Made in one pot in just 30 minutes, this is guaranteed to be the easiest lentil dahl recipe you ever try! It’s rich and creamy, made with budget-friendly ingredients, and packed with plant protein and fiber.
This easy 30-minute lentil dahl recipe tastes almost too good to be true. It features restaurant-quality flavors but is incredibly easy to make in one pot using budget-friendly ingredients!
Red lentils melt into the rich, creamy, and perfectly spiced stew while infusing this hearty meal with protein and fiber. Coconut milk tempers the spice while a handful of spinach adds a secretly healthy twist. Treat yourself to a hefty scoop with cooked rice and homemade Naan on the side, then enjoy!
What is lentil dahl?
The term, dahl (also dal, dhal, or daal), refers to dried, split pulses or legumes. It also refers to a staple Indian dish made by simmering lentils in a spiced and aromatic stew or soup. Dahl recipes vary from region to region but they almost always feature layered and nuanced flavor profiles and affordable, yet protein-rich ingredients.
How to make easy red lentil dahl
To begin, sauté the chopped onion in an oiled skillet over medium heat until it’s soft. Next, add the garlic and ginger. Let them soften before stirring in the garam masala, turmeric, and red pepper flakes.
Stir in the dried lentils, canned tomatoes and their juices, coconut milk, and vegetable broth. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.
Continue simmering until the red lentils are soft and tender.
To finish, stir the lemon juice and spinach into the lentil stew. Cook until the spinach is wilted. Give it a taste and adjust the seasonings as needed (add salt to taste, more lemon for tang, red pepper flakes for spice, etc.).
Frequently asked questions
No, red lentils do not need to be soaked before they’re added to the pan. However, I do recommend sifting through the dry lentils first. Keep your eyes out for pebbles or specks of dirt, and be sure to discard them before cooking the lentils.
All kinds! Red and split yellow lentils work particularly well for this easy dal recipe because they take very little time to soften and practically melt into the creamy stew.
You could probably use green or brown lentils as a substitute here, but I haven’t tested it. Just know that green/brown lentils don’t soften as much as red lentils and will give the dahl more texture. They also take longer to cook, but you can mitigate this by adding more water or broth to the pot as needed.
Cashew cream is the best replacement for coconut milk. It will make the dahl rich and creamy but won’t affect the flavor (Use 1/2 cup or more, and additional broth as needed.) Unsweetened cashew, soy, or almond milk also works well for a lower fat, less rich option.
Yes, it’s easy to make red lentil dal in the Instant Pot. Using the Sauté feature, cook the onion, then the garlic and ginger. Stir in the spices, then the lentils, coconut milk, tomatoes, and broth. Lock the lid in place and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Do a quick release, then add the lemon juice and stir in the spinach.
Red lentil dal is perfect for meal prep and healthy lunches! The cooled leftovers stay fresh and flavorful for 3 to 4 days when stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
You sure can. Place the leftover dahl in freezer-safe airtight containers or ziplock bags and freeze for up to 3 months.
Quick & Easy Red Lentil Dahl
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped small
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes
- 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
- 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 13.5 ounce can full fat coconut milk
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- half a lemon, juiced
- 3-4 cups baby spinach
- 4 cups cooked brown or white rice
- Vegan Naan
- In a large pot or pan over medium heat, sauté the chopped onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook 1 more minute, until fragrant.
- Add the garam masala, turmeric and red pepper flakes to the pan and stir into the onion mixture. Add a few tablespoons of water if the mixture is too dry.
- Now add the dried lentils, canned tomatoes and their juices, coconut milk and vegetable broth to the pan. Stir well and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the lentils are cooked and soft. Stir occasionally.
- Squeeze the lemon juice into the pan, and stir in the spinach as well until wilted. Add salt to taste. I used 1 teaspoon.
- Serve with brown or white rice and Vegan Naan. Enjoy!
- Leftover dahl will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days in a covered container. It also freezes well.
- May use light coconut milk if desired, it simply won’t be as creamy. If you can’t have coconut, you may substitute Cashew Cream instead. Unsweetened almond/cashew/soy milk may work as well.
- To make it in the Instant Pot: Use the sauté feature to cook the onions, then the garlic and ginger. Add spices and stir. Turn off the Instant Pot for a moment, and add the lentils, tomatoes, coconut milk and broth. Seal and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. Do a quick release, then add the lemon juice and stir in the spinach until wilted. Serve.
- Nutritional information is an estimate only and does not include rice or naan.