Red Lentil Dhal

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Serves Enough for 8 people
Red Lentil Dhal with Rice

Before I met my now-husband, which was about 22 years ago, I’d never explored the world of Indian cuisine.  Let’s just say I wasn’t an adventurous eater. If it wasn’t Italian, I just wasn’t that interested.  When I learned that my boyfriend and his family were Indian, and his mum was an incredible cook, I knew my palette was in for a culinary ride, and just between you and me, I was a tad nervous too.

I clearly remember my first meal at their family home.  I had never seen food like it and the smells were so foreign.  It’s here I ventured into the world of Indian food, and to begin with, I did struggle a little. The flavours were so new.  Over time I grew to love the food and now I have a few recipes I love to cook, with dhal being my absolute favourite.  I’m pretty sure this recipe is not exactly as my mother-in-law taught me.  I have a habit of messing with things. After all, I am a recipe creator.  I’ve adapted this dhal it to suit my taste buds and I hope you love it too.

Red Lentil Dhal

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Serves Enough for 8 people
Red Lentil Dhal with Rice


  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 knob ginger about 3 cm
  • 3 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander powder
  • 2 potatoes
  • 1 cup orange lentils
  • 1.2 litres water


  1. Dice the onion finely and sauté in a saucepan with olive oil. Add cumin seeds and cook until they start roasting.
  2. Then add ginger and garlic, let cook a minute or two.
  3. Meanwhile, blitz the tomatoes in a blender until a smooth liquid is formed. Set aside.
  4. Add the turmeric, salt and coriander powder to the pot and stir.
  5. Add the pureed tomatoes and let it cook with the spices for about 3 – 5 minutes.
  6. Dice the potatoes into small 3 cm cubes. Add the diced potatoes and lentils to the tomato paste. (be sure to rinse the lentils before cooking)
  7. Add water, stir all ingredients and cook for 30 minutes on medium to high heat until the dhal and potatoes are cooked.  The potatoes should be firm. Do not overcook or it will turn into mash in the dhal.  You want the potatoes to remain whole with the lentils.
  8. Serve on its own or with plain basmati rice.  Top with fresh coriander.

Frequently Asked Questions

You mentioned that before meeting your husband, you weren't familiar with Indian cuisine. Can you share a memorable experience or dish from those early days of exploring Indian food?

Absolutely! I vividly recall my first meal at my husband's family home. The food was unlike anything I had ever seen or smelled before. It was a bit overwhelming at first because the flavours were so new to me. However, I was determined to explore and embrace Indian cuisine. Over time, I grew to love it, and now, I have several favorite Indian recipes that I enjoy cooking. Dhal is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite.

You mentioned adapting the dhal recipe to suit your taste buds. What are some of the key modifications you've made to this traditional dish?

I've made a few tweaks to the traditional dhal recipe to suit my taste. For example, I use cumin seeds for roasting and add turmeric, coriander powder, and fresh vine-ripened tomatoes to create a flavourful tomato paste. Additionally, I dice the potatoes into small cubes and ensure they remain firm, so they don't turn into mash in the dhal. These modifications enhance the flavour and texture of the dish, making it uniquely enjoyable for me.

Can you provide some guidance on achieving the right consistency for the dhal?

Certainly! Achieving the right consistency for dhal is crucial. You'll want the lentils to be soft and the potatoes to remain firm. To achieve this, be sure to rinse the lentils before cooking them. Cook the dhal for about 30 minutes on medium to high heat. The potatoes should be cooked but firm. Avoid overcooking, as that can result in the potatoes becoming too soft and losing their distinct texture.

What are some common accompaniments or sides you enjoy serving with your red lentil dhal?

Red lentil dhal pairs wonderfully with plain basmati rice. You can also enjoy it with naan bread or roti for a complete meal. To add freshness and vibrancy, I like to top the dhal with fresh coriander. The contrast of flavours and textures makes for a delightful dining experience.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for individuals who might be preparing dhal for the first time?

Absolutely! Dhal is a fantastic dish to make at home. If you're preparing it for the first time, don't be intimidated by the spices and flavours. Start with the basics, like cumin seeds, turmeric, and coriander powder. Experiment with the ingredients and seasonings to find the balance that suits your taste. And most importantly, enjoy the journey of exploring and savoring Indian cuisine through dishes like dhal.