Fragrant, filling and frugal, this coconut lentil curry can be made in one pot, saving on time and on the washing up. A delicious take on the classic Indian lentil dish, this vegan coconut dal is sure to become one of your go-to dinners.
I adore a simple red lentil dal and adding coconut milk makes it creamy, rich and delicious. While my kids prefer my simple tomato-based red lentil dal, the adults in my house love this coconut dal instead.
Easy to make and using just one pan this is a cheap, nutritious plant-based meal that is a great staple meal that everyone can enjoy.
Origins of dal
Dal is a spiced lentil dish that is common across south Asian countries such as India, Pakistan and Nepal. It is the staple food of millions (possibly billions) of people in this area every day.
Similar lentil dishes are also eaten in other countries around the world such as Malaysia, Ethiopia and countless others.
It's also common in the UK, and not just in Indian restaurants. For example you'll often find as a staple menu item in vegan and vegetarian restaurants.
Dal, also spelt daal, dhal or dahl, has the benefit of being very cheap to make and extremely nutritious. Lentils are an excellent source of vegetarian protein and are also suitable for vegans.
Variations of dal
There are countless varieties of dal. While in a typical supermarket you might find red split lentils, green lentils and puy lentils on the shelves, if you head to an Asian supermarket you'll find many more varieties available.
Because there are lots of different kinds of lentils the resulting dishes can vary enormously.
What kind of lentils are best for coconut dal
As mentioned above there are many different kinds of lentils and consequently many different kinds of dal.
In India tool dal (also known as pigeon peas) are often used. As dried split red lentils are much easier to get hold of here in the UK I’ve opted to use these. They don't need to be pre-soaked, which makes them very convenient.
What ingredients do you need to make coconut dal?
For full ingredients list, quantities and instructions see recipe card at the end of this post.
- Sunflower, vegetable or coconut oil
- Black mustard seeds
- Cumin seeds
- Curry leaves (fresh are best - can be found in large supermarkets or Asian stores)
- Ground turmeric
- Chilli powder (omit or increase to suit your personal taste)
- Red split lentils
- Coconut milk (one standard UK-sized tin)
- Hot water
- Garam masala (a delicious spice blend, available in most supermarkets)
- Fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
Any special equipment needed?
This dal is very straightforward to make and you should have all the equipment you need in your kitchen already.
- sharp knife
- chopping board
- large saucepan with a lid
- wooden spoon
The following are not essential but useful:
- teaspoon and tablespoon measures
- digital scales
- measuring jug
Making coconut dal ahead
Dal is a great recipe to make ahead. It keeps well for 3-5 days, can be frozen, and the flavour actually improves with time.
Great for batch cooking
I highly recommend doubling or tripling this coconut dal recipe and freezing the leftovers.
Storing cooked dal
Allow to cool completely and then store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.
Lentil curry freezes very well. Allow to cool completely and then transfer to a freezer box or bag. The dal will expand slightly as it freezes so leave a little space at the top of your container.
Another important step to remember is to label and date your dish. Once frozen red lentil curry can be hard to identify at the bottom of your freezer!
When you are ready to eat your coconut dal, defrost in the fridge overnight and reheat until piping hot.
Or you can defrost in the microwave. Place in a microwavable dish and defrost for a minute at a time, stopping to stir after each minute. Once defrosted reheat until piping hot.
This coconut dal is suitable for the following diets:
- gluten free
- dairy free
- egg free
What to serve with your dal
I often make dal as part of a thali style meal. A thali is a common way of serving a meal in India and includes several different curries, rice, a chapati, a yoghurt dish or raita, some chutney, a salad and sometimes a sweet as well.
Here are some of my favourite things to serve with coconut dal to make an Indian feast for dinner:
Pin coconut dal for later
How to make coconut dal
If you have made this recipe and loved it please consider leaving a comment and rating below.
- Chopping board
- Sharp knife
- Large saucepan with lid
- Wooden spoon
- 1 tablespoon sunflower or vegetable or coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3 curry leaves*
- 1 white onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- thumb sized piece of ginger chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon chilli powder or to taste
- 2 tomatoes chopped
- 250 g dried red lentils*
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 500 ml hot water plus more if needed
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- Salt to taste
- Fresh coriander (cilantro) to serve
- Heat a tablespoon of sunflower oil in a large saucepan. Add a teaspoon of mustard seeds, a teaspoon of cumin seeds and three curry leaves. Stir fry until the mustard seeds begin to pop.
- Add a chopped onion, stir well, turn the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft.
- Remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium and cook for a further 5 minutes until the onion has some colour on it.
- Add 3 cloves of chopped garlic and a thumb-sized piece of chopped ginger. Stir and fry for several minutes until starting to soften.
- Stir in a teaspoon of turmeric and half a teaspoon of chilli powder (omit or increase to suit your taste).
- Add your two chopped tomatoes, stir and cook for 5-10 minutes until soft.
- Pour in 250g red lentils, 400ml coconut milk and 500ml hot water. Stir well and bring to the boil before reducing the heat to a simmer.
- Cook, stirring often, for 20-30 minutes until the lentils are soft. Top up with extra hot water if needed.
- When cooked add a tablespoon of garam masala and season with salt to taste. Stir well and serve with fresh coriander leaves and rice or bread.
- Curry leaves can be found in big supermarkets or Asian supermarkets. You can leave them out if you can't find them.
- No pre-soaking needed.
- Can be made ahead and reheated. Store in the fridge.
- Suitable for freezing.
- Nutritional information is approximate and is intended as a guideline only.
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