Spicy Vegan Lentil Dahl

Spicy Indian Lentils
The Spruce
  • Total: 45 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 35 mins
  • Yield: 4 portions (4 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
298 Calories
5g Fat
49g Carbs
18g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 portions (4 servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 298
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1316mg 57%
Total Carbohydrate 49g 18%
Dietary Fiber 7g 26%
Protein 18g
Calcium 116mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Dahl, which is also often spelled dhal, daal, and dal, is essentially a thick South-Asian-inspired red lentil stew that is often prepared with ghee or clarified butter. This Indian lentil dish uses a little sesame oil for depth and flavor in place of the ghee, to make it vegan.

There ​is actually a wide range of dahls made from many different types of lentils and other vegetables called "pulses." Dried and split, they are cooked with various different spices, meats, and vegetables. Options include red and yellow lentils, mung beans, lobiya (black-eyed peas), and chickpeas among others. It's easy to modify a dahl to make it mild or spicy or to create a full dahl-based meal or a side dish.

This simple dahl soup is a favorite go-to recipe as it is easy to prepare with pantry staples and quick to make in one pot. It can also be doubled or tripled when you have a lot of mouths to feed for a large family gathering or a birthday party. It is also a great to-go leftover lunch that can be served with naan and tea. 


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  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 cup onion (white; finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger (finely chopped)
  • 4 cups water (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 cup dried red lentils (rinsed and picked over)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Optional: flatbread, for serving
  • Optional: dairy-free soy yogurt, for serving

Steps to Make It

  1. In a 3-quart stockpot or other medium-sized soup pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the chopped onion is translucent, about 6 minutes.

    Sauté veggies
    The Spruce
  2. Stirring constantly, add the water or broth, lentils, spices, and salt. Bring to a low boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are very tender.

    Add sauce
    The Spruce
  3. Stir in the tomato paste until well combined. Cook several minutes more, or until the soup is desired temperature and consistency, adding more water to the dahl if needed. Serve hot with flatbread and garnish with a dollop of dairy-free soy yogurt if desired.


    • While dahl can certainly be eaten alone, it's sometimes served with a hearty grain. Basmati rice and quinoa are the usual accompaniments.
    • Dahl can also be served with roti, an Indian bread, or naan.
    • For a bright finish, top the dahl with chopped fresh cilantro.
    • If you're serving a lot of guests, you can have red pepper flakes available so that everyone can control the heat.


    • Indian cuisine is known to be on the spicy side, but it doesn't have to be. To dial down the kick, omit the cayenne pepper.
    • Add green chiles without the seeds instead, as this will enhance the flavor of the overall dish without adding much spice.
    • For a slight taste and color variation, use a finely chopped red onion.

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