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.
4.94 stars (110 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

Ingredients 
 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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!

Video

Notes

  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.

Nutrition

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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Comments

  1. My husband and I love this recipe. He is a meat and potatoes type of person while I am trying to incorporate more meat free dishes in our lives. I love that this is a hit for both of us!

    1. This was so delicious. My friend who’s family is from Sri Lanka was impressed as well.
      I even made the Vegan Naan with is…so easy and yummy.

    1. I agree, the flavor is even better the next couple of days after being originally cooked! Thanks for your wonderful review!

  2. This was so flavorful and easy! I will definitely make the Dal again. I have forwarded this recipe to a couple of friends that will surely love it as much as I did.

    1. Hi Brenda. Thank you for taking time to share your fabulous review! This simple Dahl is one of my favorites! Wishing you happy cooking!

  3. Delicious and so flavorful! I made your naan recipe to go with it. The meal was perfection. I will definitely make this recipe again.

    1. I just love this recipe, and am glad that you do as well! Thanks for your positive review and feedback! Happy cooking!

  4. This has become a staple in my recipe lineup. It is delicious, filling, and extremely easy to make! I usually serve it over rice and it’s the perfect meal.

    1. It’s the best, right?! I’m thrilled you loved the dahl and thank you so much for your wonderful review and feedback!

  5. This has become a household staple. So good. I follow the recipe exactly and it’s so creamy and delicious. my husband, 3 year old and 1 year old love it as well. I always leave out the red pepper flakes because of my kids. This recipe is technically simple but it doesn’t feel super easy for a beginner like me. I recommend having everything chopped, minced, shredded, opened and ready to go before you even turn on the heat because once you start, you need to move quickly through the sauté process and subsequent steps. Thank you!

    1. You are welcome, Ilana! How wonderful that your family loves the Dahl. I appreciate your helpful cooking tips! Thank you for sharing your fabulous review and feedback! Wishing you lots of happy cooking!

  6. I put tomatoes in with their juice….arrrrghhh…managed to drain alot of the liquid off after I realized you didn’t say to add juice too. Tastes great so it ended well. I am new to plant based cooking so easier recipes help like this one.

    1. Hi Nessa. Welcome to my recipes! I’m glad the dahl ended up wonderful for you! If you have any questions about any of my recipes, please do reach out! Happy cooking!

    2. Hi Nessa
      The recipe did say to add the tomatoes with their juices.
      “Now add the dried lentils, canned tomatoes and their juices, coconut milk and vegetable broth to the pan”
      So you were ok doing what you did. But I’m glad it worked out for you. I made this (with the juices. It came out really yummy. This is a keeper for me! Thant you Nora!

  7. Thank you for another recipe that is simple to make and absolutely delicious! Your recipes never disappoint, Nora!! 🤤

  8. I made this for today’s dinner and it was an instant hit, the family loved it. Will be having the leftovers for lunch at work tomorrow. Thanks again for the brilliant recipe, I will be keeping this for future use.

  9. Great recipe. Quick easy and delicious. I made it exactly like the recipe except held the red pepper flakes because some in my family don’t care for spicy food.

    1. This is one of my favorites! I’m glad you loved it! Thanks for your awesome feedback and review!

  10. Loved this recipe. Thank you. So quick too. Didn’t think my teenage daughter would like it but she loved it. Great way to get some plant based protein and additional fibre into her diet!

    Added a pinch of nutmeg and used creamed coconut with a dash of milk.

    Served it with paswari naan and samosand the left overs with some basmati rice😋

  11. Spectacular and so quick and easy. The lemon gives it a magic touch. Better than any I’ve ever had anywhere. Thank you!!

  12. Hi there,
    I see the nutrition info but can’t seem to see how large a serving size is, can you provide it in cups please?

    Thanks!

    1. There are 8 servings, so if you want to know exactly you’ll need to divide the finished recipe by 8. I think it’s probably around a cup or so, but I’m not sure.

  13. I love this. I’d like to know what “one serving” is, to track my nutritional intake. Thank you.

    1. Hi Jane. You are welcome! There are 8 servings total, and I think it’s around 1 1/2 cups per serving. I’m thrilled you love the dahl!

      1. Excellent!! I used lite coconut milk to decrease the saturated fat content and added 1 Tbsp cornstarch + 2 Tbsp water (made into a slurry) to still give it a rich thickness. Didn’t have garam Marsala so used a combo of allspice, cumin and curry which worked out well. Thanks for the yummy dinner idea!

    1. You are welcome, Kim! It’s one of my favorites! The leftovers are even better! Thanks for our great review and feedback!

  14. This was my first time trying to make an Indian dish from scratch and it was so easy and delicious!! I didn’t have the turmeric or spinach on hand unfortunately but it still turned out amazing. And great for the budget what with meat being so expensive now!! Will be making this regularly for sure.

      1. Delicious recipe, made it last week with green lentils, this week with red lentils. I used less garlic than stated though as 2 cloves is my max for any dish. Also used light coconut milk, but it was still creamy. I will be making it regularly, and will try different pulses, maybe chickpeas next time.

  15. I made this the other night served over white rice and it was absolutely delicious! It made quite a lot and since it’s just my partner and I, to shake up the leftovers one night I blended it up and made a lovely soup with naan bread to dip. Scrumptious 🙂

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