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. Super easy and very flavorful. I followed the recipe exactly and simmered the dal for a bit longer-about 20 minutes. Wonderful recipe. Thank you

    1. You are welcome, Sue! This is one of my favorites! It’s so terrific you loved it! Thanks for your wonderful feedback and review!

      1. I prepared this the other day for batch cooking and have frozen it. I have a few questions:
        I am using vegan cashew cream, should I wait to add it to the dahl when I’m actually serving?
        Should I also wait until serving to add the lemon?

        This is a very nice recipe; I found that the Garam was a bit too forward
        Next time I think I’ll at least a half a tablespoon

        1. Hi there! Are you using cashew cream in place of the coconut milk? If so, I would not wait to add it. If you mean just adding a swirl of cashew cream when you serve it, then yes I would wait. I wouldn’t wait to add the lemon juice, but it won’t hurt anything if you do. I’m glad you are enjoying the recipe, thanks!

  2. Great recipe! I did add an extra tablespoon of ginger and I micro grated the ginger so the ginger really popped. I also added 2 finely chopped jalapeños and cilantro and lime instead of lemon!

    Highly recommend!

  3. I just made this delicious dish. So tasty! I’m secretly hoping no one else in the house likes this dish so I can have it all to myself!

    1. Hi Joyce. Just make an extra pot just for you! I’m thrilled you love the dahl! Thanks for your wonderful feedback and review!

  4. Excellent!!! Added approx half cup of canned chickpeas and added extra coconut milk to Posen it up in the end before serving. Keeping this one!

  5. I’ve made this several times, and it’s delicious! It’s worth the time to make with the naan linked in the recipe. This dish is easy enough for a weeknight dinner, and it’s also been a favorite when I’ve cooked it for guests.

    I use Nora Cook’s recipes more than any other, so thank you so much!

    1. I am thrilled and honored that you use and love my recipes! Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback and review! I agree that the dahl is amazing with the naan!

  6. Would this work with regular brown lentils? Trying to use what I have on hand at home currently. Thanks!

    1. You probably could, though the lentils will be more noticeable, and it will take longer for them to cook. Add more water or broth as needed. I hope you enjoy it!

  7. Just made this. Didn’t have anything except peanut butter to make it creamy so I added two spoons of that, I didn’t have canned tomatoes, so I added salsa… The fresh, lemon and spinach at the end is a lovely touch. This is a delicious quick recipe. Thank you.

  8. I made this tonight for me and my partner. I used lite coconut milk, used fire roasted tomatoes, and enoyed it with brown jasmine rice. This recipe was so delicious and cost effective. Plenty left over for lunches during the week.

  9. Absolutely LOVE this. Just made it for the second time. Didn’t feel like leaving the house today, so used what i had on hand….subbed sour cream for the coconut cream, and tossed a cup of salsa with two roma tomatoes in the food processor and pulsed, then added it all to the instant pot. I like it better with the coconut cream, but this was still very good. Thank you for sharing!!!!!

  10. I love this one. I made this to go with the veggie korma and it was a delicious Indian feast that we had for multiple meals. Inexpensive too.

  11. Looking forward to making this for a crowd. Wondering how much is a serving size…one cup, perhaps? I need to make a gallon. Thanks

    1. There are 8 servings total, and I think it’s around 1 1/2 cups per serving. Good choice, and happy cooking! Hope this helps!

  12. Love, love this red lentil Dahl Nora. Make it all the time and sometimes add sweet potatoes or other veggies! Goes perfectly with basmati rice! Thank you. Your recipes are great,
    Regards Di.

    1. Hi Dianne. You are welcome! I am so glad you are loving the dahl! Your suggestions of sweet potatoes and veggies sound delish! Thanks for sharing your great feedback and ideas!

  13. This red lentil Dahl was absolutely delicious!!! Everyone who tried it loved it and wanted the recipe. Already making it again!

    1. Hi Sonnie. I’m so glad you loved the dahl! I so enjoy this recipe this time of year! Thanks for you great feedback!

  14. Amazing recipe but why on earth is 4 cups or rice on it. More like 1 cup, now I got 3 cups I gotta chuck. Not happy bout that at all.

    1. It’s 4 cups of cooked rice, which comes out to 1/2 cup per serving of dahl. Pretty standard I’d say, but of course it’s optional. You don’t have to eat the dahl with rice at all, and if you want to less go ahead.

  15. Thank you for recipe, was excellent! Got a bit worried about volume of liquid in pot but it simmered down nicely. Took a little longer than 15 mins but worked out great.

  16. Excellent flavour, the lemon juice really makes a difference. I put a bit too much in first time, but I’ve got it just right now. I always add the spinach and sometimes butternut or sweet potato. Yum.

    1. Hi Fiona. I’m glad you are loving the Dahl, and have found the perfect lemon balance for your taste! Your additions sound so good! Thank you for your great feedback and review!

  17. I make this recipe once a week. I have made it with red lentils and yellow split peas. The first time I made it I used half of each. My husband and I love this meal and it’s fun to change it up with the peas or lentils. I’ve added roasted Butternut squash and I’ve added pumpkin. Such a great versatile recipe. Thank you! 💚

    1. Hi Marylou. How wonderful that you and your husband love the soup! I appreciate you sharing your ideas to change the soup up! They sound delicious! Thank you for your wonderful feedback and review!

  18. Really delicious! I loved the idea of making rice on the side. I pureed the dahl at the end and poured it over rice. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe!

    1. Hi John. How wonderful! I’m so glad this is a hit with you and your friends and family! Thanks for sharing your feedback!

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