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Red Lentil Dahl in a bowl with yogurt and cilantro.

Creamy Red Lentil Dahl

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Allie
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


This is a warm and creamy red lentil dahl recipe with coconut milk!  It’s perfect for a hearty, flavorful, big bowl of comfort.


  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garam masala
  • Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups (400 g) dry red lentils
  • 4 ½ cups (1065 mL) vegetable broth
  • 1 can (13.5 ounces (400 mL) full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach, optional
  • ½ lemon, juiced



With brown rice, basmati rice, or naan



Fresh chopped cilantro

Cashew lime crema or unsweetened vegan yogurt



  1. Rinse the red lentils in a colander, and set them aside.
  2. Mix the curry powder, cumin, turmeric, paprika, garam masala, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large pot sauté the onion and carrot, for oil-free cooking add a tablespoon of water if they start to stick. Or use a neutral-tasting oil. 
  4. When the veggies have started to soften and the onion is translucent add the crushed garlic, and ginger, and saute for about a minute.
  5. Add the mixed spices (that you set aside) to the pot, coat the veggies with them, and dry roast the spices for about 30 seconds.  Lower the heat if necessary to prevent your spices from burning.
  6. Add the vegetable broth, and use it to deglaze the pan, scraping off the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  
  7. Then add the lentils, coconut milk, and salt, stir to combine, and prevent the lentils from clumping.
  8. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
  9. Cook covered for about 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked and creamy, stirring occasionally.
  10. If the lentils are not done, cook for 5 more minutes, adding a few tablespoons more of water or vegetable broth if the curry is dry.  It should be creamy, but not dry.
  11. The time and liquid required may vary depending on what type of pot or pan you’re using.  
  12. When the lentils are done (soft, creamy, and no longer firm), spinach (if using), cook uncovered on low for just a few minutes until the spinach is wilted and the dahl has thickened.
  13. When the spinach is wilted, finish the vegan dahl recipe with the juice of half a lemon and serve over brown rice, basmati, or with naan.


Ground spices burn easily so have everything ready to go before cooking. 

I wouldn’t recommend substituting the red lentils for another kind.  Green and brown lentils hold their shape better during the cooking process and are great for salads.  Red lentils break down and become creamy, which is the consistency you’re looking for with this dish.

Older lentils may take longer to cook.  Split red lentils may take less time.

Depending on the pan used the curry may need more broth if too much liquid is evaporated.  If there is too much liquid left, simmer with the lid off for a few minutes to evaporate more liquid.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: Indian inspired