This vegan Red Lentil Dal is an easy and delicious spiced red lentil dish. It can be served alone as a soup, or as a side dish along with rice.
Have you tried cooking lentils?
Maybe you've seen them at the grocery store and thought--
Are those beans?
Are those tiny pebbles that someone put in a bag to trick me?
Is this some kind of food fraud?"
Well, my friends, they're a legume.
And they're quite tasty.
They work wonderfully as a "meaty" component in soup, but can also stand on their own.
And they come in a rainbow of colors, each of which has its own taste and cooking time.
Check out this guide for lentil cook times at IndiaPhile.
This recipe for Red Lentil Dal uses red lentils-- a gorgeous lentil that falls apart when cooked, and is perfect for this easy Indian side dish!
What is Dal?
Dal is a term used in Indian cuisine for lentils.
If you order dal at an Indian restaurant, you'll usually get a bowl of spiced, cooked lentils.
Different types of dal (or lentils) have different flavors and textures.
Red Lentil Dal
My favorite kind of dal uses red lentils.
Red lentils are easy to find, and should be stocked at most grocery stores.
This lentil dish is seasoned with a either garam masala or tandoori masala-- two Indian spice mixtures which should also be fairly easy to find.
I buy mine at Whole Foods or Kroger, but you can also buy garam masala online.
Making Red Lentil Dal
To make this easy dal, you'll sauté onions along with the spices.
Then, you'll add in some fire-roasted tomatoes, and finally the lentils and water.
Simmer everything until the lentils are cooked through and soft.
Serve this easy dish alone as a soup, as a side dish, or served over rice for a more filling meal.
Want to serve this red dal with basmati rice? Learn how to cook basmati rice in the microwave!
Red Lentil Dal
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons garam masala Optionally, substitute tandoori masala spice mix (see Recipe Notes for a homemade version)
- ¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (use more or less for desired spice level)
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 15 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes Or swap 1-2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup red lentils (rinse and check for pebbles)
- 3 ½ cups water
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- To Serve: basmati or jasmine rice (optional)
- Heat oil in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat.
- When the oil is hot and begins to ripple, add onion, salt, garam masala (or tandoori spice mix), red chili flakes, and cayenne. Sauté 3-4 minutes, until the spices are fragrant and the onions are translucent.
- Add garlic, sauté 1-2 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, and simmer another 4-5 minutes. Add lentils and water. Bring to a boil, then cover pan and reduce heat to medium-low.
- Simmer until most (but not all) of the water has absorbed and the lentils soften, about 20 minutes. Add turmeric. Taste and add extra salt if desired.Serve dal warm, alone or with rice.
- Leftovers:Store leftovers in the fridge, and use within 3-4 days.Make Ahead and Freeze:Let lentils cool to room temperature, and freeze for up to 6 months.
- Change the spice: Substitute berbere (an African spice blend) for garam masala or tandoori masala
- Make it less spicy: Omit the cayenne and/or red pepper flakes
- Make this dal heartier: Add 4-5 diced Yukon Gold potatoes to the pan when you add the lentils
- Turn this dal into soup: Add 4-5 diced Yukon Gold potatoes to the pan when you add the lentils. Add 4 cups of water instead of 3 cups. Add 2 or 3 large handfuls of fresh spinach to the dal about 5 minutes before the lentils are done cooking.
- (NOT VEGAN) Add eggs: Crack 2 - 4 eggs into the lentils about 4-5 minutes before they're done cooking. Keep the pan covered.