Red Lentil Dal

4 May

red lentil dal

Back when I still ate meat regularly, my dad insisted on taking me to a highly recommended South Indian restaurant with an entirely vegetarian menu. I was skeptical that these dishes could live up to my favorite North Indian chicken and lamb dishes, but soon all thoughts of meat had left my mind as I eagerly dove into a veritable feast of curries, chutneys, raitas, masala dosa, and a mango lassi to top it all off. And the dals! These mysteriously delicious lentils, so different from what I was used to. Cooked until falling apart and heavily fragrant with spices. Here is my take on a red lentil dal (or masoor dal), in homage to one of my first realizations that vegetarian food could be just as tasty as its meaty counterpart. Red lentils cook quickly and fall apart beautifully, resulting in a stew that tastes like you’ve been simmering it all day. Fresh spices will make a big difference here (homemade garam masala is ideal) since there’s not much else in this simple dish. A little bit of honey stirred in at the end alongside cilantro is probably not authentic, but the hint of sweetness works very well.

Red Lentil Dal (adapted from The Hungry Australian)
Yield: 4 – 6 servings


  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil*
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1″ piece ginger, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1/2 Tbsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/4 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over**
  • 3 – 4 cups vegetable stock***
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • salt, to taste

*Or ghee.
**Also known as masoor dal.
***Adjust depending on how thick you want the finished dal to be.


  1. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil over medium-high heat, then add 1 onion, diced, and sautee until caramelized and darker in color, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add 3 cloves garlic, minced ,1″ piece ginger, minced, 1 jalapeno pepper, minced, 1/2 Tbsp garam masala, and 1/2 tsp turmeric, and sautee until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  3. Add 1 1/4 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over and 3 – 4 cups vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, and let simmer uncovered until the lentils are falling apart, about 20 – 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped and 1 Tbsp honey, then add salt, to taste. Serve with rice or cauliflower rice.

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