A Simple Homey, Coconut-y Red Lentil Dal

December 15, 2013

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Adapted from Anupy Singla's The Indian Slow Cooker. I've adapted the recipe for the stove, since red lentils cook so quickly. But if you want to use a slow cooker, Singla recommends cooking the lentils on low for 5 1/2 hours and then for another 30 minutes after adding the coconut milk. Also: 1) I've dialed down the spice; free free to add a couple of finely chopped serrano chiles at the beginning. 2) If you don't have curry leaves, don't worry -- it still tastes wonderful. And it freezes beautifully.Nicholas Day

Makes: 11 cups
Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 45 min

Ingredients

  • 3 cups red lentils (masoor dal)
  • 1 medium yellow or red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup tomatoes, canned or fresh, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 medium red or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 15 fresh or frozen curry leaves (optional but worth seeking out, up to 20 to taste)
  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the lentils, coarsely chopped onion, tomatoes, cayenne, ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt. Add 7 cups of water and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils begin to break down.
  2. In a frying pan, warm the vegetable oil over medium to high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and the mustard seeds. Cover the pan and wait briefly until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Then add the finely chopped onion and the curry leaves and cook, stirring to prevent the leaves from burning, until lightly browned.
  3. Add the curry leaf mixture to the lentils along with the coconut milk. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the flavors have melded.

More Great Recipes:
Soup|Indian|Coconut|Coriander|Lentil|Milk/Cream|Mustard|Cumin|Bean|Side|Entree

Reviews (76) Questions (4)

76 Reviews

Noor S. January 30, 2018
This looks like how I make Sri Lankan dhal curry! It's the best! :)
 
bekahlayne October 31, 2017
This is one of the best recipes I've come across off this website...it's super flavorful! I wouldn't skip the curry leaves, they add so much flavor to the dish! I add a few lime leaves as well.
 
Peckish M. February 23, 2017
Might I add that this is a Sri Lankan dish and not necessarily an Indian one? The dhal curry as we call it, is a Sri Lankan staple served in almost every household, wayside eating joint and etc for breakfast, lunch and dinner. True that Sri Lankan cuisine has Indian influences but if you look closely, you will see that <br />a) Using coconut milk in savory dishes is not very popular in India, except for maybe Kerala. On the other hand, coconut milk is used regularly in Sri Lankan cuisine. In fact, it is hard to find a recipe that does not use it!<br />b) The use of curry leaf is also a very Sri Lankan thing to do. While we Sri Lankans use the curry leaf for almost every curry in sight, Indians use it sparsely, and rely instead on other spices instead. <br />It really is a pity that Sri Lankan cuisine is often mistaken with Indian cuisine. We have in possession many rare gems of culinary excellence which remains to be unveiled to the world :) <br />In any case it is a delicious dish. And thank you for sharing it :)
 
DoubleNegative October 20, 2016
Thanks Nicholas- I've made this twice now [both times without the curry leaves as they are scarce in my parts (East Los Angeles, I know, I could find 'em if I was willing to drive across town for lentils, I'm not)]. Both times I have halved the recipe and it does not seem to suffer at all. I serve it over coconut rice, fresh cilantro for garnish and add a few good dollops of "Melinda's Naga Jolokia" pepper sauce at the end as I like my food spicier than my friends do. So satisfying...brilliant even. Thanks!
 
patrick November 3, 2016
theres an indian grocer in san gabriel that has fresh leaves usually - https://www.yelp.com/biz/bhanu-indian-grocery-and-cuisine-san-gabriel otherwise ive bought dried off amazon. i ended up growing my own and have several baby plants. maybe i could give you one?
 
Sidney September 29, 2016
This was the best soup I've ever had! Be sure to search for the curry leaves, what they add is inexplicably delicious!
 
Alex T. June 7, 2016
I made this soup today , and it is real good..very yummy.
 
Ursula January 21, 2016
Awesome soup. Froze perfectly and was a delish soup dinner tonite.
 
Alaina C. January 6, 2016
My first time making Indian food-- absolutely wonderful! My only modifications were: I used 2 cups of lentils, ¾ cup of tomatoes, 2 tsp of curry powder and powdered forms of the spices at the end with the onions. Fantastic.
 
Jessie-Rae December 28, 2015
I halved the lentils and the water but then doubled the spices as we wanted a very flavorful dal. I did end up adding the full can of coconut milk to make sure the lentils would reheat well and not soak up too much of the liquid in our leftovers. So tasty.
 
ghainskom December 4, 2015
This is quite easy and with those cumin seeds, really tasty, for bigger and younger gourmets alike. But be warned, it does make 11 cups, which is a lot!
 
