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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 red lentil dahl recipe made in one pot with red lentils (aka masoor dal), tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and a 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.

Ingredient Notes

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 – These are a tradition when making dal. I highly recommend sticking with red lentils for this 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.
  • Onion – I’ve used two onions here, but feel free to use 1 instead.
  • Garlic – Fresh is best.
  • Ginger – Use fresh or ginger paste.
  • Tomatoes – I love fresh tomatoes, but canned can be used for ease.
  • Spices – We use turmeric, cumin, coriander, cayenne, and cinnamon to make a red lentil dahl that is aromatic and bursting with flavor.
  • Veg broth or water – I love using 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillion Veg Paste (affiliate link) with water. It gives me greater control over the amount of sodium used.
side by side photos showing the process of sauteing veggies in cast iron pan.

How To Make Spicy Red Lentil Dal

Making dal is easy, smells delicious while cooking, and requires only a few simple steps. Helpful photos of the process follow, and the full printable recipe card is below.

  • Heat the oil in a heavy, flat-bottom pan and saute the onion until soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Add diced tomatoes, garlic, and ginger, and cook for 4 minutes or until tomatoes start to break down and soften.
  • Add the spices, and 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!

Top Tips

  • All in all, the recipe is perfect as is. It’s not overly spicy with nice hints of cinnamon, cumin, and ginger. If you don’t care for spicy, by all means omit the cayenne.
  • If you don’t have a spice or two on hand, you will still have a flavorful dish. Adjust the ingredients to suit your taste.
  • Can I use green or brown lentils? Although red lentils are best, you can sub with brown or green lentils if needed. As noted in the recipe card, the color will be much darker, and the lentils will need to cook longer.

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

How To Store + Reheat Leftovers

  • Refrigerator: Leftovers can be stored for 5 – 6 days in the refrigerator 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 liquid 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 in. Any leafy green, such as spinach, arugula, or baby kale, would be lovely!
  • 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: Pair with this 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 red lentil recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment and rate it below. I love to hear what you think, or any changes you make.



5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 12 reviews

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.

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  1. how much of this is a serving size?

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      Using the 6 servings, there is approx. 1 and 1/3 cups per serving. I hope that helps!

  2. Always wanted to make this, so glad I found this recipe exactly what I wanted.thank you

  3. RickfromNZ says:

    This recipe sounded too simple to be especially tasty to my inexperienced cooking mind. Oh how wrong I was! It was beautifully balanced with really nice flavours and when the meal was eaten and thoroughly enjoyed, it left me with a lovely spicy-warm stomach.

  4. Needed a dish to serve with a succulent roast lamb raan — this dahl was a perfect accompaniment. Was able to adjust spices to suit tastes, so will definitely be making agin, thank-you!

  5. Made this just as you explained made many in the past this is the best thanks
    Now on my favorite cook list a real winter warmer .
    Going to make your Naan bread to go with it many thanks excellent

  6. Claudia Hesketh says:

    I love this recipe. My husband, a big dal fan, thought it was perfectly spiced. This time I used two cups of water and a 15 ounce tin of full-fat coconut milk. Delish! My husband can’t do onions. The flavor was still excellent!

  7. Thank you for another reliable & delicious recipe! I have made this dish several times & it turns out incredible every time. The garnishing of arugula & red pepper flakes always takes it to the next level! Thanks again!

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