A quick & easy Red Lentil Dal that is as soul warming as it is delicious. It's super creamy thanks to the melty red lentils & rich coconut milk. Perfect served over rice for an easy meal!
Hello creamy soft red lentils bathed in coconut milk and spices ❤️I'm looking at you Red Lentil Dal.
It's so incredibly yummy, and when the nights start drawing in and temperatures begin to drop, it's nice to have some good ol' comfort food recipes on standby. And it doesn't get any more cozy and comforting than this warming and super easy to make meal.
Something totally magical happens when you combine the red lentils, spices, tomatoes and coconut milk, then simmer them all together. It doesn't take long at all for it to turn into a thick, creamy delicious smelling pot of goodness.
What is Dal?
Wondering what Dal actually is? I like Cooking Light's description of it.
They say "Dal or dhal, just like posole (or pozole) is both an ingredient and a dish: it refers to a type of dried split pea or lentil and the deeply spiced stew made from simmering the split peas until nicely broken down".
Read more about it on their site here.
How to make Red Lentil Dal
For detailed measurements and instructions, scroll to my printable recipe card at the bottom of the page or click the "jump to recipe" button at the top of the page.
Gather up your ingredients and lets get to it!
Here is what's joining the Dal party today:
And here's what we're doing with them:
Step 1- Sauté the onions, garlic and ginger then add the spices and cook them out a little.
Step 2 - Add the lentils and allow to toast for a few minutes then add the fresh tomatoes.
Step 3 - Add the water and coconut milk and simmer until the lentils are thickened and tender.
How to serve
This red lentil dal recipe is perfect for when you want something fresh, cozy, healthy and yummy on the table pretty fast.
Try serving it with:
- My Easy Flatbread Recipe
- Fluffy rice
- Cauliflower rice
- Naan bread
- The lentil slaw from my Enchilada Lentil Tacos recipe
- A dollop of unsweetened vegan yogurt
- Green Sauce
- Oven Baked Garlic Mushroom Rice
As a garnish try adding a sprinkling of cilantro, some fresh chopped tomato and a few chopped peanuts or cashews (like in my pics). This really takes it from mid-week dinner to restaurant kind of quality appearance. Perfect if you are wanting to impress someone/company or just treat yourself to some prettiness!
Ways you can adapt this recipe
You can throw just about any vegetable into this vegan red lentil dal (spinach, kale or diced potatoes work particularly well!) so it's a great meal for clearing out the fridge and using up what you have around.
- Add more or less red chili pepper flakes depending on how hot you like your Dal.
- Add a diced fresh chili instead of chili flakes (add while sautéing the onions).
- If you're short on spices use a tablespoon of curry powder or garam masala instead.
- Throw in a can of chickpeas for some extra texture and protein.
- Omit the fresh tomatoes or add a small can of diced canned tomatoes instead.
- Add some fresh cauliflower florets in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- Cook it in the Instant Pot. See my very slightly adapted recipe here.
Storage, freezing and reheating tips
This Red Lentil Dal with coconut milk for richness is lots of things: creamy, gently spicy (although you could make it more so), full of protein, very filling, pretty budget friendly assuming you have a supply of spices in your pantry already, and the leftovers are even better than the main event.
The flavours really develop in the fridge over a couple of days which means you can really look forward to tucking into the leftovers.
It's great for meal prep too! Divide it between single serving sized containers with or without rice and you have easy dinners all ready in the fridge for days to come. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
Got an Instant Pot?
If you have an Instant Pot and want to make this recipe, hop on over to my Instant Pot Lentil Dal. It's been adapted very slightly so that it works perfectly and it is just as delish!
Hungry for more?
Save this easy dal recipe, memorize it, pin it, or whatever you need to, but be sure to make it soon because it is super-duper yummy and you will love it!
If you are love lentils, you might also enjoy my:
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Creamy Red Lentil Dal
- 1 large onion , chopped finely
- 4 large garlic cloves , chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger , finely chopped or grated
- 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes , add up to a teaspoon extra if you like it a spicy. You can use 1 fresh small red chili if you prefer
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 slightly heaping teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds , see recipe notes for substitution
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds , see recipe notes for substitution
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander , see recipe notes for substitution
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper , add more to taste if necessary at the end
- 2 teaspoons salt , add more to taste if necessary at the end
- 400g / 2 cups split red lentils , dried. (No need to soak)
- 3 large tomatoes , chopped into small chunks
- 1 can / 400 mls / a little under 1¾ cup coconut milk , full fat or light
- 840mls / 3½ cups water , plus a 3 - 4 tablespoons for sautéing the onion and garlic
- Add 3 tablespoons of water (or 1 tablespoon of oil if you prefer) to a large pan and place over a medium heat. Once the pan is hot add the chopped onion and sauté for about 5 - 10 minutes until translucent. Stir frequently and add a drop or two of water as you need to to stop them sticking.
- Add the chopped garlic & ginger to the pan and cook for about 1 minute longer.
- Add the chili and spices and cook them out for a minute or two then add the lentils. Toast the lentils gently for a few minutes, stirring frequently to stop them sticking.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, water and coconut milk, stir well and bring to a gentle simmer.
- Turn down to medium low, and continue to simmer for around another 25-30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the lentils are breaking down and the sauce is nice and thick.
Nutritional information is provided for convenience & as a courtesy only. The data is a computer generated estimate so should be used as a guide only.
Originally published September 21st 2017. Updated and republished on April 26th 2020.