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red lentil dahl with coconut milk

Red Lentil Dahl with Coconut Milk

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Red Lentil Dahl with Coconut Milk
Red Lentil Dahl with Coconut Milk


What is dahl?

Dahl, daal or dhal, is an Indian dish, with the main ingredient being a specific type of lentil/ pulse that is split. When referring to a dahl recipe, this is in reference to the dish where the pulses (usually a split type of lentil) are cooked and broken down into a sort of stew/curry. It’s flavoured with spices and herbs and often paired with coconut milk.

What do you eat with dhal?

You can enjoy this red lentil dhal on it’s own, pair it with naan bread as I have, or serve with white or brown rice. Luckily if you don’t have any of the side dish options, it’s filling and flavoursome enough to enjoy on it’s own.

Easy Red Lentil Dahl with Coconut Milk

This red lentil dahl recipe is whipped up in under 30 minutes. It’s easy to make as it has minimal ingredients (but so much flavour)! The recipe is vegan thanks to the coconut milk.


White onions 

We go heavy on the onions in this recipe, with a fine dice to flavour the dahl without having the onion detectable in texture.

Red Lentils 

One of my fave staple ingredients. I use dried red lentils but you could reduce the cook time by using cooked/canned lentils. Be sure to reduce the stock though as the dried lentils absorb the stock as they cook.


Looooads of fresh garlic here. If you have to, you can use garlic granules (around 1.5 tsp). But fresh garlic is best here!


This ingredient is an absolute must! It adds a zing to the dahl which is one of the most flavourful elements of the dish.


Carrots aren’t traditionally in dahl recipes, but I think it adds nutrients, volume and flavour. Plus a burst of colour. Make sure you thinly slice the carrots to ensure they’re perfectly soft/cooked for eating.

Chopped tomatoes 

You can sub the chopped tomatoes with tinned tomatoes or passata if you don’t have chopped.

Coconut milk 

The rich & creamy element to this dahl comes from the coconut milk. I’d recommend using full fat coconut milk as the dish is already low in calories, so we want to go with the more nutrient dense & flavourful coconut milk. We have the coconut milk to thank for this recipe being a creamy vegan red lentil dahl.


Adds brightness, flavour and texture. You could substitute it with mint or parsley.

Mini Naan Bread

I love buying mini naan breads as they’re perfect for meal prep with individual porti


Since the lentils don’t require pre-soaking, they can go straight into the pan, so no much prepping is needed.All we need for this recipe: onion, garlic, split red lentils, sweet potatoes, spinach, coconut cream, water or stock, and spices. Quick, cheap, and definitely budget friendly.

  • peel and chop the onion, garlic and sweet potatoes
  • heat up the oil in a pan, add the chopped onion with salt and fry over a medium heat until translucent
  • add the chopped garlic and spices, and stir to release the fragrance
  • in go the red lentils and sweet potatoes, followed by the water/stock
  • place a lid on the pan and cook for 10 minutes or until the sweet potatoes begin to soften
  • add the bay leaves and coconut cream/milk, and cook for a further 5 minutes until the veggies are tender
  • add the frozen/fresh spinach, and check for seasoning – add more salt/pepper/spices if necessary
  • throw in some fresh parsley or coriander, then remove from the heat

And that’s it! Nothing more, nothing less. This dal is ready in well under 30 minutes, which means we can have hot food on the table even on the busiest days of the week.


Red Lentil Dahl with Coconut Milk
Red Lentil Dahl with Coconut Milk



  • Add Greens: You can stir in a couple handfuls of fresh spinach at the end for added nutrition.
  • More Veggies: If you want to add additional veggies, I’d recommend adding diced carrots, cauliflower or bell peppers at the same time as the onions
  • HeatOmit or reduce the red pepper flakes if you’re sensitive to spice, or feel free to add a little more if you really want some kick! One diced jalapeno (deseeded) or cayenne pepper work as an alternative to red chili flakes.
  • Meal Prep: The flavours only improve the next day so this is a great dish to make in advance!
  • To make this recipe oil-free: Omit the coconut oil and saute the onion, garlic and ginger in water or broth.


If you ask me, this red lentil dahl is delicious even without the addition of sweet potatoes and spinach. Just lentils, and nothing else, and you still have a fantastic recipe. But, of course, the more veggies, the better.

