Easy, Vegan Red Lentil Dal

May 31, 2017

Easy, Vegan Red Lentil Dal

Just lentils, tomatoes, garlic, onion and spices with a splash of lime and cilantro. Done! 

It’s almost hard to believe something this flavorful is so incredibly simple to make. One of the things I love most about this recipe is not only is it easy to prepare, but cleanup is also a snap, which makes this dal perfect for a quick & healthy weeknight meal.

What is dal? Dal is a staple in Indian cuisine and, according to Wikipedia; the term is used to describe “dried split pulse (that is, lentils, peas and beans)” and is also used to refer to “various soups prepared from these pulses.” Every region of India has a variation of dal, and this one originates from West Bengal.

Red Lentils

As a vegetarian, nutrient-dense lentils have long provided a healthy source of protein in my diet as they contain 9 grams of protein per half cup cooked. Prepared with a lively Bengali five spice mix (panch phoran) that you can buy or make with pantry items of your own, ordinary red lentils transform into a creamy, tasty stew that will make you fall in love with South Asian inspired food.

A note about the Bengali five spice: Traditionally, this spice blend is neither roasted nor ground. But if you only have ground spice, use what you’ve got! I regularly use a blend of seeds and ground spices and it still packs a punch.

Bengali Five Spice non traditional

I’ve made this recipe several times, even on those nights when I don’t feel like standing in a hot kitchen and this recipe never disappoints. Plus, it keeps for several days in the fridge and makes a great lunchtime meal too.

Thanks to Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes for turning us on to this incredibly delicious and addictive red lentil dal recipe. 


Easy Vegan Red Lentil Dal

Prep Time: 10 min

Total Time: 30 min

Recipe Type: Soup

Serves: 4



1 cup red lentils

3 cups water

3 tomatoes (heirloom or beefsteak)

2 tsp oil

½ cup yellow onion, finely chopped

2 medium garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped and made into a paste

2 tsp Bengali five spice mix or ½ tsp each: black sesame seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds

1 bay leaf

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp kosher salt

1 lime

8 sprigs cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped

Basmati or wild rice, optional



1. Blanch Tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Score the skin of the tomatoes with a knife in the shape of an “X”. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water and blanch for one minute.

Remove the tomatoes to a cutting board and allow to cool. Once cool, peel the tomatoes and discard the tough ends. Chop or mash the tomatoes and set them aside.

2. Rinse & Cook Lentils. While waiting for your tomato water to boil, pour lentils into a metal sieve and rinse well with cold water.

Add 1 cup of lentils to a medium sauce pan. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until lentils are soft.

3. Sauté onions, garlic & spices. While the lentils cook, prepare your spice mix and chop the onions.

After you’ve blanched the tomatoes, empty the boiling water and before returning the pot to heat add the oil.

Return the pot to heat over medium. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent (2-3 minutes)

Add garlic and cook for about a minute, making sure it does not burn.

Add the Bengali five spice. Cook and stir for about 2-3 minutes. Add bay leaf and turmeric. Stir.

4. Add Cooked Lentils, Salt: To the large pot with the onions and spices, add the cooked lentils along with the lentil cooking water. Add salt. Cook for 10 minutes.

5. Add Lime Juice & Tomatoes. Add the lime juice and tomatoes to the pot and cook for about 3-5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt if needed.

Stir in the chopped cilantro and remove with heat. Optionally, use a hand held blender to gently chop up more of the tomato, if desired.

Serve over bed of rice or with naan bread.

Have you made this recipe? Let us know what you think! Learn more about some of the products used in this recipe:

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