Get ready to make a flavorful stovetop red lentil dal. This simple lentil dahl recipe turns red lentil dahl into a rich, aromatic lentil curry. Using wholesome Masoor Dal (red lentils), it’s an easy, satisfying meal. Packed with taste and nutrition, it’s perfect for a hearty dinner. Let’s start cooking this delightful dish.
What Is Dal?
Dal, also spelled dahl or dhal in English, is a cornerstone of Indian cuisine. In Indian languages, “dal” means “lentils” or “a dish made from lentils.” It refers to both the ingredient—split legumes—and the comforting dishes prepared from them. Dal is crafted from various types of lentils, such as red lentils, brown lentils, and green lentils. Each type of lentil brings a unique flavor and texture to Indian cooking.
Cooking dal typically involves simmering the lentils until tender. Often, spices like turmeric, cumin, and mustard seeds are added to enhance the flavor. The consistency of dal can vary from thick and stew-like to more soup-like.
Why Use Red Dal (Masoor Dal)
Masoor dal, a type of lentil, sees wide use in Indian and South Asian cuisines. There are a lot of benefits to cooking and eating masoor dal:
- Nutritional Value: Masoor dal is a powerhouse of nutrition. It’s packed with protein, essential amino acids, fiber, iron, and other vital nutrients. Its high protein content makes it a popular choice, especially in vegetarian and vegan diets. Itl is beneficial for health, being low in fat and high in fiber. It’s also known to be good for digestion and helpful in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Read more health benefits of masoor dal.
- Culinary Uses: This lentil is highly versatile in the kitchen. It’s used to make traditional dal dishes, soups, and stews. Masoor dal has a pleasant, earthy flavor and a creamy texture when cooked. It’s also known for its ability to absorb flavors well, making it a favorite for spiced Indian dishes.
- Cooking Time: One of the advantages of masoor dal is its relatively quick cooking time compared to other lentils, which makes it a convenient option for fast and nutritious meals.
Full printable red lentil dahl recipe ingredients list and instructions are in the recipe card below.
- Lentils: Use dry red lentils, rinsed. Canned lentils and different types of lentils will cook up a little differently. This recipe was developed specifically for dried red lentils. The kind of lentil you use is important.
- Coconut Milk: Use full fat, canned coconut milk.
- Oil: Use vegetable oil, avocado oil or another neutral oil.
- Spices: This recipe calls for whole cumin seeds, whole mustard seeds, fresh garlic cloves, fresh ginger, ground cumin, ground coriander, chili powder, turmeric and kosher salt.
- Vegetables: Diced yellow onion, diced tomatoes and a finely chopped spicy pepper help build this red lentil dal recipe. Use either a Thai chili or a Serrano chili. Or any other chili you have at your local grocery store. Use canned diced tomatoes or dice your own tomatoes.
- Butter: Use unsalted butter or ghee.
- Lime: Fresh lime juice is preferred. You can also use lime wedges as garnish. As a substitute, use fresh lemon juice.
- Cilantro: Cilantro is used both in the recipe as well as garnish.
- Yogurt: Plain yogurt is used as a garnish. This is optional.
Full step-by-step Indian red lentil dahl instructions are in the recipe card below. You can print or save to Pinterest for later.
Prep: Before starting, measure your spices, dice onions and chop tomatoes. Rinse the dried lentils. You can do this meal prep the night before cooking this easy red lentil dahl, if you prefer.
Step 1: In a medium pot or large saucepan over medium high heat, bring the water, coconut milk and lentils to a low boil. Reduce the heat, cover with the lid slightly ajar, and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir often until the mixture is very soft and has absorbed most of the water.
Step 2: While the lentils are cooking, prepare the tempering. Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat.
Once the oil is hot, add in cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook for 1 minute.
Step 3: Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring often, until soft and starting to caramelize and turn brown. This will take about 5 minutes.
Step 4: Add in the chilis, garlic and ginger, and cook for 30 seconds.
Step 5: Add in the ground cumin, coriander, chili powder, turmeric and salt and cook for 1 minute more. Stir continually.
Step 6: Stir in the tomatoes and cook until they soften and the mixture comes together. This will take about 3-5 minutes.
Step 7: Once the lentils are done, add the tomato and onion mixture, and if needed, another splash of water.
Cook on low for 5 minutes to blend flavors, stirring often.
Step 8: At the end of the cooking time, remove from heat and stir in the butter, cilantro and lime juice. Check for seasoning.
Step 9: Garnish with a swirl of plain yogurt and extra chopped cilantro.
Step 10: Serve cooked dal alongside naan bread, roti or basmati rice for a complete meal.
- Lentils thicken as they stand, of at any time the mixture is getting too thick, add a splash of water until the Dal reaches your desired consistency.
- If you don’t have fresh chilis you can add ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes in with the ground spices.
