Ready in just 25 minutes, this quick and flavourful red lentil dahl recipe (aka dhal, dal, daal) is a great midweek meal or alternative homemade Indian curry. Gluten free, vegan and vegetarian. It’s also freezer-friendly. Under 300 calories.
Stovetop, Instant Pot and Slow Cooker methods given.
Red Lentil Dahl
I love lentil dahl (or is it dal, dhal, daal?). Plus, you can make it on the stovetop, slow cooker or Instant Pot (scroll down for instructions for all three methods).
As soon as my husband mentions wanting a curry, I know exactly what I’ll be having – red lentil dahl. I’ve tweaked and changed this dal recipe over the years and I’ve finally settled on this combination as my absolute favourite. It’s comfort food at it’s finest.
I always make a big batch and keep a stash of this vegan lentil curry in the freezer for super-quick midweek meals that the whole family loves. You’ll also find loads of other great curry recipes over on Jamie Oliver.
I love to serve this lentil dahl curry with rice or my super easy naan bread recipe (just 4 ingredients and 15 minutes for homemade naan bread, plus it’s yeast-free and easily vegan or gluten free).
This dhal recipe was originally posted 2016. Updated with new photos, step by step images and updated text on 27 August 2018.
Reader Reviews for my Dhal Recipe
Loads of you have been making this recipe! Here are some reader testimonials
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ‘Loved this dhal recipe and so did my husband and 18 month old son! I will be making this again and again and again. ‘ – Emily
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ‘This is one of the best dhal recipes I have come cross in recent years. It is so simple but so tasty.’ – Michiko
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ‘The best Dhal recipe I’ve ever eaten was absolutely delicious’ – Sean
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ‘Delicious dahl recipe! Will be making over and over again!’ – Betty
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ‘I just made this and all the comments are so justly deserved – it was my first time making Daal and this recipe is phenomenal! ‘ – Joanne
A lentil dahl recipe doesn’t always have tomatoes in it, but I like how the acidity from the tomatoes cuts through the coconut milk so it has more depth of flavour rather than sweetness.
It’s mildly spiced with a gentle heat from the spices, chillis and ginger.
I’ve added two big handfuls of fresh spinach at the end because meals need green veg – and it’s perfect with this dhal recipe
Tips and tricks for this Lentil Dhal Recipe
- How long does red lentil dahl last? Dhal will last in the fridge for 4-5 days.
- Do I use dried red lentils? Yes. No need to pre-cook them (just give them a rinse), they’ll cook in the curry.
- Can you freeze lentil dahl? Yes! Let it cool and freeze in portions for up to 3 months.
- How many calories are in lentil dhal? Each portion of this has only 293 calories.
- How many Weight Watchers points per portion of this daal recipe? 12 smart points
- How to serve this Indian dhal recipe? Serve it as a lentil curry with rice and/0r naan bread, or as a side dish alongside another curry.
- Try this served with my baked vegetable pakora or turmeric roasted cauliflower.
- Try it with a few other curries for a party – tofu curry, chickpea curry or others!
- How to make lentil dhal vegan? This daal is naturally vegan and gluten free.
- Do the red lentils need to be pre-soaked? No, just add them dry! Though you’ll want to rinse them first.
- Wondering how to make Instant Pot dal? Scroll down to the recipe card for my IP pressure cooker instructions.
- More time on your hands and want to make a Slow Cooker Dal? Scroll to the recipe card to find out how to make this a slow cooker lentil dal.
Making the Red Lentil Dahl Recipe
This dhal can be on the table in 30 minutes and is perfect along with naan bread (my easy naan recipe takes just minutes and is soooo good!) turmeric rice, chapattis or poppadoms. Perhaps some vegetable samosas or onion bhajis.
You could even try it with my vegetable pakoras – they’re also quick to make and full of nourishing ingredients.
A great thing about this dish is how you can adapt it to suit your taste. Add more chilli if you like the heat, or more coconut milk if you want it extra creamy.
How to make Red Lentil Dal on the stovetop (step by step tutorial)
Scroll down for the full recipe, plus how to make it in the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker.
