Easy Red Lentil Dhal

I know, I know.

red lentil dhal

I just made lentils, like, last week.

Here’s what actually happened. This recipe happened accidentally while I was trying to make the squash lentil curry, so it was like two for the price of one! I’ve always been a sucker for time savers and extra food.

I bought red lentils, thinking they would look better in my squash lentil curry. First mistake: squash lentil curry is just meant to look a certain way and there’s nothing you can do about that.

red lentil dhal

Second mistake: red lentils are not the same as brown lentils.

What are these little red treasures, and why I am just trying them now? Technically they were French (thank you, random Filipino imports) because they were called lentilles corale. Is that French? I renamed them dhal because that’s their Indian name and I like to make things into curry. I don’t know, I just mostly Wikipedia stuff.

red lentil dhal

These little lentils are split, so they are teeny tiny compared to the regular old brown lentil, which means they cook SUPER FAST, which means you get to eat sooner. #win

Unlike brown lentils, these red lentils cook almost effortlessly into something like a soup or sauce. So instead of trying to make them into squash lentil curry, I started adding some yummy things to them so that I could eat them. Immediately.

Coconut milk. Curry paste. Spices.

red lentil dhal

HELLO. They were so, so good and they probably took me fifteen minutes to make from start to finish. Bjork and I both had a heaping scoop over rice, twice, for three days in a row.

Spicy. Healthy. Cozy. Portable. Best ever.

Lentils for life, yo.

4.6 from 28 reviews
Easy Red Lentil Dhal
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
  • 2 ½ cups red or pink lentils
  • 5-6 cups of water (a large pot half full)
  • 2 tablespoons curry paste
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ⅓ cup water
  • ½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • lime juice
  • green herbs for garnish (I used malunggay leaves - you could use cilantro, green onions, etc.)
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Add lentils and cook uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning on the bottom. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in remaining ingredients until completely incorporated. Season with additional salt and herbs for garnish.
Makes six 1 cup servings.


Easy Red Lentil Dhal Nutrition Facts

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  1. “Coconut milk. Curry paste. Spices.” I feel like this is a winning combination no matter what else is involved!

  2. I sometimes stay away from lentils because cooking them can be a longer process. Hello, red lentils! Where have you been all my life?

    • If you use a rice cooker ever at home, it can also be used oh-so-happily to make the other types of lentils that usually take quite a bit more time and supervision!

  3. Ohhh yum Lindsay! I just love lentils!!

  4. OMG. I have been SO into lentils lately. This is another awesome recipe – Thanks!

  5. This is exactly the red lentil recipe I’ve been looking for! — and you’re right, ‘lentilles corail’ is French for red lentils!

  6. I love your lentil recipes! Will be trying this one out for sure. P.S. Those malunggay leaves you used are so pretty!

  7. Looks awesome! Be great with some home made naan!

  8. Thank you! Now I no longer have to wonder what I’m cooking this weekend.

  9. This looks beyond awesome! And I have so many lentils just sitting in a jar with no destiny… until now!

  10. My kind of meal; quick and easy! I just recently found red lentils in the store and bought a bag, now I know what I’m going to make with them! Thanks.

  11. I can’t wait to make this! It looks so awesome! I am a big fan of Indian food as is my boyfriend and would love to make more at home!

  12. I have used dhal, alongside with hommus, avocado etc as a first-base cover for toast, wraps etc literally forever! This, with its coconut milk and curry paste [one which I always make myself] is a wee more complicated, but engaging!! Shall try :) !

  13. I ate at Taste of India and almost ordered palakalu, just so I could tell you about how much I love it and how I’m now a palakalu convert and why didn’t I try this sooner… and then the waiter showed up at the tables edge and what came out of my mouth was, “I am starving. I need chicken curry, chicken josh, garlic naan and regular naan right now!” So much for straying from the beaten path…

  14. LOVE lentils. Agh and I pinned your other recipes for curry lentils but now I want to make this one and which one am I supposed to choose?? This one is easier so maybe I’ll go with that :) Major win in my book heehee

  15. I love dhal – it’s such a simple yet great comfort food. I most especially the tarka dhal variant (or referred to as tadka dhal) which, living in England, I get to sample regularly at various Indian restaurants. It’s a North India dish which uses chana dhal (aka Bengal gram dal, a bit like yellow split peas) & masur dal (aka red lentils) along with garlic and other spices. It’s amazing how much variation there is in this British Indian restaurant dish and I always order it as something of a benchmark dish in order to assess how good the restaurant is. Done well its rich roasted garlic flavour partners the lentils perfectly and having it with a roti or nann bread makes for a great combination.

  16. This is exactly the kind of thing I need to keep in mind for swift, tasty, healthy dinner. Yay!

  17. Lindsay, I’ve never had lentils before in my life… ever, and it feels mean. :(

    I want this.

