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 (120 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. This recipe is great, I’ve made it heaps and never had it fail. I normally make it without chilli for my family, but it’s delicious either way.

    On nights with a serious time crunch, I substitute in powdered onion/garlic/ginger and it seriously only takes a few mins to fry the spices and throw everything in, then just give it an occasional stir. You can also make it pretty special by serving it with naan in addition to the rice.

    1. Hi Carmel. I’m so glad you are loving the dahl! I love your ideas for throwing it together quickly! Thank you for sharing your fabulous feedback!

  2. I can’t get enough of this dish. I added a jalapeño for a bit more heat plus some chipotle powder for smokiness in place of red pepper flakes (didn’t have on hand). Beautiful way to incorporate red lentils with other flavors I love. Thank you for this recipe, I go back to it often.

  3. This recipe is so delicious, incredibly flavorful, & incredibly easy to make! I truly enjoyed it. Thank you & I will definitely make again!

  4. I am not a cook at all. Trying to count calories but I don’t see where it states what a serving is? 1 cup, 2 cups…
    Thanks 

    1. Hi Mary. There are 8 servings total, so if you divided it into 8 servings, that would be your answer. I think it’s around 1 1/2 cups. Hope this helps!

  5. I love, love, love this recipe. It has become a real staple meal in our house. So quick, so delicious. Thank you.

  6. Actually, it really was absolutely delicious and will from now on be my favourite dahl recipe. Thank you.

    1. Hi Cariola. I am thrilled that you love the dahl! Thank you for your kind words and wonderful review! Wishing you lots of happy cooking!

  7. Delicious!! I didn’t have garam masala so I substituted with a curry powder and it came out so yummy!!

  8. This was amazing, thank you Nora. I topped it off with a dollop of your vegan sour cream and it made it extra delicious.

    1. You are welcome! I also love this recipe! It’s so good with naan! Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback!

  9. You don’t say how much lentils to use, it says the lentils. It would be helpful if you told us how much dried to use. ? embarrassing, the main ingredient and you miss out the amount.

    1. Hi Rachel, the lentils are listed in the ingredients list (1 1/2 cups), right under the red chili flakes.

  10. Could I substitute yellow split peas for the red lentils? If so, would I use the same proportions? Thank you so enjoy your recipes!

  11. Oh wow! This Dhal is DELICIOUS!! 
    Just happened upon this recipe and by freak accident had all the ingredients in the house so gave it a go. Big hit with my whole family 🙂 we served with chapatti and some turmeric roasted cauliflower. 
    This will become a regular in our house – so affordable too! 

    1. Hi Katy…whoo whoo! I’m so glad you loved the dahl! Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback! I’m thrilled this will be part of your meal rotation! Wishing you happy cooking!

  12. Hi 2 questions please
    1. Can you leave out the milk altogether
    2. How do you make the dhal into Tadka Dhal
    Thanks 

    1. The coconut milk does add a nice creamy element and cools the spice level, but you can leave it out if you want. This recipe is quite different from Dal Tadka and I don’t believe it can be changed so easily, sorry!

  13. This dish is incredible! Such simple, affordable ingredients combine to make a delicious meal. I could easily see myself making this a regular in my meal rotation.

    1. Hi Nicolette. I’m thrilled you’re considering this as part of your meal rotation! This is a great addition! Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback!

    1. Red or split yellow lentils are best in dahls because they melt into the sauce. Green lentils hold their shape too well and just won’t give you the same results.

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