This red lentil Dahl (Masoor Dal) is a must-try aromatic and delicious Indian curry. Easy to make, it's a naturally gluten-free bowl - perfect for a healthy, budget-friendly vegan dinner.
This recipe was originally posted on July 1, 2020 and updated on September 18, 2022 with process images and updated instructions.
Red Lentil Dahl is a healthful and nourishing dish that every cook should have a version of in their back pocket. Besides being warmly spiced, Dahl is a great source of protein, fibre and good carbs.
Why You'll Love This Red Lentil Dahl
Reader Review - “Don’t go rogue on me” This is a great recipe! I cook lentils quite often and this is up there with one of my favourites! Your directions are bang on as well. Thanks for this delicious recipe!" (Christine) ★★★★★
As far as convenience goes, you can't go too far past red lentils. They are the quickest of the lentils to cook and keep well in the pantry. This Masoor Dal is one of our favourite mid-week meals to make. It's:
What is Masoor Dal?
Masoor is simply red lentils, the same as you can find in any grocery store. Dahl (also spelled dal, dhal or daal) translates to "lentil" but most understand it to be a thick soupy curry made with lentils.
Today we are using our red lentils to create a thick and creamy Indian Dahl ready in around 40-minutes from start to finish including a roasted eggplant topping. It is made deliciously flavourful with a tarka or tadka.
What is Tarka or Tadka?
Tarka (also called tadka) is tempering aromatic spices in hot oil to release their full flavour. For our Masoor Dal the spices are tempered in oil with fresh tomato, onions, garlic, ginger and chillies. The cooked lentils are then added to the tarka to infuse. So good!
Source: One Green Planet
Ingredients and Substitutions
This red lentil Dahl is a fantastic go-to meal - it's quick, simple and super delicious. Another bonus to this recipe is that most of the ingredients enjoy a good long shelf life if properly stored in sealed containers away from direct sunlight. Win.
Here's what you'll need.
Red lentils. Red lentils are so great because they cook quickly. Love that. You could use other lentils here, just cook them longer - anywhere from 25-35 minutes depending on the type, just check the bag for cooking times.
Aromatics. Spices are the backbone of any good curry and this Dahl uses cumin, coriander seeds, garam masala, turmeric and mustard seeds. We are also going to lean in to pungent garlic and warming ginger.
Tomatoes. I use fresh tomatoes but you can use canned too.
Chillies. Green chillies are traditional but in a pinch you can use red or even chilli flakes.
Eggplant. This Dahl sings with the additional of silky roasted eggplant. Don't get too caught up in which type of eggplant, I've used Lebanese, Zebra, Globe, Japanese...maybe avoid Thai eggplant (it's a bit bitter and seedy).
If it can be chopped and roasted, it's in.
How to Make Red Lentil Dahl
You'll find full instructions and measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
Part 1. Preparing the Lentils
Step 1. As with any lentils, pick the red lentils over and discard any gnarly ones or stones. Your teeth with thank you.
Step 2. Rinse the lentils well. You can run them under water in a fine sieve until the water runs clear or swish and repeat as I do.
The Swish and Repeat: To swish, put the lentils in a large pot or bowl and add water to cover. Swish the lentils and water around with your hands. The water will turn cloudy - at this point drain it out. Add more clean water and repeat the process until the water is clear after swishing.
Step 3. Once the lentils are rinsed, add them to a pot with 3 and three-quarter cups of fresh water. Don't go rogue on me - follow the measurement. The amount of water will affect the thickness of the finished Dahl.
Bring the water to a boil skimming off any white foam that appears on top. Reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover and cook for 15 minutes. The lentils will cook for another 5 minutes when you add them to the tarka so try not don't overcook them.
Step 4. After the lentils are cooked, whisk them for a minute to break them up.
Part 2. Prepare the Tarka
Heat the oil in a skillet or pan over medium to high heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook for twenty seconds or until the seeds begin to pop. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and ginger and cook for 3-5 minutes until soft.
