dal may be prepared ahead and stored in the fridge for up to 4 days, or the freezer for up to 4 months.