A fantastic recipe for vegan red lentil dhal with spinach adapted to make it easy to prepare on the fly. You’ll need a large pot and a small frying pan for tempering spices. It makes a great dish to serve with or as a soup with some bread on the side.
A family staple
My family has been eating dhal for as long as I can remember. No Indian or Sri Lankan feast was complete without a side of yellow coloured lentils. Whether it was tadka dhal, most commonly found in Indian cuisine, or Sri Lankan with coconut milk, we needed it to make our meal complete. Growing up, I never appreciated it. I was not too fond of all South Asian food as a child. My taste buds were hard-wired for bland, bland, bland. But now, I love dhal. It’s warm and comforting and filled with plant protein and fibre that fills you up for cheap. Dhal is also my husband’s favourite recipe, so after making it repeatedly, I finally perfected the recipe in a way that doesn’t lose its authenticity but is still easy to prepare.
This recipe happens to be one of my one-year-old’s favourite meals, which is great because it’s jammed packed with nutrition. Cook it in a cast iron pot with an iron fish to up the iron levels for a healthy family. I started offering this to my daughter as young as six months because it was easy to prepare and serve. She loved it right away. As she got older, I would mix in a little rice and serve it as a more complete meal with some fruits on the side.
If you like this recipe, be sure to check out my Golden Chickpea Coconut Stew for another big pot stew loading with flavour.
Easy Red Lentil Dhal
- Large pot
- Small frying pan
- Blender or potato masher (to puree tomatoes)
- 1.5 tbsp oil choose neutral flavoured oil
- 1 tsp garam masala curry powder works too
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1-2 green chillies optional
- 2 cups red lentils thoroughly washed
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 can (796 ml) diced tomatoes *The equivalent in fresh tomatoes also works
- 2 handfuls spinach chopped
- 2 tbsp oil choose neutral flavoured oil
- 10 curry leaves
- 1.5 tsp garlic
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- Add oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add garam masala, turmeric, coriander powder and cumin seeds. [Don't include tempering spices which will be added at the end.] Toast spices over medium heat until they are aromatic, about one minute. Add a little water to deglaze.
- Add onion, garlic, ginger and chillies, sauté for a few minutes until softened.
- Mix in red lentils until well incorporated. Add vegetable broth, cover and let simmer for five to ten minutes.
- Separate the can of diced tomatoes in two and puree or crush one half. This step allows you to have half pureed/half chunky. If you don't like chunks, puree the full can or buy tomato already pureed. Add all of the tomatoes to the pot, cover and let simmer for another 15 minutes.
Prepare the tempering:
- Heat oil over medium heat in a small frying pan. Add curry leaves, garlic, cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Cook until the spices start to brown and mustard seeds pop. Add to the dhal and let simmer for five more minutes.
- If the dhal is running thick, add two to three cups of water. Stir in spinach and lemon juice.