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 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.
Why cook with Red Lentil Dal?
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.
Make a vegetable dal
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 Red Lentil Veggie Dal. It is garlicky and full of subtle spices with perfectly cooked 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, packed with veggies, and gut-healing spices. It is filling and nourishing and travels well in lunch boxes. 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. Enjoy your veggie-full meals this week!
More Delicious Dal Recipes
Hungry For More Recipes? Subscribe to my newsletter. Check out Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to see everything I share! And if you love cooking and new cookbooks, join my free Cooking Club on Facebook!
Red Lentil Veggie DalPrint Recipe Rate / Comment
- 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 (300 g) 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 (120 g) 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 carrots 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.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes until cauliflower is tender. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking and burning. If the dal starts becoming too thick, add a quarter cup water.
- Remove from heat. Check for seasoning. Garnish with coriander and chilli. Serve hot with steamed rice or rotis.
I make this on repeat, absolutely love it with some homemade flatbreads.
Probably sacrilege to day, but I also enjoy a spoon of Greek yoghurt mixed in when I serve, just for the extra creaminess and Sour bite it adds! Thankyou for the awesome (quick) recipe!
oh my goodness Erin! That is exactly how I've eaten this dal for almost 40 years .. with a big dollop of natural unsweetened yoghurt stirred in it. When I was little I used to call it "Khatti Dal" which means sour dal :). So chuffed you love this recipe! x
I made this last night - I feel the water to lentil ratio was too high (6 cups water to 1 1/2 cups lentils) and it ended up way too runny, and even though I amped up the spices it was lacking a little in flavour. But I will give it another go with less water :))
Ah, Sorry it didn't turn out as you expected. But the water to lentil ratio is correct, I just made this dal over the weekend following the recipe to the letter. Ideally, you would be using 3-3.5 cups of water for 1 cup of lentils. This weeknight dal recipe is meant to be ladled over rice and therefore looser and runnier than the standard dal (this is how most Indian households cook dal every night). You could, of course, reduce the water by a cup for a more robust and drier dal that could be scooped with a naan or roti. Alternatively, if you cooked this dal longer (maybe another 10-15 minutes) with the amount of water stipulated here, it will thicken up even more. You could add more spices as per your taste 🙂 Hope you'll make it again! Thank you x
Just made this, minus a few spices I unfortunately didn't have on hand, and it's absolutely delicious, easy as well! Can't wait to see how the flavours develop in the coming days, thanks a lot for the recipe 🙂
Altho' I do not follow any diet and am most certainly not a vegetarian, I seem to make dal almost every week and this recipe methinks will be a delight added to my rotation ! Love the addition of nigella seeds - do not as yet use them as knowledgeably as I should. I would happily serve this as a main meal to friends . . . weekends included 🙂 !
This looks super yummy! I can't wait to try this!
Thank you! Hope you love it x