Dinner Party

Chitra Agrawal's Coconut Dal with Turmeric Rice

July  7, 2021
15 Ratings
Photo by Food52
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This flavorful dal is an ode to the simple meals that chef and cookbook author Chitra Agrawal ate as a child at her grandmother's home in Southern India. In her version, the heat from the spices is tempered by the sweetness of the coconut cream and the tang of the tamarind paste, making it a great recipe even for young kids. —Food52

What You'll Need
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Chitra Agrawal's Coconut Dal with Turmeric Rice
  • Coconut Dal
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, or sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 pinch asafetida
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼ inch half discs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • Turmeric Rice
  • 1 cup basmati rice
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
  1. Coconut Dal
  2. Wash the lentils thoroughly, using a fine-mesh colander.
  3. Heat the ghee or oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When melted, add one cumin seed. When the seed sizzles, add the rest of the cumin seeds and asafetida.
  4. Fry the onions until they are golden brown and fragrant. Stir in the turmeric powder. Next add in the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
  5. Next add in the tomato paste and a few tablespoons of water, mixing it in so it’s incorporated into the rest of the ingredients in the pan.
  6. Add in the coriander powder and paprika and give the pan a good stir. Fry for a few seconds.
  7. Add the carrots to the saucepan and sprinkle them with salt. Give them a good stir.
  8. Next add in the washed and drained lentils with the water. Bring to a boil. Stay by the stove and monitor the foaming, as your pot could quickly boil over if you are not watching. Skim off the foam. Turn the heat down to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer until cooked through, about 25 minutes.
  9. Add in the tamarind and boil for a few minutes. Next add in the coconut milk and heat through. Add salt to taste.
  10. Garnish with cilantro if desired. Serve with turmeric rice and a dollop of yoghurt.
  1. Turmeric Rice
  2. Wash the rice in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in water, generously covered, for at least 30 minutes. This is optional but results in softer, more evenly cooked rice. Drain thoroughly, using a fine-mesh sieve.
  3. Place the rice, water and turmeric in a medium saucepan. Place the saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, cover the saucepan and turn the heat to the lowest setting on your stove.
  4. Cook until the rice is tender and there is no water left in the pan, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave covered for 10 minutes, to allow the grains to separate. Fluff with a fork before serving.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Meredy Butler
    Meredy Butler
  • kikimm
  • erinrae
  • Lisa
  • Meggy Brink
    Meggy Brink

12 Reviews

TheRambis January 11, 2023
Loved this, very kid friendly also. Used yellow lentils that I had around and still worked great. A keeper!
lesleyt20 July 7, 2021
My 6-year-old scarfed this up, and my 2-year-old ate the yogurt. I call that win. Loved the flavors, easy to make (I didn’t do any substitutions), and it came together quickly. I’d definitely make this again.
Meredy B. December 19, 2020
Absolutely stunning recipe! Beautiful flavors and simple to make. I will come back to this recipe again and again.
Yvonne May 29, 2020
On my one trip to the market this week, I was able to find everything I needed, that I didn’t already have. I thought it was delicious and my family enjoyed it as well. After the first or second spoonful my girls both said, I’d eat this again and everyone had seconds. I was wondering what would be the right thing to add to give it some heat and not detract from the dish itself? Again, it was delicious! Thank you so much for sharing!
kikimm April 28, 2020
This was absolutely fantastic, and very amenable to additions or substitutions. I threw in a leek and a sweet potato that I needed to use, and subbed lime juice and brown sugar for the tamarind, which I didnt have on hand. The acid definitely punched it up. My meat-loving boyfriend could not get enough of it. Delicious.
erinrae April 13, 2020
I love dal in general and this one is great! I didn't have cumin seeds so I added powder, and added the other spices at the same time--I'm not sure it matters if you space them out as much as the instructions call for, I know my palate can't tell the difference if something is added before or after garlic. This makes it a lot easier to cook by memory. I added some onion and garlic powder to substitude for the asafetida (per a few web sites) and lemon juice with a bit of sugar for tamarind--covid cooking means no trips for specialty ingredients! Turned out great though, will make again!
Corin April 5, 2020
To brighten up the flavor I added a tablespoon of fresh lime juice, a teaspoon of salt, and fresh cilantro at the end. Dal was soupy when finished but thickened up as it cooled. Leftovers were even better!
Lisa March 28, 2020
Omg. This is amazingly awesome!! Love it! Thank you for this great recipe.
Meggy B. March 28, 2020
Best Dal I ever made. delish, comforting, flavourful.
Jessica October 6, 2019
I followed the recipe without changes except I didn't add two entire tablespoons of garlic(seemed like a lot). Served the dal with the rice, cilantro and yogurt and it is delicious. If you like spicy you might have to add that as it isn't spicy but it is flavorful.
Brandi August 24, 2019
One more thing! If you don’t have tamarind you can add dried tart cherries and bust them once the meal is done. Adds a nice sweet tartness.
Brandi August 24, 2019
This Dal is amazing! I made saffron rice instead of the turmeric. The red lentils were perfect and cooked so fast! I added ginger and chill flakes for an extra kick! So yummy!