Calling all Indian-food lovers! Meet your new favourite recipe — a make-it-all-in one-pot, plant-based bowl of deliciousness: A red lentil dal spiked with cumin seeds and hot pepper flakes, fragrant with onions, ginger, and garlic. For a memorable weeknight meal serve this spicy dal with a dollop of cooling yogurt and a tower of naan all buttered up with our Garlicky Chimichurri. Or up the ante and make a feast out of it by serving alongside our popular Indian-Inspired Spinach (Saag) and our Indian-Inspired Cashew Sauce.
What is dal?
In Indian cuisine, dal means both pulses (lentils, peas, and beans) and the stews or soups that are made with them. You might also see dal spelled as daal, dhal, or dahl. This recipe is made with split red lentils.
This recipe uses split red lentils, fresh tomatoes, onion, ginger, and garlic, along with dried spices: cumin seeds, red pepper flakes, and coriander powder. Fresh cilantro is added at the end.
About Red Lentils
Split red lentils are actually orange-ish brown in colour when uncooked and turn more golden when cooked.
Split red lentils don’t require any soaking. The only preparation required is to rinse the lentils in water and remove any stones or debris that you see.
Fresher lentils will cook faster than older ones, so if your lentils are taking longer than expected that may be the reason.
When making lentils, don’t add salt or other acidic ingredients until the lentils are cooked. For this recipe, we add the tomatoes, which are acidic, after the lentils are fully cooked.
Finally, red lentils do not hold their shape when cooked – they will get mushy. However to avoid overly mushy lentils, don’t boil them continuously.
Do I need to use red lentils?
We’ve only tested this recipe with split red lentils. Other colours of lentils may work but the cooking time may vary and you may need to soak them beforehand. Read your package instructions if you’re planning on substituting.
Making 1-Pot Indian Red Lentils
There’s really 2 overall steps in making this recipe: the first is where the flavour is built and the second is where the lentils themselves are cooked.
Building flavour only takes about 10 minutes, so don’t rush this step. This is where the spices – cumin seeds, red pepper flakes, and coriander powder are tempered in oil, and fried until golden brown with our favourite flavour trifecta: onions, ginger, and garlic. (If you’ve made our popular Indian-Spiced Spinach recipe, aka Saag, you know the drill.)
Cooking the Lentils
Now that we’ve developed some amazing flavours, it’s time to add the lentils. Stir them into the seasoning mixture until well-combined. Add water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the lentils for about 15 minutes until they are soft and the water is absorbed. Now add the salt and tomatoes and simmer just long enough to break the tomatoes down a bit. You can leave this on the back burner on low or serve immediately. Stir in the cilantro just before serving.
For a simple meal, serve the lentils with naan bread buttered with our Garlicky Chimichurri – although this might sound like an odd pairing, the garlic, cilantro, and red pepper flakes in the chimichurri pair beautifully with the lentils.
If you want to make an Indian-themed feast, try our Indian-Spiced Spinach (Saag) recipe and our Indian-inspired Cashew Sauce.
You might also like:
- Indian-Spiced Spinach (Saag)
- Indian-Inspired Cashew Sauce
- 1-Pot Spicy Black Bean Soup
- Lentil, Lemon, and Dill Soup
- 1-Pot Coconut Lentil Vegetable Soup
Printable Recipe Card
1-Pot Indian Red Lentils (Dal)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
- 1/4 cup ginger, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons garlic, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 1/2 cup red lentils
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups tomatoes, chopped (substitute with canned diced tomatoes if necessary)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup cilantro, minced
Optional, for serving
- plain yogurt
- handful cherry tomatoes, halved
- You have to pay fairly close attention during the initial cooking stages so have your onions, ginger, and garlic diced and ready to go. Additionally, measure out the spices, lentils, and water, and set aside. Once you've done this you can start making the dish. While the lentils are cooking, you can chop the tomatoes and cilantro.
Making the Dish
- In a large frying pan, heat the oil and then add the cumin seeds and red pepper flakes. Fry on medium heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Turn the heat down slightly and add the onion, ginger, garlic, and coriander powder. Fry for 7-10 minutes, until the seasonings are golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add a tablespoon of water if needed to prevent burning or sticking. We added 2 tablespoons of water toward the end of cooking.
- Stir the red lentils into the seasoning mixture, making sure they are well mixed. Add the water, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15* minutes, until the water is absorbed and the lentils are soft. (*Read your package instructions, some lentils will cook faster.)
- Stir in the tomatoes and salt. Cook for a few minutes until the tomatoes break down a bit.
- Just before serving, stir in the cilantro.
Optionally, for serving
- Garnish with yogurt, cilantro, and halved cherry tomatoes.
Cooking Time for Red LentilsRead the package instructions for your lentils, as cooking times may vary. Fresher lentils will also cook faster than lentils that have been stored for a long time.
SubstitutionsYou can substitute diced canned tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes. We have not tested with other types of lentils. If using a different type, read the label for cooking times, and lentil to water ratio.
Storage, Reheating, and FreezingYou can store this in a well-sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Reheat over low heat, adding water as needed to thin out. You can freeze this in a well-sealed container for 1 month.
Nutritional InformationNutritional information is an estimate only, without optional garnishes.
We love to hear from you!
Hey Sylvia! I made this recipe last weekend and it was soo delicious. Easy too! Definitely going to make it again. Hope all is well with you!
Hi Karen! Thank you! Happy to hear you enjoyed it!