Every once in a while I’ll crave something that is vegetable-forward and warming from the inside out, and without fail I’ll make a huge batch of this soothing Coconut Dal. I am a huge fan of lentils and legumes in general, as they’re inexpensive, easy to cook and can be flavoured with just about anything.

Made with red lentils, this Coconut Dal takes only 20 minutes on the stovetop. Leftovers taste even better the next day and it’s freezer friendly

The one thing that is even more awesome about the dried red lentils used in this recipe is that there is no soaking required. All the ingredients go directly into the pan and are cooked until soft and delicious before spinach and lemon juice are added to freshen and brighten the whole thing up. It can be served on its own as a light meal, and also makes a great side to an Indian curry. This dal is ideal for freezing, ready for quick lunches and easy dinners … and having a stash of store-bought, flaky roti bread in the freezer for dipping is a non-negotiable. Coconut Dal is a great recipe for using up packets of lentils and cans of tomatoes that you might already have in the pantry. This is one of my favourite recipes from my cookbook, The Simple Dinner Edit.

Coconut Dal
This mild Coconut Dal is perfect for dipping with soft, flaky roti bread. Serve it as a light meal or as a side to an Indian curry.

Can I use a different type of lentil for this recipe?

Yes, you can substitute red lentils with yellow lentils or even split peas. However, cooking times may vary slightly as red lentils cook faster and tend to become mushier, which is perfect for dal!

What can I do with leftover dal?

Leftovers freeze beautifully (see below) or you can make fritters with leftover dal as follows. Combine 1 cup (250 g) dal with ¼ cup (35 g) plain (all-purpose) flour, ¼ bunch finely chopped coriander (cilantro) and 1 beaten egg. Add more flour if required to form four fritters. Cook for 2 minutes per side in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Serve with plain yoghurt and mango chutney.

Coconut Dal
Serve this creamy Coconut Dal with a swirl of yoghurt, fresh coriander (cilantro), crispy fried shallots and a squeeze of lemon juice for a burst of freshness.

Is there a substitute for garam masala?

Use curry powder as an alternative.

What are some other quick and easy rice dishes/sides to suit different cuisines?

Easy Fried Rice
Chicken Fried Rice
Tuna Fried Rice
Mexican Tomato Rice
Greek Lemon Dill Rice

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Coconut Dal

Coconut Dal

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This rich and comforting Coconut Dal is a simple, budget-friendly meal that’s packed with flavour, thanks to simple spices like turmeric and garam masala. Made with creamy coconut milk and lentils, it’s an ideal dish for busy weeknights.

  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4



  •     1½ cups (375 g) dried red lentils
  •     2 tbsp coconut oil (or any other oil of choice) 
  •     1 onion, finely diced
  •     1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  •     1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  •     1 tsp sweet paprika
  •     1 tsp ground turmeric
  •     1 tsp ground cumin
  •     1 tsp garam masala (you can substitute with curry powder)
  •     3 cups (750 ml) vegetable stock
  •     1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
  •     200 g (7 oz) canned diced tomatoes (see note 1)
  •     1 tsp sea salt flakes
  •     ½ tsp cracked black pepper
  •     1 tbsp sugar (any type)
  •     2 cups (100 g) baby spinach leaves


  •     Plain yoghurt
  •     ¼ bunch coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
  •     Crispy fried shallots (optional, available at the supermarket or Asian grocery stores)
  •     4 store-bought roti breads (see note 2)
  •     Lemon wedges, for squeezing


  1. Place the lentils in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under running water until the water runs clear.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a deep, heavy-based frying pan over medium heat.
  3. Add the onion and cook for 2–3 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a further 1 minute.
  4. Add the spices and stir them through, then immediately add the rinsed lentils, vegetable stock, coconut milk, canned tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar.
  5. Stir to combine, bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils have softened.
  6. Add the spinach leaves and stir them through – as soon as they have wilted, remove the pan from the heat.
  7. Serve with a swirl of plain yoghurt, some freshly chopped coriander, crispy fried shallots, the flaky roti and a squeeze of lemon juice.


Note 1 – You can freeze leftover canned tomatoes for up to 2 months in a reusable sandwich bag or airtight container. 

Note 2 – Opt for the soft and flaky roti in the freezer section of the supermarket. It heats in the pan just as you would find at your favourite local restaurant!

Make ahead

Prep ahead – You can chop the onion, garlic, ginger and coriander (cilantro) up to a day in advance. Store them in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator to save prep time and make this an even quicker dinner. 

Pre-cook it – This dal can be fully cooked up to 2 days ahead of time. Follow the recipe, let the dal cool completely, then store it in the refrigerator. It will taste even better the next day. 


Fridge – Refrigerate leftover dal in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw completely in the fridge overnight prior to reheating. 

  • Author: Nicole
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 25 mins
  • Category: mains, soups, curry, budget friendly, vegetarian
  • Method: simmering, pan
  • Cuisine: Indian