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April 8, 2022

by Alyssa

Easy Vegan Red Lentil Dal

This simple vegan red lentil dal is a flavorful one-pot meal that comes together in under 20 minutes. Serve with quinoa or rice, and save the leftovers for meal prep!

Overhead view of red lentil dal in two bowls, one with white rice and flatbread

Whether you work full time, are a full-time student, or just have those days when life gets in the way, it can be hard to get a healthy meal on the table seven days a week. Even people who enjoy cooking don’t have time to cook every single day! Having a fully stocked freezer with meals at the ready can be a game-changer.

This vegan red lentil dal is one of the best options for those busy days when you don’t have an hour—or even half an hour!—to cook dinner from scratch. Not only is it quick, but it's also inexpensive and freezes beautifully.

Oh, and I also have to mention that dal is one of those magical recipes that tastes even better after a day or two in the fridge. Win!

Overhead view of red lentil dal in black serving bowl with handles, garnished with coconut milk, cilantro, and spices

What Is Dal?

Dal actually has two meanings. It's the term in India used for dried, split pulses (i.e., lentils, peas, and beans), but it also refers to a variety of soups or stews made with these pulses.

These ingredients are a staple in Indian cuisine (as well as other countries in the region, like Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) because they are inexpensive and packed with nutrition. They're high in protein and are rich in vitamins and minerals like B, iron, and zinc.

If you enjoy my red lentil dal recipe, try this one next: Easy Chana Dal with Coconut Quinoa Flatbreads

Overhead view of vegan red lentil dal ingredients

What You’ll Need

We're using red lentils are as our base, then simmering them in coconut milk and water for extra creaminess, and spicing it up with a simple spice blend. 

  • Water
  • Red lentils
  • Full-fat or lite coconut milk – You’ll get a richer, creamier dal with full-fat coconut milk, while lite coconut milk gives you a dal with fewer calories and less fat.
  • Curry powder – The variety you use is up to you! A Madras curry powder is spicier, or you can opt for a milder curry powder which has very little heat.
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Ginger
  • Salt and pepper
Wooden spoon of red lentil dal held over pot of dal

What’s the Difference Between Lentils and Red Lentils?

First, brown or green lentils and red lentils have different flavors, with red lentils being more mild and other lentils having a more pronounced earthy flavor. Second, red lentils are meant to disintegrate as they cook, but other varieties of lentils stay intact. Red lentils are hulled and split, which is why they cook quickly and break up into a smooth, creamy consistency.

Four photos showing the process of making vegan red lentil dal

How to Make Red Lentil Dal

Here’s how easy it is to make this vegan red lentil dal!

Simmer the red lentils. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot or Dutch oven, then stir in the lentils and coconut milk. Return the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and starting to break apart. (Unlike brown or green lentils, you want red lentils to be soft and creamy!)

Add the spices. Stir the spices into the lentils and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

Overhead view of vegan red lentil dal in bowl with rice, flatbread, and cilantro garnish

Serving Suggestions

Dal is best served with either quinoa, rice, frozen or homemade cauliflower rice or a flatbread. (If you're going to the flatbread route, might I suggest making my quinoa pizza crust and using coconut milk instead of water?)

Meal Prep Tips

You can organize your meal prep container with the rice and dal, add in some greens and then pop it in your fridge for 3 to 4 days. You'll have lunches (or dinners) ready to go and that, my friends, is where a big batch of this will really come in handy. You can stock your freezer and your fridge!

Overhead view of red lentil dal in bowl with spoon and white rice, flatbread, and cilantro

How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

As mentioned above, red lentil dal will last up to 4 days in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container. You can reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat; you may need to add a splash of water or coconut milk to loosen it up a bit when reheating.

Freezing Instructions

Dal can be frozen in an airtight storage container or frozen flat in freezer bags, depending on the amount of space you have in your freezer. It will keep for up to 3 months; you can then either warm it up from frozen in the microwave or on the stovetop, or let it thaw in the fridge before reheating to cut down on the cooking time.

