Recipe: Creamy Coconut Curry Red Lentil Dahl

April 8th, 2014 - filed under: The Food » Recipes


This is one of my very favorite recipes, and one that I’ve considered posting about a million and a half times.

But the reason I’ve never posted it is because 1. It’s super ridiculously easy, and for some reason I have a mental block around posting recipes that seem “too easy” (it feels like cheating), and 2. There are already like, a gazillion and one (precise figure, true story) recipes for red lentil dahl on the internets.

And the reason I’m actually posting it now, finally, is because 1. Everyone who’s ever tasted it has been like OMG HOW DID YOU WHAT IN THE THIS IS AMAZING!!!1 (precise quote, true story), and 2. I have made it every single week, for the past few months, at Jeremy’s request. And anything that’s so good as to be eaten so regularly, deserves to be shared. Don’t you think?


This recipe is disarmingly simple. 10-15 minutes prep, with ~30 minutes simmering, and it’s ready to serve, no fuss. You’re probably skeptical. But seriously, just try it. Here’s what you’ll need:

2 cups red lentils
1 large onion, diced
3-4 carrots, diced
3-4 ribs of celery, diced
a few cloves of garlic, minced (to taste)
a knob of fresh ginger, minced (or not, this is pretty optional but I personally love it)
2-4 tablespoons curry powder, store-bought or homemade, divided (to taste, I err on the side of “more”, but start small and add as you like)
6-8 cups broth, either veggie or “better than chicken”/”better than beef” (all of these work but obviously, each one changes the flavor)
salt to taste

1 14-oz can full-fat coconut milk

–> my favorite optional spices for playing with the flavor = turmeric, smoked paprika, & cumin


Obviously, this is a very forgiving recipe. I make it a little bit differently each time, which is just the way it should be. Sometimes I load it up with fresh ginger, and other times I pile on the smoked paprika. Whatever suits my mood.

So! To start, put a stock pot/soup pot over a medium flame, and spray with a bit of oil – I like the coconut oil spray. Dice your onion, add to the pot, and give a good stir.

Dice your carrots. Add to the pot and stir.

Dice your celery. Add to the pot and stir. Mmmmmmire poix!


Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince the fresh ginger. When the onions are glassy and the carrots and celery have softened, add the garlic and ginger. Give a good stir and continue to cook for a minute or two.


Add the lentils. Yes, dry.

Add the spices (2 tablespoons curry powder + whatever other spices you want to add, if you’re adding others). Stir well to combine.


This dry sauté really allows the flavors to develope. After 30-60 seconds (about the time it takes to get it and measure it out, really), add the broth.


Bring the pot up to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer. Allow the soup to simmer for 30 minutes or so, checking in every so often to stir. You may have to add more broth, which is fine.

Do not add the coconut milk! Not while it simmers.

Just wait, as the aroma of mouthwatering amazingness completely infiltrates your home. Try occupying yourself with something adorable . . .


When the lentils are tender and could be served, taste the soup and adjust the flavor for curry intensity (you may want to add another tablespoon or 2 of spice, depending on how you like it) and salt.

Juuuuust before you serve, stir in the entire can of full-fat coconut milk.


And that’s it! Serve it up!

Jeremy and I almost always eat this over a bed of steamed kale or rainbow chard – of course the one time we didn’t is the one time I was taking pics. Rice or quinoa would be nice as well.

And we almost always serve it with gluten-free bread + coconut oil. And here’s the weird thing that we discovered and you’re going to be like “WHAT?! You’re crazy, that doesn’t even make any sense.” And you’re right, it doesn’t Except! It’s just sooooo good.




Pictured here, pumpernickel bagels, because they were out of the loaves at our favorite gluten-free bakery.

This dahl hits the spot, always and forever, no matter what. But IF you can get your hands on some pumpernickel, I highly recommend it. Don’t ask me to try and explain the flavor-genius that arises from this unlikely pairing, because I certainly couldn’t tell you. You’ll just have to trust me.


  • Annie

    This is almost my red lentil curry exactly, except I add about a teaspoon of mustard seeds at the onion sautee stage. Yuuuum

  • Lynn

    This looks awesome!

  • Elizabeth

    Does your pumpernickel have caraway seeds in it? Because that could be why. It is actually used in some Indian dishes and I sometimes like to include it in this flavor profile. And this does look delicious!

  • Tracy

    YUM! will definitely make. Reminds me of this (yellow lentil and squash soup) ridiculously easy but delicious dish. I also add coconut milk at the end.