- Washing the lentils is an important step. You will want to pick through them and rinse them like rice with cool water until it runs mostly clear.
- You can skip the coconut milk if desired and cook the lentils in just water or vegetable broth. Note the coconut milk gives the dish depth and added creaminess. I don’t recommend using light coconut milk if you want a creamy texture.
- If you prefer a more al dente lentil, use slightly less water and only cook the lentils for 12 minutes or until just tender before adding the tomato and onion mixture.
Got some leftover lentil curry you want to eat the next day or month? No worries, storing it is a breeze. Keep your dal fresh and tasty with these simple storage tips:
- Refrigeration: Place your leftover dal in an airtight container. It’ll stay good in the fridge for up to 5 days. This method is perfect for enjoying your dal throughout the week.
- Freezing: Freezing is absolutely okay for Red Lentil Dal. Just ensure it’s in a freezer-safe container. Freeze for up to 3 months. This is a great way to extend the life of your dal and have a quick meal ready whenever you need it.
When it’s time to enjoy your stored dal, reheating is easy. Warm it up in a pan on the stove. If it’s a bit thick, just add a splash of water to get it back to your preferred consistency. This approach ensures your Red Lentil Dal stays as delicious as when you first made it. Enjoy your meal, hassle-free!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Yes, people often consider red lentil dal a type of curry dish, especially in Indian cuisine. The term “curry” broadly refers to dishes featuring a spiced sauce or gravy, although its meaning varies across different cultures. In the case of Red Lentil Dahl, it fits this description.
No, red lentils do not require soaking. They cook quickly compared to other types of lentils.
Absolutely! Vegetables like spinach, tomatoes, carrots, or pumpkin can be a great addition.
Preparing a tadka (tempering) by frying spices and aromatics in oil or ghee and then adding it to the cooked dal can greatly enhance the flavor. Follow this recipe for a flavorful way to prepare a tadka.
Types of Lentils
Lentils are a diverse group of legumes that come in various types, each with its own unique color, size, and cooking time. Here’s a rundown of some common types of lentils to create different lentil dishes:
- Brown Lentils, or Sabut Masoor in India, are versatile and commonly feature in masoor dal recipes, including sabut masoor dal, masoor dal tadka, soups, masoor dal khichdi, and masoor dal salad.
- In India, Green Lentils go by Hara Masoor or Sabut Moong. People often use them in salads, curries, and side dishes, creating favorites like moong dal chilka, sabut moong dal, moong dal khichdi, and sprouted moong salad.
- Red Lentils, known as Masoor Dal in India, play a central role in Indian cooking, especially in dal recipes.
- Yellow Lentils, called Moong Dal (split mung beans) or Chana Dal (split chickpeas or yellow split peas) in Indian cuisine, are staples in Indian dals and curries, including dal tadka, dal fry, and sambar.
- Black Lentils, referred to as Urad Dal when split and hulled, and Sabut Urad when whole, are essential in popular Indian dishes like Dal Makhani, idli, dosa, vada, and papadum.
- French Green Lentils, or Puy Lentils, are less common in traditional Indian cooking but can be called Puy Masoor.
- Split Peas, known as Matar Dal in India, with green split peas as Hari Matar Dal and yellow ones as Pili Matar Dal, are used in various Indian soups and stews.
Each of these kinds of lentils, with their distinct flavors and textures, plays a significant role in the rich tapestry of Indian cuisine.
Red Lentil Dal Recipe
- 1 cup dry red lentils rinsed
- 2 ¼ cups water
- 1 cup coconut milk canned
- ¼ cup oil vegetable or avocado preferred
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
- 1 yellow onion finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger freshly grated
- ½ cup tomatoes chopped and drained OR 2 freshly diced roma tomatoes
- 1 small Thai or Serrano chili seeded and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoon ghee or butter
- 1 tablespoon lime juice fresh
- 2 tablespoon cilantro finely chopped
- cilantro for garnish
- plain yogurt for garnish
- In a medium pot over medium high heat, bring the water, coconut milk and lentils to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover with the lid slightly ajar and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often or until very soft and most of the water has been absorbed.
- While the lentils are cooking, prepare the tempering. Heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add in cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until soft and starting to caramelize and turn brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add in the chilis, garlic and ginger, and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add in the ground cumin, coriander, chili powder, turmeric and salt and cook for 1 minute more.
- Stir in the tomatoes and cook until it all comes together and tomatoes are softened, about 3-5 minutes.
- Once the lentils are done, add in the tomato and onion mixture and another splash of water if needed.
- Cook on low for 5 minutes to blend flavors, stirring often.
- Remove from heat and stir in the butter, cilantro and lime juice. Check for seasoning.
- Garnish with a swirl of plain yogurt and extra chopped cilantro.
- Serve alongside naan bread, roti or basmati rice for a complete meal.