This easy, creamy red lentil dahl (masoor dal curry) is frugal, hearty, comforting, flavorful, packed with plant-based protein, and ready in just 30 minutes! Serve this dahl with home-cooked rice and naan bread for a gluten-free, dairy-free Indian-inspired feast!
Comforting Indian Red Lentil Dahl in 30 Minutes!
This red lentil dahl is a quick and satisfying, comforting meal, perfect for busy weeknights. It’s made with wholesome pantry staples, uses one pot, is packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients, and is ready in under 30 minutes! With a combination of red lentils, coconut milk, and several Indian spices, this dal recipe is also super wholesome and comforting while being a naturally vegan crowd-pleaser!
The simplicity of this easy dahl recipe means even the most beginner of cooks can prepare a satisfying, flavorful meal with basic ingredients. I’ve also included a method for Tadka dal, taking this simple dish to even more impressive flavor heights!
What Is Dal?
Dal (also spelled dhal, daal, and dahl) is a term used to refer to dried, split pulses and legumes (like lentils, split peas, and beans) as well as the dish made with them; a flavorful curried soup/stew dish made by cooking lentils in a flavorful broth with several Indian spices. It’s long been known as an Indian staple, especially as it’s protein-dense, wholesome, and highly affordable to make!
Masoor dal refers to split red lentil dal. Red lentils cook fast, require no soaking, and become wonderfully tender and creamy once cooked. The mild flavor of red lentils also pairs wonderfully with the selection of spices used in this Indian lentil dish.
Looking for more ways to enjoy budget-friendly, protein-dense lentils? Check out my other lentil dishes, including lentil stew, lentil moussaka, lentil Bolognese, or lentil shepherd’s pie!
This recipe for masoor dal requires simple ingredients, including:
- Lentils: This recipe uses split red lentils, which cook fast and require no soaking.
- Vegetables: I used a combination of carrot and red bell pepper in this simple dal recipe.
- Aromatics: You’ll need fresh ginger, garlic cloves, and onion (white, yellow, or red would work).
- Seasonings: This lentil dal uses a simple combination of ground cumin, curry powder (mild, medium, or hot based on preference), turmeric, paprika, red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper- optional), and salt and pepper.
- Sweetener: A pinch of sugar (coconut or vegan brown sugar) or a drizzle of maple syrup will balance the flavors in the dish.
- Vegetable broth: Use vegetable broth or water. Adjust the amount of sodium added to the dhal based on the sodium in the broth.
- Coconut milk: Full-fat canned coconut cream helps make a creamy dal. However, any plant-based cream (soy, oat, etc.) would work. You could also use plant-based milk for a lower-fat/low-calorie version, but I recommend cream for the nicest results.
- Oil: For sauteing the aromatics. I used vegetable oil. For an oil-free version, you could use a little water or vegetable broth instead.
Optional add-ins and recipe variations:
- Spinach/Kale: Add a few handfuls of either into the dahl in the last couple of minutes, stirring until just wilted (or add to Instant Pot after cooking, then leave to rest with the lid on for 5 minutes).
- Tomatoes: ½-1 cup of finely chopped tomatoes (or canned crushed tomatoes) would work. Alternatively, some tomato sauce/puree would be also fine.
- Lime/ Lemon juice: Add a squeeze (or more) of lemon or lime juice to the lentil dal right before serving for a fantastic ‘finish’ to the dish.
- Garam masala: A big pinch of garam masala will add extra flavor to the mild red lentil dish.
- Curry leaf: Adding a curry leaf will add a subtle but excellent depth of flavor to the daal.
- Tarka/Tadka (aka tempering spices): This can make a MASSIVE difference to the end flavor of the dal recipe. Made by tempering spices (I use cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fresh garlic, and a pinch of chili powder) in oil and then drizzling it over the finished dahl.
- Other vegetables: There are several veggies you could load this red lentil dahl with, including cauliflower, peas, zucchini, mushrooms, or eggplant.
Please read the recipe card below for the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information.
How to Make Red Lentil Dahl?
- First, sort and rinse the lentils, getting rid of any shriveled lentils and any debris (if there is any). At the same time, finely chop the bell pepper, carrot, and onion, and mince/grate the ginger and garlic.
- In a large skillet, add the oil and heat it over medium heat. Once hot, add the chopped onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until it softens. Then add the ginger, garlic, carrot, and bell pepper and stir.
- Next, add all the spices, the sweetener, lentils, and 3 cups of vegetable broth (or water). Stir and then bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and allow the lentils to simmer for 10 minutes or until they are soft and tender.
- Stir in the coconut milk and cook to thicken and reduce to your desired consistency (for me, 5 minutes is usually enough).
- Finally, give the red lentil curry a taste and season with salt and black pepper. Then serve and enjoy!
