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.

Want more Indian-inspired recipes? Be sure to try my Easy Chana Masala, Vegan Biryani, Vegan Butter Chicken, and Roasted Eggplant Curry recipes while you’re here.

close up on red lentil dahl topped with a drizzle of coconut milk and red chili flakes in a white bowl.

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.

a cooked batch of lentil dahl in a large grey pot.

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.

cooking chopped onions, garlic, and ginger in a large grey pan.
dry spices on top of cooked onions in a large grey pan.

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.

uncooked lentil dal in a large grey pot.

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.).

Serve the red lentil dal in bowls with cooked brown or basmati rice and fresh naan bread on the side. Enjoy!

using a spoon to lift a scoop of red lentil dahl from a large pot.

Frequently asked questions

Should you soak the red lentils ahead of time?

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.

What kind of lentils are used in dahl?

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.

I can’t have coconut milk. What can I use instead?

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.

Can you make it in the Instant Pot?

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.

How long does it last?

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.

Can you freeze lentil dal?

You sure can. Place the leftover dahl in freezer-safe airtight containers or ziplock bags and freeze for up to 3 months.

using a fork to remove a scoop of red lentil dahl from a white bowl.
close up on red lentil dahl topped with a drizzle of coconut milk and red chili flakes in a white bowl.
4.95 stars (123 ratings)

Quick & Easy Red Lentil Dahl

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.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 8 servings


  • 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

For serving

  • 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!



  1. Leftover dahl will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days in a covered container. It also freezes well.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Nutritional information is an estimate only and does not include rice or naan.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 258kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Sodium: 732mg | Potassium: 625mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1314IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 62mg | Iron: 5mg
Course: Main, Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

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  1. Another week night when I just really, really didn’t want to make dinner. But, we’d already had pizza once this week, and I couldn’t justify pizza two days in a row. I made this, and I’m so glad I did. Came together quickly, and less time than take out would have taken. Almost less time….anyway. Thank you for saving me from myself.

    1. I’m so glad you tried the Dahl! It is one of my favorite quick, yet full of flavor, recipes! Thank you for taking time to share your fabulous review and feedback!

  2. This is probably the first “quick and easy” recipe I’ve used that actually turned out to be quick and easy without compromising on flavour! I managed to get it done all while my 4 minute noodles were preparing. Ok maybe not that quickly…but they definitely hadn’t cooled by the time I turned the pot down to a simmer. Thanks so much for this delicious recipe. I didn’t have a lemon but I did have some frozen lemon zest I added in for a touch of citrus which seemed to do the job.

    1. Hi Mula. I definitely love the easy and fabulous flavor of this recipe! I’m glad you do as well. Thanks for taking time to share your fabulous review and feedback!

  3. Hi,
    Made this for our Easter family gathering. Everyone loved it. Always can count on your recipes to be a success Nora. It was first time I had made it. Im making it again today, thanks again for your delicious recipes.

    1. Hi Kaye. Thank you for using my recipes! I appreciate your positive feedback and review! Wishing you lots of happy cooking!

    1. I’m not sure what you mean, I guess American? Ounces (for the canned ingredients) and cups. I also have a metric button that will convert the measurements to grams and mls.

  4. This was fabulous for an impromptu homemade Indian take-out night having all the ingredients on hand! Thanks!!

  5. I’ve been cooking at least one vegetarian or vegan entree a week in 2024. This is the first one that was a home run with everyone in the family. So easy and delicious! They request it often!

  6. I’m thinking of making this tonight but instead of spinach I’m going to add some chopped up fresh kale which I have on hand. Hopefully will work well.

  7. I have never made anything like this before and did not know what to expect. Still not sure what it should have looked and tasted like. In any case, this was delicious! I served it over some baked (actually nuked) potatoes instead of rice. And on the side we had some sourdough bread. This recipe is definitely a keeper. Thank you!

    1. You are welcome, Summer! This is truly one of my favorites! It’s always full of wonderful flavor! Thanks for sharing your awesome review!

  8. Hi Nora, I am making this now. Not sure what I did wrong. It looks like curdled soup. The ONLY ingredients I altered were a little bit more lentils, and a little bit LESS broth. Is it supposed to be very soupy? And is my coconut milk supposed to curdle? Thank you!

    1. I’ve never had that happen, but some quick research tells me that sometimes milk based dishes can curdle if the heat is too high. I’m honestly not sure this applies to coconut milk as well and haven’t experienced it myself, but perhaps try lowering the heat next time. It’s like a thick stew when it’s done, not watery or anything like that. Did you use red lentils?

      1. Nora,

        My final review is above this one. It was delicious! Yes, I used red lentils. I will try lowering the heat when I make again which will be in the next couple of days. As for the curdling, I do notice that coconut milk does that sometime THOUGH it does not seem to alter the taste or flavor. So again, thank you for a wonderful recipe that I will make over and over. Happy Spring!~

  9. Ein tolles Rezept!!
    Ich habe statt Spinat einfach Bärlauch und Giersch genommen, da diese gerade Saison haben und frisch in meinem Garten wachsen.

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