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Top-down, close-up image of mottled turquoise bowl of dal made from split red lentils and Indian spices. It's topped with a big spoonful of yogurt and decorated with red, yellow, and green halved-cherry tomatoes. The bowl sits on a bright blue surface, with a spoons sitting next to it.
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5 from 1 vote

1-Pot Indian Red Lentils (Dal)

This 1-pot red lentil dal is the ultimate plant-based comfort food for lovers of Indian flavours. Spiked with cumin seeds and fragrant with onions, ginger, and garlic, this spicy dal works as a simple main. Serve along with rice or naan for a warming and cozy meal.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Course: dinner, lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: dal, red lentils, spicy dal, spicy lentils
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 251kcal
Author: sylvia


  • 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
  • cilantro
  • handful cherry tomatoes, halved


Recommended Preparation

  • 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 Lentils
Read 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. 
You 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 Freezing 
You 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 Information
Nutritional information is an estimate only, without optional garnishes. 


Calories: 251kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 413mg | Potassium: 689mg | Fiber: 16g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 625IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 82mg | Iron: 4mg