  18. I made this recipe this past weekend because I had a package of red lentils in my cupboard, and I had been looking for a good, easy recipe for a red lentil-based curry or stew. I was intimidated by many of the dal recipes I had come across, which often involve frying a bunch of exotic spices in hot oil. Anyway, I loved how easily this recipe came together with spices I already had. I ate it over rice, and it tasted really great! Even my husband, who was raised on meat and potatoes and is highly suspicious of anything containing a legume, absolutely loved it!

  19. Oh this is comfort food for me! Love the way you prepared it with coconut milk! YUM!

  20. i thought the dhal was going to be amazing, but i found that it didn’t have much flavor. i ended up adding a lot of extra spices and hot sauce to make it more appetizing. maybe it was because of the curry paste i used?

  21. Found your website thanks to Pinterest and can’t wait to try out your yummy recipes! The lentils look especially delicious – the only problem is I can’t eat/drink coconut stuff. Any substitutions for coconut milk? Thanks!

  22. I made this last night for dinner Linds, and it is absolutely delish! I am currently enjoying leftovers at my desk at work!! Thank you a million times again for this delectable meal! (Matt liked it too, and he can sometimes be picky!!) #win as you would say!! XOXO Miss you!

  23. I used 3T of Trader Joe’s Thai Red Curry Sauce and lowered the coconut milk down to 1/4 cup, and it was fantastic! One of those recipes that only gets better after sitting in the fridge for a day or two.

  24. I made this recently and my husband and I both loved it. I followed the recipe exactly. It didn’t say how much lime juice, so I served each bowl with a slice of lime and we squeezed it over the top before eating. The fresh squeeze of lime was very complimentary to the curry. A perfect combination of flavors. We ate ours with garlic naan. So good. Very flavorful.

  25. This looks so good! I have everything needed to make it except red lentils. I have brown. Can these be used? If so, how would I adjust the cooking time? I don’t use lentils that often (obviously) and was gifted a TON of them so I am trying to find yummy ways to use them.

    • I wouldn’t. Usually I’m all for substitutions but as I found out, brown lentils are really different from red lentils. Red lentils cook into a much more soupy consistency which works well in this this recipe. I don’t know how the brown lentils would go with this one. :/ but I have made several other lentil curries that worked well with brown lentils, like this one: http://pinchofyum.com/red-curry-lentils. Good luck!

  26. One of my favorite Daal recipe, add some fenugreek leaves….it will taste awesome.

  27. I made this for dinner last night and it was wonderful…….yum…….thank you!

  28. This recipe is amazing!!!!!!!! And so, so simple. Thank you!!

  29. Most delicious recipe ever. It is so good. I will definately eat

  30. Love your blog, and this lentil recipe. I made it tonight for the family, so simple and delicious! Thank you for sharing.

  31. Catherine Kurdziel says:

    Do you use the coconut milk from the can (concentrated) or the box which is more of a milk replacement? I really enjoy your recipes referred to me via Aaron Robertson – I am anxious to try this recipe – thanks for all the great ideas.

  32. Hi Lindsay,
    Never a fan of lentils (or spicy curries, for that matter!), I decided to take a big leap of faith and make this dish – Loved it! However, just wondering if leftovers can be frozen?
    Love your website! Thanks!

    • I haven’t frozen this myself so I can’t say for sure, but my guess would be that you can freeze it just fine. :) Let me know how it goes!

  33. Whoa! Delicious! This literally took 15 minutes, which was perfect for throwing something together to take to work for lunch. :)

  34. Just one suggestion, its called ‘Dal’ :) You may want to remove the ‘h’.

  35. Wow, this looks so delicious!! My mother only ever prepares the brown lentils for soup so I’ve never eaten red lentils before and they seem to be so much easier to be prepared :)

    I really want to cook this for my family soon, but what exactly is curry paste? You know, we have zero Indian spices and food where I live so I’m not familiar with those things…
    But there’s always the internet 😉 What kind of curry paste did you use? Thai Curry Paste or something like Tikka Masala :)?

  36. Just made this! It’s absolutely delicious. I only had brown sugar on hand so I used that. Perfect =)

  37. These were so easy and amazing. We were all raving about them. Thanks for a great recipe – can’t wait to try out other ones from your site.

  38. I just wanted to post a comment to thank you for this recipe! I have always wanted to cook Indian cuisine, but have always been intimidated by many of the “authentic” recipes I’ve found because of all strange (to me) ingredients that were listed. This recipe was perfect. My husband even ventured into our local Indian grocery store to get the few things I needed. Not only is this recipe quick and easy, it tastes amazing! I am ready to try more recipes, most likely from your blog. Thank you! I will now be adding another entire food region to my weekly meals.

    • Awesome! Thanks Cydney! You should try the latest red lentil recipe I just posted! pinchofyum.com/crockpot-sweet-potato-lentils really similar to this one but with the addition of sweet potatoes and made in the crockpot!

  39. What curry paste did you use?

    I made your warm kale salad this week & it was a hit, & now I’m browsing your recipeson Foodgawker. I love that you have so many healthy recipes!

