April 03, 2022

Vegan Recipe Review: Red Lentil Dahl

A quick explanation of this series of posts: I started eating a vegan diet in January 2022 and instead of preparing the recipes from my heritage cookbooks like I did in 2021, I decided to try out some vegan recipes and write about them (honest reviews). Readers may suggest them to me or I may find them online, but I basically just pick a recipe that sounds good and I cook it (without alterations or substitutions) and write a simple review. I ask the opinions from my family as well (who are not vegan).

Anyway, this week I chose Red Lentil Dahl. I love lentils and after I made a Lentil Bolognese last week that I didn't care for, I was hoping for a better outcome with this recipe. I like trying different ethnic foods, but I had never tried a recipe for dahl (or spelled dal, daal, dhal) but I see tons of recipes on Pinterest for various versions. I found a good explanation of dahl on Taste Cooking:

"What’s up with dal? A good question. In India, the term (also spelled daal, dhal, and dahl) refers to pulses (dried legumes that include beans, lentils, and peas) and is also used to refer to a stew made of said legumes. It can get a little confusing, but trust me: The confusion is worth it.

For centuries, dal has been an essential part of India’s rich culinary tradition, served at just about every meal. It’s nourishing, inexpensive, healthy, protein-rich, and, most important, harmoniously balanced when infused with herbs and spices."  (source)

Since I love lentils and peas (I eat a lot of beans, too) I was surprised I've never actually tried a dahl recipe before. The spices in this particular recipe sounded good to me and I actually had all of the ingredients on hand. I "warned" the family that I was making a vegan dinner (hahaha!) and prepped the ingredients that I could do ahead of time.

Tip: In the mornings after preparing breakfast and my cold oats for lunch, I take an extra few minutes to mix together spices or sauces for that night's dinner--that way, when it's time to cook, I already have the spices mixed or the sauce ready to pour into the pan so I don't have to pull out all the little jars of spices and seasonings. I just use mason jars to throw the ingredients into and then I shake it up. Here is my spice mix for this recipe:

Anyway, this recipe is super straight-forward with no "weird" ingredients. I know I mention this frequently on these vegan recipe posts, but I (at least right now) prefer to use ingredients I'm familiar with. Someday maybe I'll experiment with making things like "cheese" out of cashews (?!).

This recipe involves red lentils, carrots (or sub with sweet potato, which is what I decided to do because I don't love carrots), bell pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, vegetable broth, canned coconut milk, cumin, curry powder, sweetener of choice (I ran out of maple syrup, so I just used regular sugar), turmeric, paprika, and crushed red pepper.  (For the actual recipe and measurements, check out the recipe post at Ela Vegan. I'll link to it again at the end of the post.)

I was surprised how much carrot was called for in the recipe (it said one large--200 gram--carrot). I had a lot of baby carrots but definitely not 200 grams. I had a large sweet potato so I used that instead--half of the sweet potato was 200 grams. Then I diced it very small:

You can see the other half of the sweet potato in the background; it was pretty big!

This morning, I mixed all the spices together in a small mason jar and gathered the other ingredients to set on the counter for when I was ready to cook. I am MUCH more likely to cook if I have things prepped already.

The blob of brown stuff with the lentils is just the vegetable broth base that I mix with water. I don't mix it directly into the water so that I can save having to wash a dish ;)  (The measuring cup that the water was in)

Basically you just sauté the onion first and then add all the rest of the ingredients except for the coconut milk. You cook it for 10 minutes or so and then add the coconut milk and cook for another 5 minutes until heated through. Simple!

Then you serve it with basmati rice, potatoes, or naan (flatbread). I adore basmati rice and I haven't had it in a long time, so I chose to serve it with that. And then if the kids didn't like the dahl, they could just eat plain rice for dinner ;)

(My kids teenagers are picky and if something even *sounds* unusual to them, they immediately think they won't like it. So when I say they like something, it's a big deal! Jerry, on the other hand, is happy to try anything and even if it's not his favorite, he never complains about it. When I ask for his opinion on these new recipes, though, he knows I want an honest response.)

The spices smelled so good while it was cooking! I felt like there was a LOT of water when I first poured everything into the pot:

I set the timer for 10 minutes and when I went back, I was shocked that there was no water left and if I left it any longer, I'm sure it would have burned to the bottom of the pot.

But 10 minutes was perfect. After adding the coconut milk, the consistency was exactly what I imagined. Looking at the pics from the original recipe makes me think that it is supposed to be a little thinner? But I felt like this consistency was right on for serving over rice. (No, it doesn't look appetizing here...)

I put one cup of basmati rice and one cup of the dahl in my bowl and it was the perfect size.

It made six servings that ended up being one cup each.

I have to say, using the sweet potato instead of carrots was absolutely the right call! The sweet potatoes added an amazing flavor.

The overall thoughts about the taste? Jerry and I loved it! We both agreed it's a recipe we should add to the dinner rotation, especially considering it's so quick and easy. As far as the kids, well, it's not at all what I expected. Eli wasn't enthusiastic about trying it, but he said it was good and he was going to eat a bowl after he goes fishing. I kept telling him that it's important to tell me what he REALLY thinks and he insisted that he really likes it. And for Noah, who is not a fan of spices like cumin and paprika, said "It's just okay." And he chose not to eat it. 

I swear, my kids weren't picky at ALL when they were little! But there is still hope; there are foods that I love now and I didn't eat when I was younger. Bell peppers are one of my very favorite vegetables, but I really disliked them until I was pregnant with Eli and I started craving them all the time! So weird how our tastes change.

Anyway, this recipe was fantastic! If ELI liked it, then you know it's got to be good. Definitely give it a try (whether you're vegan or not). It's always fun to try new things :)

Here is a link to this recipe for Red Lentil Dahl on Ela Vegan.


  1. This looks like a good recipe! I love lentils too.

    If you're looking for a good vegan-friendly recipe blog. Minimalist Baker is one of my favorites. (Most of the recipes use a small number of ingredients, hence the "minimalist" part of the title). Mostly normal ingredients, and the more unusual ones (like nutritional yeast) are not too hard to find and appear in multiple recipes (so you don't end up buying one ingredient for a one recipe and then never using it again).

    1. Here's a link with some of the lentil recipes from the site: https://minimalistbaker.com/easy-lentil-recipes-vegan-gluten-free/

  2. That tiny dice on the sweet potatoes -- wowzers, those are some fabulous knife skills, Katie! :) The dal/daal/dhal/dahl looks absolutely delicious as well!

  3. Speaking of bell peppers, Katie, I want to know if you're starting plants inside this year. I have a flat of bell peppers, and a flat of Super Beefsteak tomatoes. They look pathetic so far, and the deer usually eat what we try to grow. Have you made stuffed peppers? We plan to do it soon because we bought HUGE red peppers from Aldi. I think with basmati rice, some cheese and spice? If you have a recipe, I'd love to see how you make them. I guess your playful kitties would uproot the plants like last year.

  4. Sweet potatoes & lentils are a great combination. I make a similar stew & my family loved it and they are not sweet potato fans.

  5. I make a similar dish and add raisins or dried cranberries when the water is added. They plump up as they cook and provide a nice variety of flavor in different bites.

    I also wanted to ask if you are taking a B12 supplement? Being vegan, you won't be getting any B12 from your food, so taking a supplement is very important.

    1. I LOVE dried cranberries and I bet that would be delicious! I'm going to add them the next time I make this.

      And yes, I do take B-12. I take a few supplements (B-12, D-3, and calcium) because I found I wasn't getting enough (although I'm SURE I wasn't getting enough before switching to vegan either! haha)so I added the supplements.


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