Home » Course » Entree » SPICY RED LENTIL DAL


This healthy, vegan Spicy Red Lentil Dal is a flavorful blend of red lentils, tomatoes, ginger and other Indian spices made in one pot and ready in about 30 minutes!

side angle view of freshly make red lentil dal in a cast iron pot.

Cozy up with this quick and easy one pot red lentil dahl recipe made with red lentils (aka masoor dal), tomatoes, garlic, garlic, ginger and combination of warming spices. It makes a flavorful and hearty Indian dish that’s perfect for your next weeknight meal!

The ingredient list is pretty easy using common ingredients you may already have on hand. I encourage you to gather your ingredients, get in the kitchen and make yourself a batch because it’s pretty much the best lentil dal ever!

Dal is traditionally served over rice, but I LOVED it on a bed of arugula! The nutty flavor of this bitter green paired beautifully while adding freshness. And a squeeze of lemon adds a lovely brightness!

Happy chopping, dicing, cooking and most of all eating!

top down view of ingredients used to make vegan spicy red lentil dahl.

Ingredients You’ll Need

In this recipe, onion, garlic, ginger and tomatoes are cooked until soft and simmered with red lentils and Indian spices creating a thick and hearty, vegan lentil stew.

Here is everything you’ll need:

  • Red Lentils
  • Onion – I’ve used two onions here, but feel free to use 1 instead.
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Tomatoes – fresh tomatoes are great, but canned are ok too for ease.
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Cayenne
  • Cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Veg broth or water

side by side photos showing the process of sauteing veggies in cast iron pan.

How To Make Spicy Red Lentil Dal

Making lentil dal is super easy, requiring only a few steps. Here is a look at the steps with a few photos so you can see what to expect. For the full printable recipe, see the bottom of this post.

  • In a heavy flat bottom pan, heat oil and saute the onion until soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add diced tomatoes, garlic, and ginger, cook for 4 minutes, or until tomatoes just start to break down and soften.
  • Add the spices, cook 1 minute more. Your home will smell delicious at this point!

top down view of adding liquids and red lentils to pan to simmer.

  • Add the red lentils and liquids (shown above), bring to boil.
  • Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 –  20 minutes, until lentils are tender (shown below).

And that’s it, let the dal cool a few minutes to thicken and serve!

Tip + Faqs

  • All in all, the recipe is perfect, not overly spicy with nice hints of cinnamon, cumin and ginger. If you don’t like it spicy, by all means omit the cayenne.
  • If you happen to not have a spice or two you will still have a flavorful dish. Adjust ingredients to suit your taste.
  • Can I use green or brown lentils? I highly recommend sticking with red lentils for this dal recipe, but you can use brown or green lentils if needed. Just note that the color will be much muddier and the lentils will need to cook longer as noted in the recipe card below.

top down view of red lentil dahl in a cast iron pot with items surrounding.

How To Store + Reheat Leftovers

  • Refrigerator: Leftovers will keep for 5 – 6 days in the refrigerator, stored in a covered container.
  • Freezer: This lentil dal is freezer friendly and freezes well for up to 2 – 3 months. To freeze, let cool completely and store in freezer safe containers (affiliate link), leaving 1/2 inch for expansion. Let thaw before reheating. You can also freeze larger portions in large ziplock bags or containers.
  • Reheat: Simply re-warm on the stovetop over low heat until warmed through, adding a little liquids as needed. Alternately, reheat in the microwave using 30 – 45 second intervals, stirring after each, until warm. It makes a great meal prep for the week with homemade Naan on the side for soaking up the juices.

What To Serve with Red Lentil Dal

This spicy lentil dahl is great all by itself, but can be made even better with a few of these delicious suggestions:

  • Grain: Serve warm with basmati rice, jasmine rice, Cilantro Lime Rice, brown rice or quinoa.
  • Lemon: For brightness, add a squeeze of lemon overtop.
  • Greens: I especially love this dal with a handful of fresh bitter greens mixed it. Any leafy green such a spinach, arugula, or baby kale would nice.
  • Herbs: A handful of chopped fresh cilantro is delicious too.
  • Bread: And don’t forget the homemade Naan, it’s pillowy soft and perfect for scooping and swiping.
  • Salad: Serve with a side Green Salad + Lemon Tahini Dressing.

top down view of healthy spicy red lentil dal in a bowl with spoon with items surrounding.