Stir in the garam masala, turmeric and ground coriander seeds and cook while stirring for 30 seconds.
Add the chopped tomatoes and garlic and the chopped chillies. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, for 3 to 5 minutes.
After you prepare your tarka, the lentils will be stirred in and left to infuse. Simples.
Part 3. Roast the Eggplant
While this red lentil Dahl is completely delicious on its own, I love adding silky roasted eggplant cubes to mine. I pop them in the oven before I begin cooking the lentils and find they are ready pretty much at the same time the Dahl is. Cubed pumpkin, carrot or sweet potato also works beautifully. You will just have to adjust their cooking times.
+ Helpful Tips To Making the perfect Dahl
Healthy, aromatic and so easy to make, this Masoor Dal makes a wonderful and quick dinner. While I would still like to try my husband's vegetable curry again one day (hint!) I am more than happy to bide my time with this gloriously golden and flavoursome bowl. Enjoy,x.
Yes! Once cooled completely, you can pop your dal in to a sealed, freezer-friendly container safely for up to 3 months. NOTE: Dal will keep in the fridge for only a few days.
You can. It will change the flavour slightly but they will work fine in a pinch. A 400ml can (13.5oz) should do the trick.
Lentils on their own are not a complete protein. The term “complete protein” refers to amino acids, the building blocks of protein. For a protein to be "complete" it needs to have the nine essential amino acids required to build and repair protein tissues in the body (Source: Health Magazine). However, serving lentils with rice, quinoa or soy will get you to the nine.
They are! Lentils are a legume not a grain and are naturally gluten-free.
If you like this Dahl and you need tasty food quick, try these quick and healthy recipes.
Want more plant-based goodness?
Red Lentil Dahl Recipe
For the Eggplant
- 2 medium eggplants cubed, or 4-5 smaller varieties
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
For the Masoor Dal
- 1 ¼ cups / 255g dried red lentils
- 3 ¾ cups / 937ml water
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil or a neutral flavoured cooking oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 onion finely diced
- 1 tablespoon ginger finely grated
- ¾ teaspoon garam masala
- ¾ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground coriander seeds
- 3 tomatoes, well chopped well 240 grams cherry tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2-3 green chillies remove seeds if you don't like things too hot
- 1 teaspoon salt
- a good crack of black pepper
- To prepare the eggplant preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) and line a roasting tray
- Combine the eggplant cubes, olive oil and salt in a bowl and massage to combine. Lay the eggplant out on the prepared tray and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
- While the eggplant is cooking, pick over the red lentils and remove any hard stones. Rinse thoroughly - until the water runs clear - before adding them to a saucepan with the water.
- Bring the lentils to a boil over medium heat skimming any foam from the top. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 15 minutes. When cooked, whisk the lentils and any remaining water to break up and combine.
For the Tarka
- While the lentils are cooking, prepare the tarka. Heat the oil in a skillet or pan over medium to high heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and cook for twenty seconds or until the seeds begin to pop. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and ginger and cook for 3-5 minutes until soft. Stir reguarly so they don't stick to the pan too much.
- Stir in the garam masala, turmeric and ground coriander seeds and cook while stirring for 30 seconds.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and garlic and the chopped chillies. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Stir in the lentils and reduce the heat to low. Add the salt and pepper and the roasted eggplant and cook the complete dal for 5 minutes for the flavours to infuse.
- Serve with rice or naan bread, dairy-free natural yoghurt and fresh coriander.
- Be prepared! Before I cook, I make sure all my ingredients are ready to go. I pop the mustard seeds and cumin seeds in a little bowl with the ground spices in another. Everything is at hand ready for cooking.
- Cheat! I throw my tomatoes and garlic in to my processor to chop together. I wipe the bowl out and also chop my onion followed by my green peppers (chillies) separately.
- Adjust! If you don't like things too spicy, remove the seeds from the green peppers before chopping.
- Fresher lentils will cook more quickly than less-fresh ones - you know... the ones living in the back fo your pantry.