I am back with my promise to inspire you to eat more veggies this year. This time, I am sharing a much loved, family favourite Weeknight Red Lentil Veggie Dal that I could make in my sleep. When there is no dinner and no inspiration, THIS is what I make. It is a basic red lentil dal jazzed up with lots of garlic, some fun spices and staple veggies like carrot, tomato and cauliflower.
What makes Red Lentil Dal easy to cook?
Red Lentils or split red lentils (Masoor) are the fastest cooking lentils around. You don’t need any special equipment like pressure cookers or instant pots to cook red lentils. You barely need to cook them for 15-20 minutes without any kind of pre-soaking or fancy legume wrangling. Once cooked, they collapse into a creamy consistency that is delightfully tasty and comforting. They cook well with water, stock, coconut milk or just about any liquid you can throw at them. And because they barely take any time to cook, they are the perfect choice for a quick veggie dinner.
How to cook a basic dal?
To cook a basic dal, you need a good sturdy heavy-bottomed pot. In India, traditionally most people cook their dals in curved cast iron pots called kadai. It retains heat really well and won’t burn your dal. After cooking my dal in heavy-bottomed small stockpots from Essteele and Ikea, I recently splurged on a good old-fashioned kadai (balti dish) by Le Creuset. I absolutely love how it cooks my dal.
Once you have a sturdy pot, cooking a dal just requires two steps. The tarka (or stir-fry) and the actual cooking of the lentils. The idea is to heat oil and fry onion, garlic and spices till fragrant. The red lentils are sautéed next to release their nutty flavour. Finally, the liquid is added and the dal is cooked until creamy and aromatic.
Add veggies to dal to increase your daily veggie intake.
I cook this turmeric dal quite often but that dal usually accompanies a veggie side dish like an Indian veggie stir-fry. When I am just cooking a dal by itself, I like to bulk it up with veggies like this coconut veggie dal for instance. But, my go-to dal for veggie full dinners is this Weeknight Red Lentil Veggie Dal. It is garlicky and full of subtle spices with al dente veggies that are absolutely delicious over a bed of steaming rice or scooped up with naan or rotis. In fact, this Red Lentil veggie Dal is amazing with a slice of crusty sourdough bread as well.
This dal is a good example of clever and light everyday Indian home cooking. It is vegan and gluten-free and packed with veggies, and gut healing spices. It is filling and nourishing and travels well in lunchboxes. It also freezes well and that is why it is usually on my weekly meal prep list.
Skip the cauliflower, if you want to make it last longer in the fridge or want it to be gentler on your tummy. Read my notes to see how you could make this Red Lentil Veggie Dal more decadent for guests. Share your feedback with me in the comments and ratings below. Show me your dal photos on Instagram by tagging me @cookrepublic #cookrepublic. Enjoy your veggie full meals this week!
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon nigella seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- ½ long green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 small carrots, diced
- 1 1/2 cups (300g) red lentils, washed and drained
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 6 cups water
- 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
- 1 cup (120g) cauliflower florets
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- Fresh coriander leaves, to garnish
- Extra chilli slices, to garnish
- Heat oil on high in a heavy bottomed cooking pot (saucepan or stock pot).
- Add cumin seeds, nigella seeds, bay leaf, garlic, shallots and chilli. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until shallots start to glaze.
- Add carrot and lentils. Reduce heat to medium and sauté for another 2-3 minutes until lentils are glazed. Add turmeric, garam masala and cumin. Sauté for a few seconds until the spices are fragrant.
- Add water and salt. Mix well. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil (approximately 2-3 minutes). Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered for 15 minutes until the lentils are almost cooked. Add cauliflower and tomato. Mix well. Check to see if more water is required and add half a cup if necessary.
- Cook for 10-12 minutes until cauliflower is al dente.
- Remove from heat. Check for seasoning. Garnish with coriander and chilli. Serve hot with steamed rice or rotis.
If wanting to make daal more decadent for a dinner party, swap olive oil for ghee and drizzle extra tablespoon of warm ghee before serving.
For extra flavour, instead of cooking the cauliflower with the dal; roast cauliflower in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 190C and then just add it prior to serving the dal.
This recipe has just the right amount of heat, you will barely notice it. But if you love things to be spicy, try adding another teaspoon of garam masala or half a teaspoon of red chilli powder.
Daal freezes really well. I portion and freeze it for upto two months. Can be thawed straight in the microwave.