To Temper Spices (Tarka/Tadka dal)
In a small pan, heat a little oil. Once hot, add some cumin seeds, mustard seeds (optional), and sliced garlic and allow it to sizzle and cook for 30-40 seconds until golden-brown.
Then remove it from the heat, add in a pinch of red chili powder (this will give it a gorgeous red color). Then drizzle the entire mixture over the red lentil dal when serving, to make tadka dal!
What to Serve with Masoor Dal?
This red lentil dahl pairs with all the usual sides for a cream Indian curry dish, including:
- With bread: A crusty loaf OR flatbread like naan. Roti/ paratha would also be excellent.
- Grains: Serve with a side of basmati rice, wild rice (to create a complete protein profile), or brown rice. Quinoa would also work.
- Potato: Either with mashed potatoes or roasted potatoes. Aloo Gobi would also pair very well with the lentil daal.
- Salad: For a lighter side, serve with a leafy green salad
You can also bump up the flavor in the dish with toppings/garnish, including:
- A swirl of non-dairy yogurt
- Finely chopped parsley or cilantro
- A sprinkle of sesame seeds (raw or toasted)
- Sizzling tadka topping (mentioned in optional add-ins section above)
How to Store?
Store: Allow the dal to cool, then store in an airtight container in the fridge for between 3-5 days.
Freeze: Once cooled, separate the Indian dal into portions (either in airtight tubs OR a large silicone muffin mold – transferred to a Ziplock once frozen). Freeze for up to three months (it’s best to do this before adding the coconut milk). Then, allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
Reheat: You can reheat the red lentil dahl on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through. It will have thickened slightly, so add an extra splash of water, broth, or milk to it while reheating.
Do red split lentils need soaking?
Since the cooking time is so short, soaking isn’t necessary. Just sort and rinse them, and you’re good to go.
Can I substitute the carrots?
Absolutely, sweet potato, butternut squash, and/or pumpkin would work well alongside or instead of carrots.
Can I use other types of lentils?
Any other lentils will require soaking, take longer to cook, and may require extra liquid, so I can’t guarantee results. However, if you want to make brown lentil dal, you can follow this recipe for my one-pot dal!
Can I make red lentil dahl in an Instant Pot?
I haven’t tried but would think so. I recommend first using the sauté function to sauté the ingredients as written in the stovetop recipe. Then, when adding the lentils and stock, set to MANUAL high pressure for 5 minutes.
Allow the pressure to release for 5 minutes before manually ‘quick releasing’ it – enjoy!
Is red lentil dahl good for you?
Absolutely. Not only are red lentils a nutritional powerhouse, packed with protein, fiber, iron, folate, and several other vitamins/minerals, but other ingredients in this Indian lentil dish further boost healthfulness.
For example, turmeric has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. In addition, curcumin within turmeric also protects against heart disease and may prevent certain cancers.
Meanwhile, coriander/cilantro seeds (also found in curry powder) may help manage blood sugar levels, promote bone health, and reduce cholesterol levels. It also acts as a digestive aid for those with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and lowers the severity and frequency of the symptoms.
Cumin, like coriander, promotes digestion and may help with diabetes. Cumin is also a rich source of plant-based iron.
To learn more about the health benefits of curry, visit this site.
- Adjust the consistency: If you find the Indian lentil curry too thick, simply add a little more vegetable stock, water, or coconut milk.
- Be careful not to overcook the lentils: Red split lentils are particularly known for their mushy consistency when cooked (which makes them perfect for lentil soup). However, even in this tender dal, it’s good to avoid overcooking them, so there is still a bit of texture left in the dish.
- Adjust the texture: If you want to adjust the texture, then you could use a masher or immersion blender to your desired consistency.
- Adjust the heat: It’s easy to adjust the spice to your preferred level by using the curry powder of your choice and adjusting the amount of red pepper flakes added (or omitting them entirely).
More Vegan Curry Recipes
- Indian Pumpkin Curry
- Sweet Potato Curry
- Chickpea Eggplant Curry
- Vegetable Curry With Coconut Milk
- Vegan Gumbo
- Thai Coconut Curry Soup
If you try this easy red lentil dahl recipe, I’d love a comment and ★★★★★ recipe rating below. Also, please don’t forget to tag me in re-creations on Instagram or Facebook with @elavegan #elavegan—I love seeing them.
Red Lentil Dahl
- 1 1/2 cups (300 g) dry red lentils
- 1 large (200 g) carrot finely diced (see notes)
- 1 small bell pepper
- 1 large onion chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 heaped tbsp fresh ginger minced
- 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 cups (720 ml) vegetable broth or water
- 1 cup (240 ml) canned coconut milk (see notes)
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1/2 tbsp sweetener of choice
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp paprika
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/3 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- You can watch the short video for visual instructions.Rinse lentils under running water. Chop the onion, garlic, ginger, bell pepper, and carrot.