This daal is really easy to make. If you can spare a bit more time, then I’d suggest you slowly cook the onions for about 10 minutes until soft but not too brown. Then also simmer the dal a little longer. But if you don’t have time then it’s also great with the method below! (I usually make it the quicker way!)
1: Cook the onions in the oil until soft, then add the garlic and chilli (fresh finely diced chilli or dried chilli flakes).
2: Lightly grind the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle.
3: Add the ground spices, as well as garam masala and turmeric to the pan, stir and cook for 1 minute.
4: Add the stock/broth, canned tomatoes, dry red lentils and coconut milk, stir well and simmer.
5: Simmer until thick, about 15-20 minutes.
6: Add the spinach and lemon juice. Stir to wilt the spinach. Serve the dal recipe!
Make it a full meal with these vegan Indian recipes!
Lentil Dahl (the recipe you’re reading!)
Turmeric Rice (vegan, 6 ingredients, 20 minutes)
Baked Vegetable Pakora (vegan, 6 ingredients, 25 minutes)
Naan (vegetarian or vegan, 4 ingredients, 15 minutes)
Dhal Recipe Video
Get the Red Lentil Dahl recipe
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Red Lentil Dahl
- 1 tsp olive oil or coconut oil
- 2 onions diced
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger peeled and grated
- ½ finely chopped red chilli (or 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes)
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- ½ tsp coriander seeds
- ½ tsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 cup (200g) dried red lentils, uncooked (rinsed and drained)
- 1 can (14oz/400ml) chopped tomatoes
- 1 can (14oz/400ml) coconut milk
- 2 cups (500ml) vegetable broth/stock
- Salt and pepper
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2 handfuls fresh spinach washed
Stovetop One-Pot Lentil Dal
- Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and red chilli and cook for a few minutes.
- Grind the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds lightly in a pestle and mortar, then add to the pan, along with the turmeric and garam masala and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the lentils, tomatoes with their juice, coconut milk and broth/stock, then stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and cook on a medium/low heat for 15-20 minutes until reduced and thick. If you have time, you can leave it a little longer on a very low heat for even more flavor (just stir often and check it doesn't scorch on the bottom of the pan).
Taste and add more chilli if desired.
- Stir in the lemon juice and spinach until it wilts.
- Serve warm with rice, naan bread or poppadoms.
Instant Pot Lentil Dal
- Set the Instant Pot to 'saute' setting and heat the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes until it gets soft but not browned.
- Add the garlic, ginger and red chilli and cook for a minute, then turn off the Instant Pot.
- Grind the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds lightly in a pestle and mortar, then add to the pan, along with the turmeric and garam masala and cook, stirring, for 1 minute (there will be enough heat left in the Instant Pot to do this).
- Stir in the lentils, tomatoes, coconut milk and broth/stock.
- Put the lid on the Instant Pot, close the steam vent and set to Manual (Pressure Cook)/High Pressure pressure using the manual setting, then set the time to 8 minutes. After the time is up, wait for 10 minutes and then carefully use the quick release valve to release remaining pressure, or let the pressure release naturally.
Stir in the lemon juice and the spinach until it wilts and serve!
Slow Cooker Lentil Dal
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and red chilli and cook for a few minutes.
- Grind the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds lightly in a pestle and mortar, then add to the frying pan, along with the turmeric and garam masala and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the onion mixture to the bowl of the slow cooker, along with the lentils, tomatoes, coconut milk and broth/stock. Place lid on slow cooker and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-10 hours.
- Taste and cook longer if necessary for the lentils to be lovely and soft. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the lemon juice and spinach.
- This dhal is vegan and gluten free
- The squeeze of lemon really freshens the dal so try not to omit it
- Freezable - just let it cool completely and then freeze. Defrost and reheat. I freeze this often and it's a staple in my freezer for quick, hearty nourishing meals.
- No need to cook the red lentils first. Just rinse the dried red lentils before adding to the pan.
- This is a great vegan potluck food and is always a crowd pleaser!