red lentil daal

daal DSC_0783 2

You know that whole “Meatless Monday” thing that’s been all the rage?  Well, we don’t do that in our house.

I’m all for the limited-meat movement, but FH has other things in mind when he thinks of dinner.  He’s more of a steak-and-potatoes or chicken-and-pasta kinda guy… So when I mentioned the idea of “maybe having one meatless meal a week” to him he was not excited about the idea.  He did eventually agree with one stipulation: “No tofu, OK?”

Ok. No tofu. Easy enough.

So when thinking of tofu-free vegetarian dishes with lots of flavor, Indian cuisine naturally came to mind.  I happened across this easy recipe for red lentil daal and thought it would be the perfect recipe to ease FH into the world of meat-free meals.

That being said, when I made this for our first official “meatless” meal, he still wanted to know where the meat was…

“Is there meat?” 

Me: “There isn’t any meat, it’s lentils”

He stared at me suspiciously, “But, where’s the meat?” 

I tried explaining that he already agreed to having one meatless meal and that lentils are super good for you.  I even tried to explain that we didn’t need meat because lentils are naturally high in protein and they’re better than meat because they have almost no fat, but in the end what won him over was…

“Um… I got you garlic naan?”


Whew. Crisis averted.

daal photo 2

Three bowls later he wasn’t asking about the meat anymore.  So, all things considered, I would call this a success.

I’m sure you could halve the recipe (it makes a whopping 11 cups!) but I just put all of our leftovers in plastic baggies and froze them for future dinners that would require zero effort.  Zero is my favorite amount of effort to put into dinner when I get home from work.

In our two-person household I think I ended up with one freshly-cooked dinner for the night plus 4 quart-sized bags of leftover zero-effort dinners, for those of us who are into math this means I got a total of 5 2-person dinners from 45 minutes of work.

Next time I think I will start with only half of the coconut milk, since I feel like it muted the flavors a bit more than I’d have liked (which was fixable by kicking up the seasoning a bit after).  I also added lime juice and cilantro to brighten the flavor and served the cayenne on the side, since I tend to like things significantly spicier than FH.

red lentil daal

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: 11 cups


  • 3 cups dry red lentils
  • 1 32-oz container unsalted chicken stock*
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped; divided
  • 1 small can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon coarse salt
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk*
  • 2 limes, 1 juiced and 1 sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • Salt & pepper, to taste


  1. In a dutch oven combine lentils, half of the chopped onion, tomatoes, cayenne, ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt. Add chicken stock and water and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook uncovered until lentils become tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Add oil to coat the bottom of the pan and then add cumin seeds and mustard seeds. Cover pan with foil or lid and cook a few minutes until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the chopped onion and stir, season with salt and pepper and continue cooking until onions are translucent. Add garilc and stir, continue to cook until onions are just starting to brown.
  3. Add onion mixture to lentils and stir in coconut milk, cilantro, and half of lime juice. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 5 minutes before serving, taste and adjust seasonings adding more salt, lime, or coconut milk as preferred. Serve on top of basmati rice or alongside naan.


* To make vegetarian, replace 32 oz of chicken stock with 4 cups of vegetable stock or water.

* I felt like the coconut milk muted the flavors a bit more than I'd have liked. I recommend starting by adding half of the coconut milk and simmering for 5 minutes, then tasting and adding more if desired.

* The lime juice and cilantro are optional, but recommended as they brightened up the flavor of the dish wonderfully.

* Serve with extra cayenne and slices of lime on the side to adjust taste to your preference.

daal-DSC_0783 pin Recipe adapted from Food52


10 thoughts on “red lentil daal

  1. SAME: are all men like that, seriously? although you have them covered with bread; they don’t know we know that, but truly the secret to getting away with not having meat is to ADD THE BREAD. it must be toasted, and probably have some sort of spice to it, but yes: it somehow makes them forget, Men-In-Black style, about there not being meat.
    Tim also has a “no tofu” rule: he just won’t go there. which reminds me, i actually have some tofu in the fridge to make. FOR MYSELF, Mr. Table, FOR MYSELF.
    that being said, i’m making this, but you know that already. all i have missing in the pantry is coconut milk and red lentils: i have everything else. and red lentils are the best lentils, right? so pretty.

    • LOL – it’s quite possible. Like even if I generally don’t like something and I’ve tried it before, I will still try it again at a new restaurant or prepared a new way. I don’t get it!

      As of right now red lentils are the only lentils that I’ve cooked but THEY ARE FREAKIN AMAZING AND I LOVE THEM. So yes, I will say they are the best. You can get the lentils AND the coconut milk at TJs for super cheap (plus it gives you an excuse to go to TJs!)

  2. you know, i wonder if there’s a study which indicates that women are far more adventurous and willing to try more food things than men. men may be more willing to risk life and limb, say, driving to work in the snow and ice when the news is CLEARLY telling them not to (T.I.M., this morning), but women seem far less afraid of things like black olives and tofu. also weird produce. i want a study done. it makes you wonder why there’s such a large percentage of male head chefs versus female.

    • That’s such an amazing point! Although ya know there are the Anthony Bourdains of the world who run around eating tripe and everything else under the sun. I really don’t know why there aren’t more famous female chefs. WTH?

      LET’S RUN TESTS!!!

  3. Funny comments, they may me think about how this is true in my own home. My boyfriend loves meat but was raised vegetarian, so that isn’t a problem for us, but even though he used to want to be a chef he is way less adventurous with food pairings than I am. We’ll be making something and I’ll want to throw in a random ingredient that seems like it would work well and he adopts this very serious tone and says “I don’t think that would be very good at all, that sounds like a terrible idea.”

    Oh, okay.

    • Haha! Aaron does the same thing if I add a “mystery ingredient” but then he picks the WEIRDEST things to mix together if we go to self-serve frozen yogurt or if we have a make-your-own pizza night at home. 🙂 Too funny.

  4. Hehehe,I love that the Garlic Naan distracted FH from being upset. I’m still trying to convince Nate to try indian food- I tried to entice him by saying the naan is really good. I’ve been craving it lately so he might just have to eat it whether he likes it or not. In the meantime this daal looks delicious! maybe I’ll make it this weekend since Nate’s out of town 😉

    • Indian is a tough sell because people either REALLY LIKE IT or REALLY HATE IT. I don’t know why there isn’t much middle ground there… I say make it and if he doesn’t like it turn his naan into pizza naan!

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