DoubleNegative October 20, 2015
Delish! Like a handful of other reviewers I halved the lentils and subsequently the coconut milk, because it's just me (which is still plenty of lentils for the freezer and lunches for the week) and kept most of the other ingredients as written. I added a lot more cayenne and some chile de arbol and it still wasn't too spicy (for me). Roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds and chopped lots of fresh parsley, cilantro and scallions for garnish. Served over coconut rice, just to keep with the theme. All in all a very good, if a little abundant basic recipe. I'm looking forward to my leftovers for lunch!
 
DessertByCandy May 11, 2015
Very enjoyable vegan main dish. The richness of coconut milk made it special.
 
Emily February 9, 2015
Here's a modified version of the recipe that ups the flavor:<br /><br />Red lentil coconut dal<br />• 2 cups red lentils (masoor dal) <br />• 1 can petite diced tomatoes<br />• 2 tablespoons ghee<br />• ½ inch piece ginger, diced<br />• 1 teaspoon cumin seeds <br />• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper <br />• 1 teaspoon ground cumin <br />• 1 teaspoon ground coriander <br />• 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric <br />• 1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds <br />• 10 fresh or frozen curry leaves (optional but worth seeking out) <br />• 1 medium yellow or red onion, diced <br />• Sea salt to taste <br />• 1 14-oz can coconut milk <br />1. In a large saucepan, combine the lentils and tomatoes. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils begin to break down. Add more water if needed.<br />2. In a frying pan, warm the ghee over medium to high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the spices. Cover the pan and wait briefly until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Then add the diced onion and the curry leaves and cook, stirring to prevent the leaves from burning, until lightly browned. <br />3. Add the curry leaf/onion mixture to the lentils along with the coconut milk and salt to taste. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the flavors have melded. <br />
 
julita84 January 26, 2015
This was great: easy, fast, and very tasty. served it with rice, yogurt and coriander...will definetely be making it again!
 
Whats4Dinner January 16, 2015
I'm making this a SECOND time now because I can't stop thinking about it!! Even my picky 11 year old loved it even though I "accidentally" added a little extra cayenne. The only difference is that I used coconut oil to cook the seeds; I don't usually keep vegetable oil in my pantry. This time I even found some vegan naan to go with!!!
 
julielaursen January 8, 2015
I'm trying to like this, but it wasn't as flavorful as I'd hoped and when I took it out of the fridge for lunches, had congealed to the point of looking like dog food. It still looks a bit like dog food while I'm eating it and that's making it hard to enjoy (i eat with my eyes)
 
Shan2218 January 14, 2015
I think as the lentils still sit in the liquid it soaks up most of it because this happens to me, too. It just needs thinned out with milk or water and it's fine (and looks slightly better!)
 
Heather January 8, 2015
I loved this, (like Transcendancing, I sauteed onions and spices in ghee before adding lentil and water). The spices were so lovely, but ended up being a little dilute after 3 cups of lentils and 7 cups of water, so next time I think I'll use half the lentils and water (or twice the spices) for a stronger flavors (even my 15 year old daughter who was drawn to the dish while it was cooking, said she was surprised by its blandness when it was finished). I also cleared a spot in the skillet of seeds/onions and sautéed 1/2" fresh ginger and a clove of garlic with a bit of oil right at the end. I loved all the elements; just needed the spices to be a little louder.
 
Transcendancing November 12, 2014
This was delicious, I did things slightly differently by sautéing the onions and spices in ghee, then adding the lentil and water and once they'd started softening added the tomatoes and salt and two whole dried chilli. I ground up the curry leaves (mine were dried) with the spices, and added only 270mL coconut milk. Served with rice, topped with yoghurt and fresh coriander, delicious! Will definitely make this again!
 
Lauren October 24, 2014
This was just wonderful- flavorful, healthy, balanced, easy. And with the addition of rice, it made enough to serve 8! I have so many red lentil stews in my recipe cache- I think I'm going to toss all but this one.
 
rosemary October 15, 2014
OH my. I'd been wanting to try this recipe so last night was the night I was at my daughter's and needed to please a 2 year old. My son in law had it for lunch and dinner, my daughter groaned with pleasure and baby wanted to eat it right out of the pot and cried when her parents denied her request.