Indian Dahl

Indian Dahl
From, by Christina Lane

Indian Dahl Photo

So, maybe it’s becoming a bit glaringly obvious, but I love Indian food. I love it because it usually comes together with ingredients I already have in my pantry, and because it’s usually a fantastic vegetarian dinner option. 

While other vegetarian dinners can be lacking in the flavor department, you would never accuse Indian food of lacking flavor! The aromatic spices fill your house with alluring aromas. All you have to do is add a carb on the side to make it a meal. Hot cooked basmati rice is an obvious choice, but naan bread from the freezer is also welcomed.

I make my Dahl with tiny red lentils. They’re more of a salmon color in the bag, actually. They are readily available in most grocery stores. I always have some in my pantry because I make baby food with them. (Side note: lentils are a great source of iron for growing babies!)

While I love one-pot meals, yellow dal is not a one-pot meal. This is because the spices must be toasted in oil in a separate frying pan before being added to the soup. There is something about this special step that makes the soup always taste better for me, though. 

Indian Dahl Picture

I’ve often wondered what other applications could toasting spices in oil before being adding to the pot come in handy. Regardless, I use one of those Le Creuset soup pots where the lid is a frying pan, so I technically get away with calling this a one-pot meal in my house.

While the lentils and tomatoes soften, fry the onion and spices on the side. This recipe is a great way to use up some lingering dried spices in your house. It calls for turmeric, cumin, coriander, and cayenne.

The best way to finish the soup is with the juice of half a lemon, a dab of butter melting into the pot, and chopped fresh cilantro.


Indian Dahl Recipe



  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce, you can use fresh tomatoes in the summer
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • juice from half a lemon
  • fresh cilantro, for serving
  • hot cooked rice, for serving


  1. In a medium saucepan, add the lentils, tomato sauce and 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, add the oil. Once hot, fry the onions until brown on the edges, stirring frequently.
  3. Add the garlic, and let cook for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  4. Add the spices (cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne), and fry for 1-2 minutes, until nice and toasty.
  5. When the lentils are soft and starting to fall apart (after about 20-25 minutes of simmering), add the fried onions and spices.
  6. Stir, and add the salt.
  7. Bring to a gentle simmer, and let cook for 5 minutes to mingle the spices.
  8. Before serving, add the butter, lemon juice and cilantro.
  9. Serve with rice. 



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