Easy Red Lentil Dal – Connoisseurus Veg

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This red lentil dal is full of flavor and easy to make! Packed with spices, hearty red lentils and juicy tomatoes, it’s oh-so-comforting and perfect for a weeknight dinner.

White wooden surface set with bowl of dal, pot of dal, and bunch of cilantro.

When it comes to easy dinners, dal is always a winner in my book. It’s delicious, generally pretty simple to make, and often made from panty ingredients. You may need to make a trip to the Indian market for some of the spices, but it’s worth it! Keep them on hand so you can whip up this easy dinner whenever a craving hits.

I’ve shared quite a few dal recipes on this site, but a simple red lentil dal was lacking until now. Split red lentils are one of the quickest cooking pulses out there. I even wrote an entire article on just how easy it is to cook up a batch of red lentils.

When used as the main ingredient for dal, red lentils cook up soft and creamy in record time.

I adapted my old dal soup recipe to create this red lentil dal, so if you were a fan of that, I think you’ll love this. It’s thicker and heartier than the soup, so it’s perfect with a side of rice. I also added extra spices to this one for more of a flavor punch.

Let’s talk about how it’s made!

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Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Vegetable oil. You can use any neutral high-heat oil here. Canola oil, corn oil and coconut oil are all fine choices.
  • Onion.
  • Garlic.
  • Ginger.
  • Spices. You’ll need a mix of whole spices, which you may need to get from an Indian market, and ground spices, which you can buy at the regular supermarket. We’re using whole cumin seeds and mustard seeds, along with garam masala, ground cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper.
  • Split red lentils. These may be labelled as masoor dal, depending on the brand and where you buy them. You can use whole red lentils if that’s what’s available, but the dal may take a bit longer to cook.
  • Water.
  • Canned diced tomatoes.
  • Full-fat coconut milk. Use the canned variety, and not the type in cartons.
  • Salt.
  • Fresh cilantro. This might be known as fresh coriander to you if you live outside the U.S. Leave it out if it’s not your thing.
  • Accompaniments. Dal is typically served with cooked rice (preferably basmati) and or naan bread (try my homemade vegan naan). I also like to top mine with a drizzle of coconut milk and some roasted cashews — not required, but totally delicious.

How It’s Made

The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you’d like to skip right to the recipe!

Onions and spices cooking in a pot.

Heat the oil in a pot, then add diced onion. Sweat the onion until it begins to soften, then add minced garlic, grated ginger, and all of your whole and ground spices. Sauté everything briefly.

Water being poured into a pot of dry red lentils.

Add the red lentils and water. Stir it up, raise the heat and bring the liquid to a boil.

Tip: Be careful not to burn the spices when you sauté them. Keep stirring, keep an eye on them, and only cook them briefly.

Red lentils and spices simmering in a pot.

Lower the heat and let the lentils simmer for about 20 minutes, until they’re soft. Add more water to the pot if it gets too dry, but just a bit. After all, we’re not making soup.

Pot of Red Lentil Dal simmering on the stove.

Stir in the tomatoes along with their juices and the coconut milk. Let the mixture continue simmering until the lentils are falling apart and the mixture has a creamy texture.

Tip: The longer you cook the dal, the creamier it will get. Feel free to adjust the cook time, cooking it more briefly for more distinct lentils, longer for super soft lentils.

Take the pot off of heat and season the dal with salt to taste. Serve your red lentil dal with rice or vegan naan, and garnish each bowl with some fresh cilantro. I like to top mine with roasted cashews as well.

Bowl of Red Lentil Dal with bunch of cilantro in the background.

Leftovers & Storage

Leftover red lentil dal will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3 days, or in the freezer for about 3 months. The dal can easily be reheated in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove. Add water during reheating if it’s gotten too thick during storage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this red lentil dal recipe gluten-free?

It is!

Can I substitute a different variety of lentil, such as brown lentils or green lentils?

You can, but the texture will be different and the dal will need considerably more time to cook — anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes of simmering before you add the tomatoes and coconut milk.

Can I make red lentil dal in an Instant Pot?

I’m sure you can, but I haven’t made this particular recipe in the Instant Pot. Refer to my guide to cooking red lentils for guidance if you’d like to give it a try.

More Vegan Dal Recipes

Like this recipe? If so, please stop back and leave me a review and rating below if you try it! Also be sure to follow me on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram, or subscribe to my newsletter for more recipes like this one!

Bowl of Red Lentil Dal and rice topped with cilantro and cashews.

Easy Red Lentil Dal

This red lentil dal is full of flavor and easy to make! Packed with spices, hearty red lentils and juicy tomatoes, it’s oh-so-comforting and perfect for a weeknight dinner.


  • 2
    vegetable oil
  • 1
    medium onion,
  • 3
    garlic cloves,
  • 2
    freshly grated ginger
  • 2
    garam masala
  • 1
    whole cumin seeds
  • ½
    ground cumin
  • ½
    black mustard seeds
  • ½
    ground turmeric
  • ¼
    cayenne pepper,
    or to taste
  • 3
    plus more if needed
  • 1 ½
    split red lentils
  • 1
    (14 ounce/400 gram) can
    diced tomatoes
  • ½
    full-fat coconut milk
  • 1
    plus more to taste (I use 1 ½ teaspoons)

Optional Accompaniments

  • Cooked basmati rice
  • Vegan naan
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Roasted cashews


  1. Coat the bottom of a large pot with the oil and place it over medium heat.

  2. Give the oil a minute to heat up, then add the onion. Sweat the onion until it becomes very soft, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently.

  3. Stir in the garlic, ginger, garam masala, cumin seeds, ground cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric, and cayenne pepper. Sauté the mixture for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, until it becomes very fragrant.

  4. Stir in the water and lentils. Raise the heat and bring the liquid to a boil.

  5. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer until the lentils are soft, about 20 minutes. You can add a splash of water if it reduces too much.

  6. Stir in the tomatoes and coconut milk. Continue simmering the dal for about 10 minutes, until it is thick and creamy.

  7. Remove the pot from heat. Stir in the salt, adjusting the amount to suit your taste.

  8. Serve the dal with basmati rice or naan, optionally topping each portion with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and roasted cashews.

Recipe Notes

Nutrition information does not include accompaniments.

Nutrition Facts

Easy Red Lentil Dal

Amount Per Serving (1 cup (⅙ of recipe))

Calories 254
Calories from Fat 77

% Daily Value*

Fat 8.6g13%

Saturated Fat 3.4g17%

Sodium 398mg17%

Potassium 444mg13%

Carbohydrates 33.3g11%

Fiber 6.3g25%

Sugar 2.4g3%

Protein 13g26%

Calcium 36mg4%

Iron 4mg22%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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