  40. This is the first recipe ive made of yours and it was amazing and ridiculously easy! i cant wait to try another one. Thank you1

  41. This came out great. I make red lentils often and like to try new recipes that I find from the Internet.

    I was skeptical about this one because I usually have to cut up fresh garlic and onions for my dahl.

    But this recipe’s secret ingredient (2t sugar) made it “finger licken good”. The sweetness really brings out all of the flavors.

    I also added a little tomato paste to mine, and I didn’t have any coconut milk so I used almond milk and a little butter.

    I also let mine cook a little longer because I like my dahl very soft.

  42. Hi!

    Really loved this recipe! I actually forgot to add the curry paste but still tasted great..next time will remember as I imagine it will only make it better!
    My only suggestion would be to lower the salt. 2 tsp! That is so much. Usually I just add to taste but thought I’d try to follow what you wrote but cut it to 1 tsp. Still way too much..I got other flavors but it was salty. Anyway great recipe over all! Next time I’ll curry and only a dash of salt :)

  43. I made this yesterday as I wanted something quick and I had most of the ingredients to hand. I hoped it would be tasty but doubted that something so simple could be THAT good. How wrong I was. It was absolutely delicious. I used regular milk instead of coconut milk, omitted the sugar and tossed in a chopped onion and a couple of chunked carrots (just because they were kicking around). I think I even preferred the leftovers cold (I adore cold curry but can entirely accept that that may be a me thing). Thank you for such a great, simple and adaptable recipe.

  44. Stephanie Dery says:

    Hi! I am so excited to try this recipe as well as your red curry lentils. I was wondering what type of curry you used for this recipe? Red, yellow, green?

    Thanks! Stephanie

  45. Danielle says:

    I made this recipe and my family absolutely loved it. Simple abd delicious!!

  46. I have put this into heavy rotation at my house, we adore it. I used brown lentils tonight (i was out of red) and it was equally delicious. The only change was that I had to cook them for an additional 10 minutes. thanks for the wonderful recipe(s)!!!

  47. Hi Lindsay

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

    I just had this lovely dish for dinner and now I know what will be my no.1 comfort food during the long cold fall and winter night here in Denmark :)


  48. I made this tonight. Flavor is delicious! It felt like it was missing something.. I had half and half in the fridge, and a dash of that turned it from good to great! It also seems a little runnier than I expected – how would you thicken it? Thanks so much for the recipe, I would have never thought to put these ingredients together!

  49. This is seriously delicious! Does the calorie count include the rice?

  50. This was so super easy and tasted great. I made it exactly as per the recipe. I measured out all the spices, curry paste & coconut milk while the lentils cooked and it was seriously one of the easiest dishes and surprisingly tasty. We had it with some naan and jasmine rice that was in the freezer and I topped it with some cauliflower. This one is a keeper!

  51. Mother of yum, yeeeeessss! I have tried several dahl recipes recently, trying to recreate the dahl I eat at my favorite Indian place. This is absolutely the best by far. I threatened my husband with a lunch of just rice because I wanted to just hide in a corner with the pot and a wooden spoon and eat it all like a savage.

    Your recipes rarely disappoint, but this is my favorite by far! Thank you!

  52. Just made this for lunch. Omg this is delicious!!!! I’m vegan…adore lentils so this is perfect. I used a thai red curry paste and it worked perfectly . Great amount for me to freeze too! Thank you I love it!!!!

  53. Kayla C. says:

    I don’t know if I’m incapable of reading the directions correctly, but mine turned out incredibly soupy (nowhere near the picture). Where could I have gone wrong?? I didn’t drain the 6 cups it was boiled in because the recipe didn’t say to. Also used Westbrae Natural Organic Lentils.

    • Hi, Kayla! So sorry the recipe didn’t turn out for you. Were you using red/pink lentils? (I’m not familiar with the brand you mentioned) Each type of lentil will cook slightly differently. Next time, try reducing the liquid to 5 cups instead of 6 (no draining required), and try cooking a little longer. You may not have been as far off as you think.. Lindsay said in the post “these red lentils cook almost effortlessly into something like a soup or sauce.” All that to say , it’s supposed to be kind of soupy! :)

  54. Christina says:

    I have already made this twice in a 2 weeks! Easiest dahl I have ever made – and super delicious. Will be making this often!

  55. Try this amira basmati rice …. this is one of the finest premium quality rice quality which is made by a 100 year old company

  56. This looks so easy and I am so excited to try it! Question though…. The red curry paste, is it ok to use Thai Red Curry paste? Seems that is all I can find unless I go to a specialty store. One of these days I will track it down but until then, is this ok to use? Thanks so much! :-)

  57. I just wanted to point out… perhaps it was already pointed out, and I missed it in the comment thread… that red lentils are actually “husked” lentils. Like white rice is husked brown rice. Nutritionally the effect is far less dietary fiber. For the “under 30 minutes” cook, it means significantly less cooking time and different texture for the dish.

  58. Ken Bradshaw says:

    Wow! Really good dahl recipe! We may have put a little tot much liquid in but think it will dry up a little overnight. Still, very good!

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