- Heat oil in a pot and sauté onion for about 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, carrot, and bell pepper.
- Add all spices, sweetener, lentils, and vegetable broth or water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Finally, add coconut milk and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the desired thickness of the dahl is reached.
- Season with black pepper and salt. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
- Serve warm with basmati rice, potatoes, or naan (flatbread) and garnish with fresh herbs.
Video Of The Recipe
- You can also use sweet potato or pumpkin instead of carrot.
- It's possible to use any plant-based cream (like soy cream, oat cream, etc) instead of canned coconut milk. You could also use plant-based milk (e.g. almond milk, cashew milk, etc.) for a low-fat/low-calorie version. In my opinion, this dal tastes best with coconut milk.
- The recipe serves 6. Nutrition facts are for one serving.
Nutrition information is an estimate and has been calculated automatically
If you are using Pinterest, feel free to pin the following photo:
First time making curry and this was yummy! I substituted plain non fat Greek yogurt for coconut milk, added a can of garbanzo beans, a few handfuls of spinach and 3 finely chopped Thai chilies. Served over cauliflower rice.
Thanks for your feedback, Kathy. 🙂
What type of sweetener should I use/buy?
Any will work, it’s really not that important. 🙂
Can’t wait to make this again tonight. I tried it a few weeks ago when a friend came for dinner and it was loved by all. Making it tonight for a meal train drop off and for our family. Yum!
Thanks for the great recipe!
That’s so good to hear, Dana. Thanks for your great feedback. 🙂
Dahl in the instant pot only needs 2 minutes 🙂
William H Madden
Hi Ela, I got your book a few days ago and already making some of the recipes I haven’t made from your blog. Today I made Red Lentil Dahl but I added zucchini and sweet potatoes because I needed to use them! this recipe gives me life!! So warm and comforting.. and I’m already looking for another recipe I the book to make tonight!! Thanks for everything!
So happy you like my cookbook, William! Thanks for your awesome feedback. 🙂
Today was my 3rd time making this dish and is becoming a regular on my rotation. I’m not a vegetarian but have slowly been moving towards a more plant based diet and the flavors of this dish have really been excellent. I look forward to trying more of your dishes! Thank you!
You are very welcome, Suzanne. Thanks for your feedback. 🙂
I made this dish last night and it was really tasty! I added cilantro as a garnish and it was delicious! I will definitely be making this again. Thank you for the recipe.
Happy it turned out yummy! 🙂
Hi Eva, made this yesterday and it was very yummy but by the time I came to add the coconut milk, the lentils were cooked through and ready, so by the time the coconut milk evaporated and I had the right consistency the lentils had turned into mush 😕Could this be done without the broth or perhaps a mixture of broth and coconut milk? Red lentils cook so quickly. Many thanks for the recipes.
Hi Anna, you can just reduce the cooking time, if you prefer the lentils to be firmer.
Thank you Ela 😊
Not sure why there are asterisk’s beside certain ingredients when there is no
* at the bottom of the page….
Hi Nancy, because they are affiliate links and I have to mark them that way.
Made it yesterday and it was delicious! Thank you Ela for yet another great recipe <3
You are very welcome, Sylwia. 🙂
Recipe reads 6 cups of liquid but only mentions putting in 3cups.
Hi, not sure what you mean. I do not mention 6 cups of liquid.
Hi! Love this recipe, it’s become a staple for me. I think what the poster above meant was that if you try to multiply the recipe with the 2/3x function, the ingredients list states that you need 6 or 9 cups of broth respectively. However, this doesn’t update in the instructions, which still ask you to add 3 cups of broth into the pot.
It’s a small matter but it’s easy to correct it could lessen a bit of confusion!
Hi Elizabeth, that could be why! Sure, the 2/3x function will only affect the ingredients, not the instructions. When I posted the recipe (many years ago), the recipe plugin didn’t have the 2/3x function…
Thanks for your helpful feedback! 🙂
Yes sorry. Doubling the mixture. Worked it out. Thanks
Anyone tried this with Trader Joes steamed cooked lentils?
Loved the taste, only issue I had was the balance between Daal and liquid, mine didn’t look as good as yours, and looked more soupy, but still tasted great. Thanks for the recipe.
Thanks for your feedback, Gordon! 🙂
Hi! I love this recipe! Do you have any suggestions on how to do this in an instant pot?
Hi Shana! Please read the section “Can I make red lentil dahl in an Instant Pot?”. I answered it in the post. 🙂
I made this right after watching the video and writing down the recipe. I am testing it right now and I really like it I feel almost chef like. I think my wife will love this one, I know I do.
Sounds amazing, Thomas! 🙂