Two hands holding bowl of red lentil dal with spoon, flatbread, and cilantro garnish

More Quick & Easy Dinner Ideas:

Easy Vegan Red Lentil Dal

Using just one pot and ready in under 20 minutes, this easy vegan red lentil dal is a flavorful, plant-powered meal! Serve with quinoa or rice, and save the leftovers for meal prep!
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 358kcal
Author Alyssa
Print Pin
Overhead view of red lentil dal in two bowls, one with white rice and flatbread
3.97 from 181 votes

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Bring water to a boil, then add lentils and coconut milk. Return mixture to a boil then reduce to simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, until the lentils have softened, then stir in spices and cook another 5.!
  • Serve with quinoa, cauliflower rice, white/brown rice or flatbreads!

Notes

Storage instructions: Red lentil dal will last up to 4 days in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container. You can reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium heat; you may need to add a splash of water or coconut milk to loosen it up a bit when reheating.
Freezing instructions: Dal can be frozen in an airtight storage container or frozen flat in freezer bags, depending on the amount of space you have in your freezer. It will keep for up to 3 months; you can then either warm it up from frozen in the microwave or on the stovetop, or let it thaw in the fridge before reheating to cut down on the cooking time.

Nutrition

Calories: 358kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Sodium: 211mg | Potassium: 767mg | Fiber: 18g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 35IU | Vitamin C: 3.5mg | Calcium: 56mg | Iron: 7.7mg


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About Alyssa

Hey there, I’m Alyssa Rimmer, a certified Holistic Nutritionist, yoga-lover, dog mom, and founder of Simply Quinoa. It’s nice to meet you! I created SQ as a way to provide solutions for women just like me, who were struggling to find helpful information about how to live a healthy and fulfilled life. My hope is that you will find inspiration here on SQ – in my story, in my recipes, in the hundreds of wellness articles, and in our amazing community. Welcome!

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  1. Yum! I made exactly as is but doubled. I tasted when cooked and it was a bit under spiced. I added more of everything but pepper and turmeric. I added a pinch of ground coriander seed because I like it in Indian food and it was perfect. Easy, fast,cheap, 3 out of 4 kids are happy. Will make note of my additions and make again.

  2. I really want to make this, but my store doesn’t really carry coconut milk often, does soy/almond milk work alright as an alternative?

  3. I just made this and it was delicious! I love that it was so quick and easy and yet it had restaurant quality taste! I also appreciate the simplicity of no chopping or peeling required as is with most recipes. 5 stars!

  4. on your vegan red lentil dal recipe, what can you substitute coconut milk for? I really don’t like the taste, but the recipe looks good. I am just going to try lentils and quinoa.

  5. This is my first time cooking lentils and OMG…this is amazing. Came together quickly, we just added some veggies on the side. So damn good.

  6. Made this before it was amazing and I want to make it again now but dont have red lentils…have everything else and in my cabinets I have green lentils. Should I wait til I have the red or will green work TOO???

    • I would wait! They’re totally different textures so you really can’t replicate without the split red lentils 🙁

  7. I have tried many red lentil recipes and this one is by far the best – and simplest! It was also the only one where I didnt need to add any more water. I enjoyed adding a bouillon cube to the water. The pairing with arugula is perfect!

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  11. I also needed more water. I’m surprised the lentils aren’t covered. That may be why the liquid needs increasing.

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  18. I always have a serving or two on hand in my freezer for busy nights! I absolutely love this recipe. I have found that adding a few tablespoons of vegetable oil or vegan butter adds a nice richness to it, but it isn’t necessary by any means!

  19. This was a really tasty recipe, but I am having a hard time getting the texture right. It always seems that some of the lentils don’t cook all the way or something and I end up with a grainy mixture. Any advice for getting a creamier, smoother texture? Thanks!

    • You could try blending it! There usually are some “chunks” — the lentils don’t entirely break down, so it will have some texture to it 🙂

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