Red Lentil Dahl

(2 votes)
6 minutes
June 23, 2023
Carole JonesJump to Recipe

When it comes to hearty, healthy, and satisfying comfort food, few dishes can rival a steaming bowl of red lentil dahl. Bursting with exciting flavors and exotic spices, this traditional Indian dish is a favorite around the world. The art of creating authentic red lentil dahl is an experience that promises to transport your senses to the bustling streets of India. Whether you’re seeking a nutritious weeknight dinner, a dish to impress guests, or simply a cozy meal that warms your soul, this recipe will undoubtedly become a favorite in your kitchen.

Red Lentil Dahl

Join us as we unlock the secrets to achieving the perfect balance of spices, the ideal consistency, and the exquisite harmony of flavors that make red lentil dahl an enduring favorite. Along the way, we’ll share tips, techniques, and variations to suit different dietary preferences and unleash your creativity in the kitchen. So, tie your apron, gather your ingredients, and let’s jump into the goodness of this beloved comfort food that promises to leave you craving for more.

Why I Love This Recipe

Being in the midst of a major health crisis has been extremely challenging over the past few months. I’ve had to step back from so aspects of running my business, as well as the hobbies that bring me so much relaxation and joy. A specific diagnosis is still out there somewhere but my doctors are getting closer, for which I am beyond grateful. A few weeks ago, they prescribed me an anti-inflammatory diet and it has helped me feel significantly better.

After my first week of nothing but boring salads, I began testing recipes that were packed with flavor and exciting to eat. I’ve been working on so many different international flavors and this Indian Red Lentil Dahl was at the top of my “must make again” list. I served it with homemade Garlic Naan and a fresh Cucumber Raita and my whole family was instantly in love. I can’t wait to share the other amazing dishes I’ve created that are just as exciting!

Red Lentil Dahl

What is Dahl?

An Indian Dahl refers to a variety of dishes that are made from lentils or split peas. It is a traditional Indian subcontinent cuisine, specifically from the region of Bengal, but it is popular and enjoyed in many other parts of South Asia as well. The dish can vary in consistency, ranging from a thick stew-like consistency to a soup-like texture.

Dahl is typically seasoned with a combination of spices such as cumin, turmeric, coriander, and garam masala, which give it a distinctive and aromatic flavor. It is often served with rice or Indian naan bread and is a staple food in many South Asian households due to its nutritional value and affordability.

Red Lentil Dahl Ingredients & Tools

  • Dry split red lentils
  • Olive oil
  • Red onions
  • Fresh ginger
  • Fresh garlic
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Garam masala
  • Tumeric
  • Ground cumin
  • Paprika
  • Ground coriander
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Split red lentils
  • Unsweetened coconut milk
  • Roma tomatoes
  • Brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Large skillet or pot
Red Lentil Dahl with cucumber raita and garlic naan

How to Make Red Lentil Dahl

If you have 20 minutes and the right ingredients, you can make this nutritious and traditional Indian dahl recipe at home!

Time needed: 20 minutes

How to Make Red Lentil Dahl

  1. Prepare the dried split red lentils

    Before adding the dried lentils into your dahl, you need to sort through them to pull out any debris that might have been packaged inside. Then, place the lentils in a mesh strainer and wash them under cold running water until the water runs clear.

  2. Create the base aromatics

    Before you cook the red lentils, you want to create an aromatic base for the lentils to cook in so they can absorb the flavors of the onions, ginger, and garlic as they cook.

  3. Cook the red lentils

    Now that you have clean lentils and a flavorful base, add the lentils, along with either chicken or vegetable broth, and allow the lentils to soften and absorb all that flavor.

  4. Add the finishing seasonings

    Now that the lentils are soft, time to finish off the dahl with some creamy coconut milk, as well as a few finishing seasonings such as lime juice and brown sugar.

Recipe FAQs

How healthy is red lentil dahl?

Not only is red lentil dahl extremely healthy, it is also very economical. Each serving has over 25 grams of fiber and 23 grams of protein, plus high amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. For a plant-based protein, it doesn’t get much healthier than lentils.

Do you have to soak red lentils before cooking them?

It depends if you are using split red lentils or whole red lentils. Split red lentils have had their skins removed, allowing them to split in half and cook very quickly. There is no need to soak split red lentils. For whole red lentils, however, soaking them overnight, or a minimum of 4 hours, helps significantly with any digestive issues some people have when they eat lentils.

Can I use whole red lentils in this recipe?

Yes, you can certainly make this red lentil dahl using whole lentils but be sure to soak them for a minimum of 4 hours, preferably 24 hours, first. This helps them cook faster as well as minimize any digestive problems you might have with lentils. You will also need to use more broth, and more cooking time if you use whole red lentils.

Is red lentil dahl spicy?

It is completely in your control if the red lentil dahl is spicy or not. This recipe calls for a 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, which creates a mild spice level. Personally, I like mine a bit spicier so the Cucumber Raita sauce that is served on the side can do its job of cooling my palate. I still make the recipe as written but sprinkle a little extra cayenne over my serving.

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Red Lentil Dahl

Red Lentil Dahl

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 2 reviews

Using split lentils lets this Indian red lentil dahl be ready to eat in just 20 minutes!

  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x



1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 2/3 cups dry split red lentils

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

2 roma tomatoes, diced

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons brown sugar

Juice of 2 limes

Serve with:

1 recipe coconut jasmine rice

1 recipe cucumber raita

1 recipe garlic naan


  1. Place lentils in a mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Set aside.
  2. Place a pan over high heat and add olive oil. Add the onions and sauté until translucent and they soften, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 1 more minute.
  4. Add the spices and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the broth and lentils. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes, or until lentils have absorbed most of the liquid.
  6. Add the coconut milk and tomatoes. Cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the lentils are tender and the dahl is thick. If it gets too thick, you can add more broth or coconut milk.
  7. Season with kosher salt, pepper, brown sugar, and lime juice. Taste and adjust any seasonings as needed.
  8. Serve the dahl with coconut rice, cucumber raita, and garlic naan


This recipe creates a mild level of spice. You can eliminate or reduce the cayenne pepper if you don’t want any spice, or add more if you like it extra spicy.

  • Author: Carole Jones
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Indian


  • Serving Size: 1/8
  • Calories: 452
  • Sugar: 9 g
  • Sodium: 722 mg
  • Fat: 15 g
  • Saturated Fat: 7 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 3 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 61 g
  • Fiber: 25 g
  • Protein: 23 g
  • Cholesterol: 5 mg

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Carole Jones

Carole Jones is an Arizona-based cookbook author & food blogger. She's authored The 30 Minute Cooking From Frozen Cookbook and the self-published Take 5: Chicken e-cookbook. For the past 15 years, Carole has shared her culinary adventures cooking and baking for her six brutally honest children here on My Kitchen Escapades. Hot, crusty bread is Carole's love language, but her two adorable grandchildren are a close second. Yes, second. Don't judge.


11 months ago

Everything I wanted in a dahl and couldn’t believe how fast it was ready. Thank you Carol!

Carole Jones
11 months ago

Crazy how easy it is to make, right?!?

11 months ago

This is better than my local Indian place and was very easy.

Carole Jones
11 months ago

Thanks for your review Kate! I’m so glad you loved it.

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