Red Lentil Daal

I love dried beans – they’re cheap, easy to store and have such a great texture. But they have one major downside and that’s cook time. Unless you have a pressure cooker, they take several hours to soak and then cook – not exactly weeknight meal material. Enter red lentils. These magic little legumes cook fully from dried in about 20 minutes – TWENTY MINUTES! 

bowl of red lentil daal with yogurt and spoon

Since this red lentil daal only requires you to chop an onion and grate some garlic and ginger, you can have dinner on the table in 30 minutes. Really! Chop the cilantro while the daal cooks, add a little rice or store-bought naan and dinner is served.

adding cilantro to pot of red lentil daal

This version of daal is vegan (if you skip the yogurt) and about a medium-hot on the American-palate-spice-level. Feel free to adjust the amount of cayenne to your preference.bowl of red lentil daal

Red Lentil Daal

Yield: 4 generous servings


  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1-1.5 cups cold water
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup full fat coconut milk*
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • Greek yogurt (optional), to serve


  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the coconut oil until oil starts to shimmer, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add onion to oil and sauté until onions are soft and translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add the ginger, garlic, cayenne and salt to the onions. Sauté until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
  4. Add 1 cup of water, tomatoes and lentils. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer until lentils are tender, 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking to see if more water is needed. If lentils soak up most of the water and begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, add more water as needed.
  5. Add the coconut milk. Simmer, uncovered, until slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in chopped cilantro.
  7. Top each serving with a dollop of Greek yogurt, if using.


  • *Blend the coconut milk before using to combine the fat and liquid that separate in the can. An immersion blender is a good tool for this but an upright blender, small food processor or whisk with a lot of muscle will also work.
  • Both unrefined and refined coconut oil worked well in this dish. Unrefined coconut oil with have a more prominent coconut flavor, while refined coconut oil has a neutral taste. I like how unrefined mirrors the coconut flavor in the coconut milk.
  • Quick-cooking red lentils break down and thicken as they cook. For lentils that will hold their shape, I prefer French-style lentils (lentilles du Puy). Substitute the same quantity for the red lentils but increase simmer time to 50-60 minutes, checking for doneness in the last 15 minutes.
  • Lentil Daal pairs well with steamed rice or naan. I love Trader Joe’s frozen garlic naan for a quick option.


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