This vegan dal (also spelled dahl and daal) is easy to make and comes together with simple pantry ingredients. It's the perfect meal for busy people who want something fast, nourishing, and simple to make. A red lentil curry makes a great meal for students, parents, or those who need extra hours in the day—they require minimal effort and can be left to simmer until done.

The world dal doesn’t actually refer to a dish but to the pulse itself. Once a pulse is split and the outer casing is removed it becomes dal, and we often see red lentils labeled as dal. For more red lentil recipes, try my best lentil soup and a variation of this ayurvedic kitchari with red lentils in place of moong dal.

A bowl of lentil curry topped with nuts and herbs in hard light.
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Lentil dal ingredients with labels.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Red lentils: if you don't have red lentils, use other quick-cooking dal like mung dal.
  • Potato: add carrots or chopped beets instead of potato. Note that beets will make it bright pink. You can also add chopped or cherry tomato instead of or as well as potatoes.
  • To serve: dish it over rice or with bread if you prefer. I like it with a slice of buttered wholegrain bread.
  • Garnish: it's pictured with yoghurt, raisins, and coconut, but feel free to add chutney, more herbs, or raita on top.
  • Add-ins: toss in a handful of fresh chopped spinach at the end, fresh chopped tomato, or top with roasted yams, carrots, or cauliflower.


Dal steps 1 to 4, cooking aromatics and spices and adding liquids, and after cooking.

Step 1: sauté the onion, ginger, and garlic until softened.

Step 2: stir in the lentils, spices, and vegetables with water. Simmer for about 40 minutes.

Step 3: in the meantime, prepare the chhonk and any side dishes.

Step 4: serve the dal hot, topped with chhonk.

Top Tips

  • Multitask for the sides: cook your rice while the dal is cooking to speed everything up a bit. Brown rice takes about 40 minutes to cook, so it should be started as soon as the lentil start simmering, but white rice is faster. Make your chhonk at the same time.
  • Season to taste: lentils soak up a lot of salt, so it's a good idea to taste the dal and add more as needed before serving.
  • Serve it as a main: the lentil base of this meal provides an excellent source of protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamin B, folic acid, iron, zinc, and little fat—all of which help add to it being pretty amazing.

How to Store

Storage: keep the dal in a sealed container in the fridge for 4-5 days without toppings. Reheat as usual before serving.

Freezing: transfer cooled dal to an airtight container and freeze for up to three months. Thaw in the fridge before reheating.

What is Chhonk?

Chhonk is an Indian method for cooking - tempering - spices in hot oil or ghee to release their natural oils and make a flavour-packed blend. It's used extensively in Indian cooking and turns a simple dish like this into something fantastic.

To make chhonk, heat the oil in a small pan until hot. Add the seeds and toast until they become fragrant, then pour the warm oil and spices over the cooled dal. This chhonk is essential for the dal to taste delicious—it's a step that can't be skipped!


Are dal and lentils the same?

Dal is split pulses or legumes, which may or may not be lentils. It can be any legume, including lentils but also beans and mature peas.

What is lentil dal made of?

Lentil dal is made with any split lentil, and usually includes some kind of vegetable, plenty of spices, and some other additions like ghee or oil. It's flexible and you can alter it to your taste.

Do red lentils need to be soaked?

Red lentils don't need to be soaked before cooking, especially the split variety. You can rinse them - especially if they seem dusty - and pick them over if you're not sure of the quality.

If you make this Red Lentil Dahl or any other vegan mains on Wholehearted Eats, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe. For more WHE, follow along on Instagram or subscribe for new posts via email.


A bowl of lentil curry topped with nuts and herbs in hard light.
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4.59 from 12 votes

Vegan Red Lentil Dal

This vegan dal (also spelled dahl and daal) is easy to make and comes together with simple pantry ingredients. It's the perfect meal for busy people!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Servings: 4


  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Large pot
  • Drying pan
  • Wooden spoon



  • 1 tablespoon coconut or avocado oil
  • 1 onion chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger I love to use a Microplane
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup chopped yellow potato about 1 potato
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ lemon


  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 dried red chilli optional

To Serve, optional

  • Cashews
  • Toasted Coconut
  • Chilli Flakes
  • Cilantro
  • Raisins
  • Yoghurt


  • Begin by heating 1 tablespoon oil in a pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes or until it begins to soften. Next, add the ginger and garlic and sauté for 2 or 3 more minutes, or until fragrant.
    1 onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger, 1 tablespoon coconut or avocado oil
  • Add the turmeric and ½ teaspoon of ground cumin along with the lentils, water, and potato. Bring this mixture to a boil, then cover and turn down to a low simmer (I let it cook on the lowest setting possible) for 40-50 minutes, or until the potatoes and lentils are softened.
    4 cups water, 1 cup red lentils, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, 1 cup chopped yellow potato
  • Meanwhile, make to chhonk (the flavoured oil). Heat the 2 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan until it begins to shimmer. Add the whole cumin and coriander seeds and cook for a few minutes or until toasty and fragrant—watch them, they will burn quickly. Remove from the heat and add the dried chilli if desired.
    2 tablespoons coconut oil or avocado oil, 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds, 1 dried red chilli
  • Season the cooked dal with the sea salt and lemon. Stir the chhonk into the dal. Taste and adjust as needed.
    1 teaspoon sea salt, ½ lemon
  • Serve with bread or rice and garnish as desired.
    Cashews, Toasted Coconut, Chilli Flakes, Cilantro, Raisins, Yoghurt


I like to eat my dal with a buttered slice of wholegrain bread, but you can also serve it on quinoa, rice, or alongside any flatbread.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 361kcal


  1. This looks amazing! And so comforting for this time we're in.
    I know you mentioned other variants around lentils; any thoughts on using split peas here? 🙂

    1. Hi, I think they would totally work, especially the yellow ones. They do involve a longer cooking time (1 1/2 to 2 hours) so you will want to check the pot and add more water if need be. Best of luck <3

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