  • Ader

    I am making this next weekend. True story :) and your dog pic is adorable!

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    Keep on sharing the super duper “too easy” recipes! This looks incredible, I almost made it last night but was out-voted for pizza. This weekend though? I’m bustin’ out the red lentils.

  • Bianca-Vegan Crunk

    There can never be too many recipe for red lentil dal … especially ones with coconut milk. It sounds delicious!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ooh that sounds awesome, I will definitely try that! Thanks for the tip. ;-)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    it IS! Haha

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Totally, and yeah, it’s the caraway for sure. Like, it makes sense in some weird way, but my brain just refuses to accept pumpernickel and curry as an acceptable combination. I NEVER would have come up with it! (That genius belongs to Jeremy)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ooh sounds good! Thanks for passing along the link!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Let me know how you like it! And yes, he is pretty much a cute-bomb. ♥

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I know, I really should share more of those. They are what most people want and need! I don’t know what my weird hangup is. I need to get over it!

    Let me know what you think if you make it!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Agreed! Haha. it’s a match made in heaven for sure. =)

  • leeda

    can i try this with split green peas?
    I love lentils I just ran out :)

  • Melanie

    I made this last night and it was delicious. Husband and kid approved!

  • Lina

    Om nom nom! This was seriously yummy. Thanks for sharing!

  • ohellokello

    Made this over the weekend and it’s delicious! And it was today’s lunch. Always happy to have easy, whole food recipes. Simple is a good thing, especially if it’s a tried and true recipe. It’s no fun trying new recipes that don’t turn out well.

  • Larissa BruxellesVega

    We just made this tonight and it was very very good indeed. Even the kids loved it (1.5 and 5 years old)!
    Also, I’m very happy when blogs share “super easy recipes” as it makes me want to try them more – otherwise I feel intimidated or that it will take too long to prepare (two kids, as I said). And as it was quite huge we now have left-overs in the freezer for two other meals, which makes my life much easier.
    I’m very happy we made your recipe!

  • saraandcompany

    I am scarfing this stuff down as I type, and it’s so freakin’ good!

    I don’t buy pumpernickel, but I do buy rugbrød from the European bakery near me. It’s the sourdough-y Danish kind that bakes for two hours in the oven and has the best flavour ever. I highly recommend it with this dish.

    Also, love the quick recipes! I am a poor student with no time. Ideally I’d like the food to cook itself and present itself to me, but quick recipes are an ideal second choice.

  • Amanda

    Made this Sunday with leftovers yesterday and today! So, so good!

  • Sarah Sylvester

    This soup was so delicous I ate it for 5 days straight! And I thought I didn’t like lentils…oops

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Split green peas take 3-4 hours to cook, whereas red lentils only take 20-30 minutes. I suppose if you cooked the split peas almost completely, and then added them, it might work. But it would very much change the flavor of the dish (split green peas have their own distinct flavor). So, those are my thoughts. Let me now if you try it!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    YAY! So glad to hear that Melanie!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I’m so glad you enjoyed in Lina! Thanks for letting me know. =)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yay, that makes me so happy! And I agree, one of my favorite things about this recipe is the massive amount of LEFTOVERS! =D

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Larissa, I’m so glad you and the whole family enjoyed it. All this feedback is definitely pounding the point home – I need to feature more simple + quick recipes! Duly noted for sure. ;-)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ooh that bread sounds awesome. And I’m so glad you made this and liked it! More quick recipes will definitely be coming – it’s so clear that people want more of that. And I’m happy to oblige!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    So glad you liked it Amanda! Really appreciate the feedback. ♥

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Haha, it’s all int he way you cook them! And yeah, it sure does make a lot of food. I’m glad you didn’t get sick of it for 5 days straight! For future reference, it also freezes beautifully. ;-)

  • Sandy

    I agree with everyone this soup was amazing! The coconut milk took it to a new level.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Thanks Sandy, and I agree, the full-fat coconut milk really makes it! =D

  • Lietta

    Rating this recipe 5 stars! Easily found ingredients, economical, quick preparation, one pot deliciousness. Just because I had leftover sweet potato, cubed it up, and tossed it in too. Simply divine!

  • Carol B

    Dearest Sayward, I love you and your blog, but this is not correct! Dried split peas take only 30-45 minutes to cook.

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  • Hannah

    I’ve made this over and over and over again. Still good! Thank you for this recipe. It’s become a family staple. <3

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Oh I love hearing that! So glad you love it Hannah. We were happy when the temperatures finally dropped here, and it was soup season again! =D

  • Rahul Ray