More Easy Indian Recipes

If you try this easy lentil dahl recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment and rate it below. I love to hear what you think, or any changes you make.



This easy red lentil dal is prepared with tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger and a combination of Indian spices like turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, cumin and cayenne. Quick, easy and perfect for a healthy weeknight meal!

  • Author: Julie | The Simple Veganista
  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 - 6 1x
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: simmer
  • Cuisine: Indian
  • Diet: Vegan


  • 1 cup red lentils (if using green/brown, see notes)
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or 1/4 cup water
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 23 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 inch knob ginger (about 2 tablespoons), minced
  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced or 1 can (14oz) diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 heaping teaspoon EACH cumin, coriander + turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/41/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt, to taste


Saute: In dutch oven or pot, heat oil over medium heat, add onions and saute until onions are translucent, about 5 – 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic and ginger, and cook 5 minutes, or until tomatoes start to break down.

Simmer: Add the lentils, liquids, and dry spices, bring to boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer at a gentle rolling boil for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender, not mushy. Dal will thicken upon standing, add more liquids as needed.

Serve: Ladle into individual serving bowls as is. Or serve over a bed of arugula, white rice, brown rice, or this Cilantro Lime Rice. Top with a squeeze of lemon for brightness. It pairs great with a side of homemade Vegan Naan.

Serves 6

Store: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 – 6 days, in a covered container.


I happen to love this with fresh greens, it adds so much freshness to the dish. Even if you serve this with a grain, fresh arugula or cilantro will do wonders.

If you happen to not have a spice or two you will still have a flavorful dish. Adjust ingredients to suit your taste.

Not a fan of spicy, feel free to omit the cayenne. It will still be delish!

I would really stick with red lentils, but you prefer green or brown lentils, cook about 45 minutes, or until tender.

If two medium onions are too much onion for you, one will do fine.

Keywords: Indian dahl recipe, red lentil dal

Updated: This Lentil Dahl was originally published in August 2012. It has been retested and updated with new photos and helpful tips in January 2020.

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  1. Hi do you put lentils in dry or wash them first ? Thanks

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      You can give them a quick rinse under cool running water beforehand, or add them dry. I must confess, I usually skip the rinsing and haven’t had any issues. I hope that helps!

  2. Do you use split red lentils or whole red lentils?

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      Great question, Jonathan! I used split red lentils. Enjoy the dal!

  3. I make this up in double batches. I prefer canned diced tomatoes instead of fresh, it’s less watery. Generous squirt of lemon juice upon serving and it’s a winner. Always requested by others! Thank you.

  4. Deborah Gelerter says:

    This was fantastic!! It was easy to make, aromatic and flavorful with the right amount of spice and kick! My husband had never had this before and enjoyed huge quantities and leftovers (which allowed flavors to come together) so…I’m making it again today!
    We were launched into vegan no oil living as a couple this past April for cardiac + reasons and this recipe (plus several others!) has been a real help and cooking confidence booster! Thank you!
    Deb & Tim

  5. Lana King says:

    can you make this same recipe with chickpeas instead of lentils?

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      Great question, Lana! Yes, you can use 2 or 3 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or about 3 – 4 1/2 cups freshly cooked. That sounds so delicious, enjoy!

  6. The perfect amount of spice! it was a little watery and could’ve used less liquid but otherwise it was absolutely delicious! using for lunches the next week!

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      Yes, this is freezable. Freeze away!

  7. Absolutely delicious! One of my go to dishes during a busy week! ????

  8. YUMMY! It turned out wonderful! I added brussle sprouts and kale to it. Thank you!

    1. julie@thesimpleveganista says:

      So glad you like it Heather! Very smart to use a pressure cooker, that really cuts your time…maybe I will invest in something like that for myself! Your additions sound great. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. :)

  9. Hi!
    I am starting to make this right now, but since I live in a place that is always HOT HOT HOT, I use a pressure cooker so I can cook the lentils in 6 minutes instead of 45! Cuts back on the use of gas and energy too.

    My mom made this last night and emailed it to me.
    Looks delish!

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