I always have frozen spinach around, and I love to throw some in pretty much any dish I make, plus it’s a great way to avoid waste – fresh spinach might not be used before it becomes sad, and I really don’t like throwing away good food.Kale could be a good substitution here, or just omit it if you don’t have any.

Sweet potatoes are deliciously sweet, and perfect in any kind of curry, good substitutions could be butternut squash or any other squash (pumpkin would be amazing if in season). Carrots would work well to. Or even regular potatoes, why not?!

If you don’t happen to have coconut cream, coconut milk works just fine (do use the canned one, rather than the thin, watery cartoon one). It can also be omitted, just add more stock if the dish is too thick.

Any other veggie can be thrown in, as long as it cook in pretty much the same time, everything goes. Do give it a go, you will love it!

Why this recipe works

This red lentil dahl recipe is one pot, made in 30 minutes and requires minimal effort and ingredients.

I’ve simplified the spices to ensure that anyone can make this and grab the common spices they have in their cupboard.

It’s the best dahl for simple & easy meal prep. It’s perfect to warm up the cold nights & to get cosy. There’s also minimal cleaning as it’s all whipped up in one-pot.

Can I make this dish in advance?

Absolutely. The flavors only get better as it sits. You can make it any time during the week and reheat before serving. For this reason, it’s great for meal prep and batch cooking. Leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.

You can freeze this meal for up to a year, but the coconut milk may separate slightly.


Dahl is wonderful served on its own but it can also be served:

  • with fresh pita or naan bread
  • over jasmine, basmati or brown rice
  • over quinoa
  • with cooked veggies or a handful of fresh greens on the side
  • withbaked tofu, chickpeas or tempeh


Red Lentil, Tomato and Coconut Dahl

I’ve felt inspired by watching how resourceful people have become since the start of lockdown.  It’s uplifting to see people deal with anxiety and isolation by finding new ways to connect and creative ways to spend their time .

I’ve watched businesses close overnight and the very next day transform to meet changing customer demands.  Pilates studios have become virtual; babies gather on zoom for story time; and independent food retailers are compiling food parcels and boxes with well thought out meal plans.

It’s the perfect demonstration of that popular quote from Tony Robbins: ‘its not resources but resourcefulness that ultimately makes the difference’.  In my own way I’ve had to find ways to adjust and reach new levels of flexibility and resourcefulness.  My biggest challenge being the exhaustion of looking after a baby 24/7 on my own.

Toddlerhood means Zahra’s little world has become very exciting and bedtime is not getting in the way of that.  So on those nights when all I’ve looked forward to bedtime, I accept that today I will not get a break. Instead I roll out my mat and practice some Pilates whilst she burns off some energy crawling all over me.

Becoming more resourceful in the kitchen has been my other big win.  In this time I’ve finally made hummus that tastes better than shop bought.  Pesto, almond milk and even coconut yoghurt have been whipped up when things have run out.

When fresh food is running low red lentil, coconut and tomato dahl has become my favourite ‘pantry meal’.  The onion and garlic are fresh, but as they store for a long time I tend to have those knocking around.

The rest of the ingredients are dry/tinned but still full of nutrition.  It’s pretty quick to make and just needs to simmer away on the stove.  This is another great batch cook recipe which freezes well and can be stored for a 2-3 months.  Serve it with rice or fresh rotis as these freeze well too.


Red Lentil Dahl with Coconut Milk
Red Lentil Dahl with Coconut Milk



  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped or 1/2 tsp of chilli flakes
  • 160g red lentils, washed
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes or 2-3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 300ml water, more if needed
  • fresh coriander to serve


  • Heat oil in a medium saucepan or dutch pot over a medium heat. Cook onion for around 8-10 mins until softened and golden brown
  • Add garlic, ginger, and spices and cook, stirring, until fragrant for about 2 minutes.  Add more oil if needed to prevent the spices drying out.
  • Add lentils and stir coating with spices
  • Add tinned tomatoes, 300ml water; and season with salt and pepper
  • Set aside ¼ tin coconut milk for serving and add remaining coconut milk to pan. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft, 20–25 minutes. Add more water if the dahl starts to get too thiick. Season more if needed.
  • Serve with roti or rice, fresh coriander and pour the remaining coconut milk into the bowls.


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